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USAF Woes

quadrapiper

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Colin P said:
Building a low threat operation aircraft, with high payload, long loitering times based on a commercial airframe would be a good bone to throw to aircraft companies. You likely need maybe 20 airframes.
Fair selection of sturdy, proven designs out there, assuming the payload can be dropped out the back, rather than bomb-bay style. Equally, if a bomb-bay makes more sense, how much of a nuisance would a B-52 Mk II be to build, assuming the Good Idea Fairy can be kept away?

Is there anything in the commercial market with a high(ish) transit speed and a very economical "loiter" option?
 

MarkOttawa

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MarkOttawa said:
Lots more on the Century Bomber, note Pratt & Whitney Canada turbofan in running for new engines--what will our Liberals and lefties think of Canadian power for a nuclear-capable aircraft?

Mark
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Pratt engine made by Pratt & Whitney Canada--to power B-52s carrying nukes? And hypersonics.

USAF Opens Bidding Phase Of B-52 Re-Engine Competition

The U.S. Air Force has kicked off a three-way competition to re-engine the entire 76-aircraft B-52 fleet from 2021 to 2035.

The request for proposals (RFP) released on May 19 invites bids from GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce to supply 608 engines to replace each of the eight, 60-year-old, 16,000 lb.-thrust P&W TF33 turbofans on the heavy bomber.

GE can choose between the CF34 or Passport engine or offer both. P&W has proposed the PW800. Rolls-Royce will offer a military version of the BR.725.

The Air Force RFP lays out a two-step selection process. In step one, companies must submit “virtual” prototypes of their engine, meaning a digital design with integrated models for manufacturing, performance and sustainment.

Step 2 calls for the traditional engine source selection process, which will be informed by the data from the virtual prototypes and an integration risk analysis completed in the first step.

The Air Force has said the TF33 engines that now power the B-52 cannot be sustained practically beyond 2030. The Cold War jet, meanwhile, is expected to continue operating beyond 2050, outliving the B-2 and B-1B fleets scheduled for retirement in the 2030s.

Armed with a new class of hypersonic and long-range missiles, including the nuclear Long-Range Stand-Off Weapon, the B-52 will perform the standoff mission [emphasis added], while the B-21 penetrates into contested airspace.
https://aviationweek.com/defense-space/aircraft-propulsion/usaf-opens-bidding-phase-b-52-re-engine-competition

Mark
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MarkOttawa

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One way to approach the arsenal plane, further links at original:

US Air Force looks to up-gun its airlift planes

Humble airlift planes like the C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III could become heavily-armed weapons trucks capable of airdropping large bundles of munitions that deliver a massive blast.

So far, the Air Force has conducted two successful tests of “palletized munitions” from the C-130 and C-17, said Maj. Gen. Clint Hinote, the deputy director of the service’s Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability cell.

“It’s all about capacity,” Hinote explained. “You’ve got to create enough capacity so that a long-range punch is really a punch. What we see is that no matter how big our bomber force is, the capacity that the joint force needs is always more and more. And so this is why we think that there is a real possibility here for using cargo platforms to be able to increase the capacity of fires.”

Air Force Special Operations Command conducted one demonstration of the technology on Jan. 28, when a MC-130J performed three airdrops of simulated palletized munitions at at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.

“In this case, munitions stacked upon wooden pallets, or Combat Expendable Platforms (CEPs), deployed via a roller system,” the Air Force Research Laboratory said in a May 27 release. “AFSOC aircrew released five CEPs rigged with six simulated munitions, the same mass as the actual weapons, including four Cargo Launch Expendable Air Vehicles with Extended Range (CLEAVERs) across a spectrum of low and high altitude airdrops."

In response to questions from Defense News, AFRL clarified that simulated long-range cruise missiles were deployed from an off-the-shelf pallet system as well as an Air Force designed crate system [emphasis added]. CLEAVER is a new weapon under development by the lab as part of a separate effort, though it may be used in palletized munitions in the future.

On Feb. 27, Air Mobility Command conducted a similar demonstration with a C-17, which conducted two airdrops of simulated palletized munitions, AFRL said.

