The Eroding Edge

Adversary surface-to-air systems are making it tougher to guarantee the US can go where it wants to perform air missions, according to Lt. Gen. David Deptula, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. In a talk Sept. 15 at AFA’s Air & Space Conference on the current and future threat environment, Deptula said adversaries are using networked systems to a greater degree and that attacking individual missile launch sites or radars won’t put air defenses out of action. In networks, “what one can see, all can see,” and it will be necessary to attack networks as a whole to get past them. “We have not seen the end of … major regional conflicts” said Deptula, adding that concepts and technology have to keep ahead of what potential enemies have. He said Russia, China, and others are working on fifth generation fighters that will be “nearly as good” as the F-22, but fielded “in F-35 numbers.” That, he said, will pose a grave challenge for the Air Force.