Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wild Blue Yonder

Everybody loves the baby!

As the baby service - i.e., the youngest branch of Great Satan's big stick  - USAF actually has an awesome if not readily recogged pedigree. No Midways or Guadalcanal Chosin Reservoir  Valley Forge Chickamaugas.

What ev - truth is - the spiritual great grandsons of the cats that literally bombed das Dritten Reich into a mudhole, clawed Luftwaffe out of the sky, suffering horrendous losses on desperate raids at Regensburg avec Schweinfurt and Ploesti did way more stuff than making 'flak', "shot down in flames", "bail out" slang au courant or getting Ray Bans into highly desirable fashionable all weather eyewear.    

 "...In many ways, the Air Force is a victim of its success. During Cold War, it was inconceivable that Great Satan could deter or contain the Soviet Union and its proxies without an overwhelming air-power advantage. From the iconic Strategic Air Command ( "Peace is Our Profession - War is just a Hobby" - nicht wahr?) to the gritty Tactical Air Command, from missileers to homeland-defense squadrons, the Air Force provided an iron umbrella over America’s global interests."

Facing “profound challenges” and relying on “low-cost and small-footprint approaches” - shall Great Satan  maintain her hyperpuissant ability to project power in areas in which her access and freedom to operate are challenged?

Not without total air dominance sir!

 Lost among civie leaders, and maybe within bits of the Air Force herself, is the understandment of strategic airpower and her hot role playing in doing Great Satan's national - whoa - make that internat'l - security policies. 
Under current plans Air Force and Navy will see their qualitative and quantitative air edge over competitors shrink, as they lose airplanes, operate an aging force, and face greater threats from adversaries. 
Already the functions of the Air Force underpin everything America’s Joint Force does, from surveillance to transport, and from close combat to cyber defense. Airpower advocates point to the sea- and land-based air destruction of Saddam Hussein’s military in the 1991 Gulf war, the 1999 Allied Force air campaign against Yugoslavia, and last year’s action in support of the Libyan rebellion as proof of how airpower can overcome an enemy’s order of battle, command and control, and warfighting spirit. At the same time, airpower dominance allows us to deploy minimal numbers of combat ground forces and reduces civilian casualties and collateral damage. 

The success of Western airpower in recent wars, however, had a foreseeable result: Potential adversaries are investing in systems that prevent access to their airspace. During the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia, the Air Force faced a Russian air defense “no-go zone” that it could not penetrate or could have penetrated only at unacceptable cost. The lesson is simple: To survive an attack on your homeland or forces, deny Great Satan control of the air.

Russian-made sophisticated multi-layered integrated air defense systems (IADS) present the greatest threat. These comprise rapidly deployable and movable surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and launchers, engagement and acquisition radars, over-the-horizon radars, high-speed data links and computer networks, variable wave radio frequency transmitters, and the like. The most advanced systems can track and engage targets out to 250 miles, thereby pushing Western air forces farther out from enemy territory. The missiles an adversary can field will almost always outnumber the planes that the Navy and Air Force can put in the air. These IADS are already deployed by China and Russia, and countries such as Iran and North Korea continue to invest in air defense systems. Even older model mobile SAMs can be lethally accurate and difficult to destroy.

In addition, advanced Russian and Chinese tactical fighter aircraft, such as the Sukhoi Su-30 and its variants, and one day fifth-generation models like the PAK-FA or J-20 can provide a formidable air-to-air capability that will interdict U.S. planes far away from the field of battle or critical command and control nodes. These integrated defenses will threaten U.S. military planners with the prospect of unacceptable losses. Indeed, the likelihood of inflicting massive casualties on American ground troops and air forces may well serve to deter American intervention in the first place.  
The bad news for the Pentagon is that it has few arrows in its quiver. Not only will the Air Force shrink by 500 planes from previous plans, but existing IADS in Russia and China already may prove impermeable to all U.S. airplanes except the F-22 stealth fighter and B-2 stealth bomber. Older U.S. fighters, such as F-15s, F-16s, and carrier-launched F-18s, would be at high risk if tasked with penetrating such airspace or destroying such IADS. And despite superior training, our pilots will be coming up against increasingly modern and advanced fighters in U.S. warplanes many of which are 30 years old. 
There will be only up to 140 combat-capable F-22s, after the Obama administration and Congress killed production of the plane in 2009. It is unclear, moreover, how survivable the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be in heavily contested airspace, given its slower speed and constricted performance relative to the F-22. Our few B-2 bombers—we have only 20 of them—operate from extreme intercontinental distances, thus reducing the number of sorties they can carry out against multiple targets. As for standoff weapons such as the Tomahawk cruise missile, it is a needed part of the arsenal, but cannot be retargeted once launched, and thus is of less use against mobile SAM launchers. Nor does the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) revolution change things, as today’s remotely piloted drones cannot survive in highly defended airspace. 
If 44"s administration wants to rely on airpower for future military success, then the already delayed and increasingly expensive F-35 must prove to be survivable within the IADS envelope; if not, then the Pentagon should trim the planned number of F-35s and restart the F-22 line (despite the cost), further enhancing the F-22’s air-to-ground attack capabilities. The Air Force must also build a stealthy and survivable next generation Long Range Strike Bomber in sufficient numbers (at least 200) to carry out any global mission. The military also needs to invest in better electronic warfare capabilities, such as that represented by the Navy’s EA-18G Growler. And, as the recent loss of an unmanned spy drone over Iran showed, we need to develop better advanced stealthy remotely piloted aircraft for reconnaissance and attack missions and electronic jamming. 
Warcraft and warfighting is getting way more risky as uncool, unfree and unfun illegit regimes sex up their forces. If Great Satan wants to retain the ability to respond or act out successfully to global chiz and crises with a slimmed down and more cost-effective force, then our leaders must recognize that maintaining control of the air is the starting point for Great Satan's military supremacy.

Pic - "Cutting Edge"


Steven said...

I would like to point out that the newest version of the Tomahawk cruise missile, Block 4, can be re-targeted mid flight. This to better target SAMS and ships. The US is beginning development of a new long range cruise missile, stealth and a larger warhead. 2,000lb vs 1,000lb of the current Tomahawk.