In future demonstrations, AFSOC plans to release more advanced forms of simulated munitions as well as full-up weapons vehicles that can be configured with a warhead and terminal guidance system...


“We are in discussions right now about how do we proceed to prototyping and fielding,” he said during a May 27 event held by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Like the name suggests, palletized munitions are a collection of weapons strapped together onto a smart pallet, which would feed the munitions tracking and targeting information as they are dropped from an airlift platform. A request for information released in February characterized the technology as “a bomb bay in a box” that could allow mobility aircraft to stay out of a threat zone and launch a mass of standoff weapons [emphasis added]...
https://www.defensenews.com/air/2020/05/27/air-force-looking-to-up-gun-its-airlift-planes/

Mark
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dapaterson

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Interesting technological evolution: from "Oops, the parachute failed on that drop.  Good thing nobody was under it" to "Why bother with a parachute, maybe we'll hit something"
 

MarkOttawa

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Story also covers USN, note Super Hornets:

Congress has questions about the Air Force’s and Navy’s next-generation fighter programs

The House Armed Services Committee wants to limit the amount of money the Air Force and Navy get for their respective sixth-generation fighter programs until it gets some answers.

The Navy and Air Force are leading separate efforts to develop a follow-on fighter jet to the F-35, with both services calling their programs “Next Generation Air Dominance.” Both projects are in the early stages of development, with the services hoping to ramp up activities this year.

But HASC intends to fence off 85 percent of the fiscal 2021 funding requested for the NGAD until the committee receives an independent review performed by the Pentagon’s director of cost assessment and program evaluation, according to the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee’s markup of the FY21 defense policy bill...

How’s the Air Force effort going?

Earlier this month, Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper said the service is on track to finalize a business case for its NGAD program this summer.

The Air Force envisions NGAD as a family of systems that could include aircraft, drones and other advanced technologies. But when it comes to developing new advanced aircraft, Roper wants to pursue a new strategy he calls the “Digital Century Series” that would have multiple companies continuously developing new jets and competing against each other for small-batch contracts [emphasis added].

The business case, which is being put together by the program executive office for advanced aircraft, will explore whether the Digital Century Series idea is technically feasible, how the development and procurement process should be structured, and whether it would be cheaper than traditional contracting methods.

“That is going to really help us, I hope, because we’ll show that data and argue that it is not just better from a ‘competing with China and lethality’ standpoint. It’s just better from a business standpoint,” Roper said. “If it breaks even or is less [than traditional methods], I will be exceptionally happy. If it’s more expensive — and I hope not exceptionally more — then we’re going to have to argue” on behalf of the program.

The Air Force has asked for $1 billion for its NGAD program for FY21. It received $905 million for the program in FY20.

How’s the Navy’s effort faring?

The Navy’s NGAD program, also known as F/A-XX, is more mysterious.

In its FY21 budget rollout this year, the service announced it would curtail its Super Hornet buy, purchasing a final 24 F/A-18E/Fs and then using the savings from a planned 36 jet buy from FY22 to FY24 to invest in its own future fighter.

Little is known about the Navy’s requirements
[emphasis added--RANGE, RANGE, RANGE]. The service completed an analysis of alternatives in June 2019, as well as broad requirements and guidance for a concept of operations.

The effort is now in the concept development phase, during which defense companies explore ideas “that balance advanced air dominance capabilities and long-term affordability/sustainment,” Navy spokesman Capt. Danny Hernandez told Defense News earlier this month.

Congress has signaled that it may not be willing to allow the Navy to stop buying Super Hornets in future years. HASC inserted language into the FY21 defense policy bill urging the Navy to continue buying new Super Hornets, warning the service that next-generation fighter procurement does not always proceed according to plans [emphasis added].

“The committee recalls the Navy curtailed F/A-18 procurement approximately 10 years ago with aspirational goals to maintain strike-fighter inventory levels with planned procurement of F-35C,” the committee said. “That plan was not realized due to F-35 program execution and subsequently required the Navy to procure additional F/A-18E/F aircraft to reduce operational risk. The committee expects a similar outcome may occur with the Navy’s current plan for FA-XX due to affordability and technological challenges.”

