Saturday, April 02, 2005

The Air Force of the Future, or is there a future?

The US Air Force has a problem. They refuse to grasp that they do not win wars, but they make winning possible. Wars are won by the grunt with the rifle standing on the piece of ground and holding it. But, he cannot get there without air support.

The world war winning force, the force that kept the Cold War from becoming hot, does not want to change to fight today’s war.

We need to make a radical change in our force structure. We need to look deep into our past and be honest in the assessment of our future, both friends and enemies.

Right now there is no fighter in the world that can take on the F-15E four against one, let alone one on one. Notice, the F-15E, not F-15C. The two seat version will pound the single seat every time.

We need capability to deliver lots of precision bombs in a low threat area over an extended period of time. Kind of like wall to wall, Bombs Single. We don’t have that.

The Air Force needs a radical shift in thinking.

The Air Force needs to understand there are two types of air war environments, High Threat and Low Threat. The Air Force’s job is to turn all threat environments into a Low Threat environment. In a Low Threat environment, the Blue Force (US) has Air Superiority. There is no credible threat from enemy air, SAMs or AAA. To do that, one needs Air Superiority Fighters, Offensive Counter Air Fighters, SAM / AAA Suppression Fighters.

The Force Structure is shrinking. We cannot afford multiple aircraft types. One size has to fit all. In the late 1970s, the F-4 Phantom II was the one size that fit all. The F-15E could be the one size that would fit all, but the design is 30 years old and not very stealthy.

Buy the F-22, but in a stretched two seat version. Give the aircraft a 2,500nm un-refueled range, two seats, the ability to carry four 2,000 or eight 1,000 pound precision guided weapons, or 12 air to air missiles, and a gun. That will handle both Air Superiority and Offensive Counter Air. Buy a couple of squadrons fitted as Wild Weasels to handle SAM / AAA Suppression. Loose the JSF, it is too small and will be too expensive in the quantities we can afford. Just like 30 years ago when it would have been cheaper to buy all F-15s, rather than the less capable mix of F-15s and F-16s. Don’t buy anything that it out of a job after the first day of the war when Air Superiority is attained.

Buy a bomber version of the Boeing 777 or 787. This needs to be a long range bomber with an un-refueled range of at least 11,000nm with a payload of 50,000 pounds. If you buy a multi-role version with a full sized fuselage, you could double as a tanker, cargo hauler and bomber. Using General Jumper’s net-centric idea, all the data gained from the big Boeing’s radar and sensor package could net back to the Command and Control Center. The bomber can be based on an airliner because it will only operate when you have air superiority, just like the B-52. An airliner based bomber could have crew quarters allowing two full crews so round the world missions could be safely operated without having to sleep on the floor. An airliner based bomber with precision guided weapons could orbit a city like Bagdad for two days at a fraction of the cost of the Predator or Global Hawk.

Get rid of the B-1, get rid of the B-52.

Airlift is critical. It needs to be simpler and more reliable. It also needs to be cheaper. Simplify the C-17 and buy a lot of them. Get rid of the C-130. Buy a bunch of C-27 Sparton replacements. Either simplify the C-5 or park it, it is a maintenance nightmare.

The T-6 Texan II is a boondoggle. Too late to park it? Probably not, how about selling them to some other country. Buy the tandem seat Citation offered by Cessna.

Buy a bunch of light aircraft, let squadrons have organic airlift like 50 years ago.

More to follow.

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