The bill also directs the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Department’s inspector general to provide more information on the operational risk incurred by not buying additional Super Hornets, as well as F/A-18 squadron adherence to maintenance practices.
https://www.defensenews.com/air/2020/06/23/congress-has-questions-about-the-air-force-and-navys-next-generation-fighter-programs/

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Taking advantage of airlines woes?

US Air Force considers ways to recruit commercial pilots

The US Air Force (USAF) is considering ways to recruit pilots from the commercial side of the aerospace industry.

The service’s Air Education and Training Command has not yet established new career paths, but is exploring the idea of recruiting experienced commercial pilots or civilians within commercial pilot training programmes, Air Combat Command chief General James Holmes said during a Mitchell Institute webinar.

The concept aims to take advantage of the growing pool of trained commercial pilots, many of whom have been grounded or are facing layoffs due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on airlines.

“Can we bring a pilot [who is] already a commercial-experience pilot, and can we put them through a short programme in the air force to make them an air force pilot?” says Holmes.

The Air Education and Training Command is also considering recruiting pilots who are much earlier in their commercial careers, he says.

“They’re also looking at ways to go out into civilian pilot training programmes and work with them to design the equivalent of our programmes where we could take people out of some of those university or school-based programmes and bring them straight into the air force,” says Holmes.

Recruiting from the commercial world remains conceptual at this point. In the short term, the USAF is focused on retaining military pilots who just six months ago would likely have departed the service for more lucrative jobs as commercial airline pilots.

“People that were reaching the end of their service commitment or had reached it, and were planning on moving to the airlines, are now thinking through that decision,” says Holmes. “I think that some of those will decide to stick around with us for a while longer. Some of them will sign a longer-term bonus and decide to commit and some of them will make a year-to-year decision and wait and see what happens in the environment. It gives us a chance to try to convince them to stick with us, which is an opportunity for us.”

Each year about 900 pilots in the USAF reach the end of their 10-year service commitment. Holmes hopes that the service can convince all of its pilots this year to recommit.
https://www.flightglobal.com/fixed-wing/us-air-force-considers-ways-to-recruit-commercial-pilots/138945.article

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Authors say "Digital Century Series" for USAF should be drones, not fighters (further links at original):

Air Force ‘Digital Century Series’ Is Stuck In The Wrong Century
Acquisition chief Will Roper wants to replicate the rapid-fire development of new fighter jets in the 1950s. He should focus on new drones instead.

The Air Force’s new approach to fighter development harkens back to the Cold War’s Century Series, which created a half-dozen jet designs in less than a decade to gain an edge over improving Soviet aircraft. The new “Digital Century Series,” brainchild of wunderkind acquisition chief Will Roper, aims to use modular “plug and play” hardware and software, computer-aided design, and virtual modeling & simulation to rapidly field new fighter variants, with less of the cumbersome integration and real-world testing that bog down modern R&D.

Roper is right that that the US military needs to accelerate fighter development. In the time it took the Pentagon to fully field the F-22 Raptor, Russian air defenses advanced six generations, from the short-range early models of the S-300 to the latest S-500 that can reportedly shoot down stealth aircraft over 280 miles away. Roper is also right that the DoD needs to innovate through design, speed up introduction of new technology, and increase competition in aircraft development. Pursuing these goals through manned multi-mission fighters, however, is more likely to undermine U.S. airpower than elevate it.

The original Century Series was intended to master the critical emerging technologies of its time: revolutionary improvements in hardware for jet propulsion and supersonic flight, which were central to the Cold War competition between nuclear-armed bombers and defending interceptors. With the advent of long-range missiles, space-based targeting, and cyber operations, manned fighters no longer hold that same strategic importance. The equivalent technologies today might be unmanned aircraft, man-machine teaming, and command-and-control networks to reorganize forces on the fly in real-time. Instead of using the Digital Century Series to marginally improve well-understood technologies for manned aircraft, it should pursue unmanned aircraft designs to master these new advancements [emphasis added]

The worst of all possible force designs

Digital Century Series fighters are intended to have brief production runs and short service lives to enable rapid learning, a cycle in which the experience with each variant leads quickly to improvements in the next. By modularizing systems and containerizing software, the idea is to change only a few features in each new variant, while maintaining much of the aircraft common with its predecessors and successors. This approach may be attractive to engineers and weapons buyers, but it will undermine the emerging combat concepts called Joint All-Domain Operations, which aims to create adaptable options for friendly forces and strategic dilemmas for our adversaries.

Unlike a ship or a widebody aircraft, manned fighters don’t have a lot of room for incorporating new capabilities. If the Century Series’ starting point is an aircraft like the F-35, the process of changing features would likely make each successive generation less multifunctional and more specialized. Unless new systems require very little space and power, the only way to fit them in will be to take some existing systems out. The alternative would be to redesign multiple parts of the aircraft simultaneously–an idea which goes against the program’s design ethos.

It’s likely that all the aircraft in the Digital Century Series will share a common airframe, using modularity and containerization to enable easier and faster evolution between variants. But because modular components need to accommodate a range of potential configurations and must be relatively self-contained, they are necessarily less efficient in terms of space, weight, and power compared to fully-integrated systems. As a result, the new aircraft would probably not be able to incorporate all the mission functionality of today’s fighters [emphasis added].

Digital Century Series fighters will therefore be more specialized than their predecessors. That limits commanders’ options – unless the Air Force builds lots of different specialist aircraft, each optimized for a different mission...

We need an unmanned Century Series

The Air Force could get the numbers it needs by shifting the Digital Century Series to unmanned aircraft. For example, the XQ-58 Valkyrie is expected to cost $2 million each, a fraction of even an inexpensive fighter like the T-7A Red Hawk trainer, about $20M, let alone a $100-million-plus F-35 or F-15EX. By focusing on unmanned aircraft, the Air Force would be more likely to achieve its goal of opening up aircraft competition to 10 or more U.S. companies, rather than the three or four that can realistically build manned fighters.

Unmanned platforms would make the most of the Digital Century Series approach by placing fewer design and testing constraints on developers. Unmanned vehicles would also enable the Digital Century Series to employ and mature technology for small batch manufacturing. Lying between artisanal prototyping and mass production, engineers using this technique construct a vehicle using off-the-shelf components that are integrated using middleware built from open source code or 3D printing. The resulting aircraft would contain a large portion of existing well-understood components, reducing test requirements and supply chain challenges. A manned aircraft would be less likely to harvest these benefits...

Bryan Clark is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and Director of the Hudson Center for Defense Concepts and Technology; Dan Patt is an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute.
https://breakingdefense.com/2020/07/air-force-digital-century-series-is-stuck-in-the-wrong-century/

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MarkOttawa

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Might USAF go really big on F-15EX? If only RCAF could get it...

F-15EX Could Replace Strike Eagle Fleet, in Addition to Older C/D Models, USAF Says

The Air Force may replace its 218 F-15Es with F-15EXs, which could expand the new program to over 400 aircraft, according to service documents justifying the sole-source contract to Boeing. The Air Force also claims buying the F-15EX will save some $3 billion in military construction and support costs versus buying more advanced F-35s.

The revelations and assertions were contained in an F-15EX Justification and Approval (J&A) document, which was dated March 2018 but not released until mid-July, to coincide with the sole-source award to Boeing of the first F-15EX contract. The program, as it’s currently structured, could be worth up to $22.9 billion if all options are exercised.

The heavily redacted document notes that the contract for Boeing posits a “rough order of magnitude” purchase of 200 airplanes, but the “most probable quantity” would be 144 fighters. However, it also notes that while the program is “initially” intended to refresh the aging F-15C/D, a decision to similarly replace the F-15E Strike Eagle fleet with the EX “has not been made, but remains an option.”

An Air Force spokesman said the Air Force’s position on the F-15E hasn’t changed.

“That decision has not been made,” the spokesman said. “Air Force leadership will determine that. The F-15E will continue to perform its mission for the foreseeable future.” The spokesman was not immediately able to say if the Air Force is conducting an analysis of alternatives regarding replacement of the F-15E fleet.

The Air Force fields about 234 F-15C/Ds, which are dedicated to air superiority, and 218 F-15Es, configured for ground attack while retaining air-to-air combat capability. Boeing recently described the F-15EX as a “multirole” aircraft [emphasis added]. The Air Force’s previous statements that it is seeking up to 200 F-15EX to refresh the F-15C/D fleet indicates it is not planning to replace the Eagle on a one-for-one basis.

Plans dating back to the early 1990s called for the F-15C/D to be replaced by the F-22, but that aircraft’s production was terminated prematurely by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in 2009, at less than half the planned inventory of 381 airplanes. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III subsequently said the F-35 would have to pick up some of the air superiority mission, given the age of the F-15 and its looming retirement.

The F-35 was planned to replace the A-10 and F-16 in USAF service, while the F-22 was to replace the F-15C/D and the F-117 in the stealthy strike role. The Air Force has never identified publicly how it planned to replace the F-15E. Production of the E-model followed the C/D by almost exactly 10 years, so the F-15E will likely start reaching its planned retirement age in the early 2030s. The E-model was strengthened in some ways over the C/D version to help it sustain heavier loads.     

The J&A document makes the case that the F-15C/D fleet is becoming unsafe to fly, and that a service life extension program would not be cost-effective. The document places a premium on speed-to-service, saying that no other company could produce a new fighter to replace the F-15C/D in a timely manner [emphasis added], and that it would take years to qualify a second source besides Boeing to make F-15s. 

The service can “leverage” the several billion dollars of investment of other F-15 customer countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in advanced versions of the Eagle. The J&A document quoted the F-15 system program office as saying the EX will enjoy “90-95 percent commonality” with the F-15QA for Qatar.

The service asserted that wargaming and operational analysis shows that “a mix of fourth-generation capacity and fifth-generation capability is necessary in balancing near- and mid-term readiness with future needs.” USAF has “further concluded that performing a refresh of the existing F-15C/D fleet [long redaction] is the only way to improve readiness and to maintain the USAF fighter aircraft capacity.” 

Making a virtue of necessity, the Air Force also argued that the EX saves money over buying the F-35, setting aside the differences in their capability.

“Utilizing a different airframe that is currently in production would require a cost-prohibitive and time-consuming effort to replace the existing F-15 air combat infrastructure,” the Air Force said in the justification. “Indeed, the USAF estimates that refreshing the F-15C/D fleet with F-15EXs will save USAF $3 billion over the FYDP [Future Years Defense Program] compared to replacing the fleet with F-35s, by avoiding significant transition costs required for a new aircraft (i.e., MILCON, aircraft-unique facilities, operator and maintenance transitions costs, etc.).”

USAF estimated it will take “six months or less to transition from the F-15C/D to the F-15EX” given the commonality of the aircraft, their components, and ground support equipment, while transitioning from “F-15s to the F-35 (or any other airframe) will take approximately 18 months for an Active-duty squadron and 36 months for an Air National Guard squadron.” The document also emphasizes that, “no other aircraft will satisfy the USAF requirement to refresh the F-15C/D fleet [emphasis added].”..
https://www.airforcemag.com/f-15ex-could-replace-strike-eagle-fleet-in-addition-to-older-c-d-models-usaf-says/

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CBH99

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So up to 400 brand new F-15EX's, alongside roughly 90 or so F-35's a year for the foreseeable future.
The USAF fighter force is looking to be in pretty darn good shape! 


Now if Boeing could just unf**k itself, and just build a tanker that works (shouldn't be hard, since the Pegasus is supposed to be replacing tankers that have worked just fine for decades) - USAF is in tip top shape it seems.
 

MarkOttawa

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MarkOttawa said:
Revolution in military aviation affairs coming? Conclusion of a post today:

New USAF chief of staff thinks the same way too:

New and old aircraft programs could get axed as top US Air Force general seeks ‘ruthless prioritization’ of capabilities

With stagnant budgets on the horizon, the U.S. Air Force is hurtling toward “the most difficult force structure decisions in generations” and must cancel programs and sacrifice some of its existing aircraft inventory to prepare for a potential fight against Russia or China, the service’s top general said Monday.

A future war with either country could entail combat losses on par with those of a major conflict like World War II, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown wrote in a paper titled “Accelerate Change or Lose,” which outlines his vision as the service’s new top uniformed leader. Brown became chief of staff of the Air Force on Aug. 6.

Although the Defense Department has focused on war with an advanced, near-peer nation since 2016, Brown raised concerns that the Air Force’s sense of urgency is not strong enough and warned of potential mission failure unless the service accelerates the pace of change.

A “ruthless prioritization” of the service’s requirements is in order, he said.

“We must reframe platform-centric debates to focus instead on capabilities to execute the mission relative to our adversaries,” he wrote. “Programs that once held promise, but are no longer affordable or will not deliver needed capabilities on competition-relevant timelines, must be divested or terminated. Cost, schedule, and performance metrics alone are no longer sufficient metrics of acquisition success.”

The Air Force must be responsive to the actions of its adversaries, pivoting when necessary to stay ahead and creating technologies that can be cost-effectively operated and maintained, Brown added.

“Capabilities must be conceived, developed, and fielded inside competitors’ fielding timelines — knowing we will need to adapt and adjust over time. Innovative ideas from our Airmen need viable sustainment pathways. If we are to beat our competitors in conflict, we must also beat them in development and fielding of capability,” he said.

It’s unclear what existing capabilities could be on the chopping block, but more details on the Air Force’s path forward are expected. During a Aug. 31 roundtable, Brown told reporters that the service is working on action orders associated with his strategic vision that will be unveiled at the Air Force Association’s conference during the week of Sept. 14 [emphasis added].

Brown’s call for rapid change could pave the way for another bloody budget rollout when the Air Force’s plan for fiscal 2022 is revealed next year.

During its FY21 budget deliberations, service leaders alluded to “controversial changes” such as fleetwide divestments, but ultimately the Air Force proposed retiring handfuls of older platforms rather than entire aircraft types.

Congress has attempted to curtail some of those changes, putting strict limits on the amount of tankers and bombers permitted to be retired each year.

Brown acknowledged that if he’s to make radical changes to force structure, he will need to have tough conversations with other Air Force and Pentagon leaders, Congress, and industry to determine where risk can be taken êmphasis addedç.

“When we work in various silos, we’re all trying to make our particular program or platform as capable as we can be. But we can’t afford all of those,” he said. The difficulty is getting “the right set of full programs” and not “a number of broken programs” that “balance the checkbook at the expense of our capability.”

Brown’s priorities for the Air Force extend beyond changes to existing force structure and modernization plans. Like his predecessor, Gen. Dave Goldfein, Brown stressed the importance of the military’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, as well as increased interoperability and data sharing with allies.

Brown also hinted that a restructure of the Air Force could be forthcoming, and that the creation of the Space Force provides an opportunity to review the roles and missions of his service.

“Sometimes the model we use in the deployed environment is different than the model we use at home,” he said. “You want to train like you’re going to fight. From that aspect, we’ve got to take a look at ourselves.”
https://www.defensenews.com/air/2020/08/31/new-and-old-aircraft-programs-could-get-the-ax-as-top-us-air-force-general-calls-for-a-ruthless-prioritization-of-its-capabilities/

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MarkOttawa said:
New USAF chief of staff thinks the same way too:

New and old aircraft programs could get axed as top US Air Force general seeks ‘ruthless prioritization’ of capabilities

Mark
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New USAF chief of staff really does see urgent need to shake the service up (as seems to be the case for USN and USMC too)--how to cope with new threats from Russia and, above all, PRC:

Brown: Change Now or Risk ‘Losing a High-End Fight,’ and ‘Quality Airmen’

The Air Force, under the direction of its new top uniformed leader, risks losing its superiority and a future conflict if change does not begin immediately, from how the service buys and evaluates weapons to how it trains and deploys Airmen, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. writes in his first directive to the service.

In an eight-page “strategic approach” memorandum to the force, titled “Accelerate Change or Lose, [https://www.airforcemag.com/app/uploads/2020/08/CSAF-22-Strategic-Approach-Accelerate-Change-or-Lose-31-Aug-2020.pdf]” Brown issues stern warnings on the ramifications of not taking threats seriously, and the importance of the Air Force clearly making its case to the country at large, saying failure is a realistic consequence...

“Today we operate in a dynamic environment with factors that have us taking various actions to continue the mission and take care of Airmen and families,” Brown wrote. “As a result, we have a window of opportunity. Our Air Force must accelerate change to control and exploit the air domain to the standard the nation expects and requires from us. If we don’t change—if we fail to adapt—we risk losing the certainty with which we have defended our national interests for decades. We risk losing a high-end fight. We risk losing quality Airmen, our credibility, and our ability to secure our future.”

In the “months ahead,” beginning with action orders expected in the coming weeks, Brown said USAF will take steps that will begin to change its future, though he acknowledged some of the more broad measures will take time and collaboration within the Pentagon, with Capitol Hill, and with industry.

“We’ve got to move faster,” Brown told a small group of reporters Aug. 31. “We’ve got to move at … at least the same pace that our adversaries are moving. And so that’s why we’ve got to adjust. And then the other part of that is, we’ve got to be adaptable and threat focused. So if the threat changes, then we’ve got to be willing to change, and ready to change in the same way so we can stay several steps ahead of our adversary.”

Possible Loss of Air Dominance

Air Force leaders have repeatedly said in recent years that air superiority, which the U.S. military has enjoyed uncontested for decades, is not guaranteed. Brown, however, issues an even more stern warning.

The loss of dominance is realistic, and closer on the horizon than most are willing to admit. China and other competitors “have made and continue aggressive efforts to negate long-enduring U.S. warfighting advantages,” he said. Beijing has resourced and introduced new systems that are “specifically designed to defeat the U.S. Air Force capabilities that have underpinned the American way of war for a generation,” warns Brown, who most recently ran Pacific Air Forces.

“While we and industry previously enjoyed the benefit of time, when U.S. Air Force dominance seemed unassailable, we are now seeing competitors outpace our current decision structures and fielding timelines,” Brown wrote...

Unlike the past, much of the emerging technologies that will determine our future are no longer created or funded by the Department of Defense [emphasis added],” Brown writes. “The processes with which we build capabilities for our Airmen have not adapted to these changes; the ways in which we test, evaluate, and train with them do not meet current or future demands.”

The Air Force must find new operational concepts and ways to bring on new systems more quickly, as opposed to the traditional, drawn-out process. This includes better ways of experimentation, rapid prototyping, and more collaboration with industry...


The Air Force’s current requirements for its weapons systems and capabilities were designed decades ago, and “since then, much has changed.” In addition to the obvious advances in technology, the source of that technology has changed...

The Air Force needs to successfully make its case before any changes can take root, especially with regards to how it can divest or take risk in legacy missions. Congress has historically opposed any Air Force move to get rid of older equipment, so “navigating the challenging times ahead requires effective collaboration among all stakeholders to acknowledge, balance, and share risk over time,” Brown wrote. Within the Air Force, the service must address its own impediments and acknowledge that future budget pressures “will require the most difficult force structure decisions in generations. We cannot shy away from these decisions,” he added.

Past force structure decisions and deferred modernization, which were made with the “best intentions, reflecting perceived needs at the time,” have put the Air Force behind potential adversaries such as Russia and China. To change this, there needs to be “ruthless prioritization” in modernization and changes to missions and capabilities, which is “informed by how they fare against our understanding of competitors’ theories of victory, ways of war, and force development strategies.”

In future acquisition, focus should be on the overall mission, rather than specific airframes and platforms—the basis of USAF’s decision to move away from Joint STARS recapitalization and toward the Airborne Battle Management System [emphasis added]. Furthermore, Brown said the Air Force needs to be able to end programs when it chooses...

Empowering Airmen

Operating in a contested environment means Airmen need “maximum delegation, trust, and empowerment” before a conflict starts, Brown said. This means Airmen at all levels need to be empowered to make decisions while also being held accountable, and leaders need to train to make the right decisions, while creating an environment that enables everyone to understand their contributions. In addition, the understanding of possible threats needs to start early.

“Starting with recruitment and accession, and through all of our Airmen and leader development programs, we must develop the Airmen we need for the high-end fight,” Brown writes. “The U.S. Air Force must develop and build deep institutional understanding of China and Russia.”..

The Consequences of Failure

Wargames and modeling have repeatedly shown that if the Air Force fails to adapt, there will be mission failure, Brown warns. Rules-based international order may “disintegrate, and our national interests will be significantly challenged,” according to the memo. Without the changes he outlines, Brown warns the Air Force will not be prepared to do what the country asks of it.

“Urgent actions are required now to secure the U.S. Air Force’s continued ability to deliver global effects on strategically relevant timelines. … Our nation has come to expect much from its Air Force; we must rise to the challenges of tomorrow’s highly competitive environment to deliver.”
https://www.airforcemag.com/brown-air-force-must-speed-up-change-or-face-harsh-consequences/

Pretty stark. Meanwhile Pres. Trump says stuff like this:

...President Donald J. Trump...in his [2020] State of the Union address.

"Our military is completely rebuilt, with its power being unmatched anywhere in the world — and it is not even close," the president said in the nationally televised report to Congress last night...
https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/2074985/trump-touts-military-rebuilding-space-force-strikes-against-terror/

The media and Democrats really need to call him out for this constant refrain. It's almost surreal that the military themselves at the same time are saying publicly how dire things are looking.

Mark
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CBH99

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I'm not one to disagree with a career Airman with that much experience.  He knows what he's talking about.

However, the President isn't wrong.  Nobody, anywhere, can match the US military on anything remotely close to their level.  Their space, cyber, and kinetic assets are beyond what most of us could even fathom.



Could Russia and China pose a threat in the opening days & weeks of a conflict?  Absolutely. 

Could a ground conflict involving little green men end up being a prolonged, protracted battle with no easy win?  Absolutely also.

But in the high-end fight, nobody has the sheer number of high-end aircraft, quality training, and supporting assets as the US military does. 




Is a shake-up necessary to ensure continued dominance?  Yes, probably. 

Is the US going to lose the tactical fight anytime soon?  No.  (American conflict losses tend to be at the strategic level, not the tactical level.)
 

daftandbarmy

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CBH99 said:
I'm not one to disagree with a career Airman with that much experience.  He knows what he's talking about.

However, the President isn't wrong.  Nobody, anywhere, can match the US military on anything remotely close to their level.  Their space, cyber, and kinetic assets are beyond what most of us could even fathom.



Could Russia and China pose a threat in the opening days & weeks of a conflict?  Absolutely. 

Could a ground conflict involving little green men end up being a prolonged, protracted battle with no easy win?  Absolutely also.

But in the high-end fight, nobody has the sheer number of high-end aircraft, quality training, and supporting assets as the US military does. 




Is a shake-up necessary to ensure continued dominance?  Yes, probably. 

Is the US going to lose the tactical fight anytime soon?  No.  (American conflict losses tend to be at the strategic level, not the tactical level.)

The powerful don't always triumph over the weak, usually because they don't always learn from failure :)

Psychology of the Underdog
Why the weak sometimes win and the strong never learn.

"in international relations, weak actors have prevailed against stronger adversaries about 30% of the time. Even though it seems remarkable that the weak can prevail over the strong 30% of the time, that's still a 70% failure rate. Putting aside things like ideology and principle for the moment, if all I care about is winning, then being the underdog really doesn’t seem all that attractive.

All of this suggests that there is a perennial tug-of-war between the powerful and the weak, with the cards stacked ever in favor of the former. The problem is that being powerful is often such a good bet that it actually pays not to invest in a little strategic empathy; it’s very costly if you think about it. It is the mismanagement of this tradeoff by the powerful that leaves open a small but dramatic widow for those who possess just the right blend of cunning and commitment to bring down their Goliath. So why don’t the powerful learn? The answer is that most of the time, they don’t have to."

https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/evolutionary-politics/201903/psychology-the-underdog
 

Weinie

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Got it D&B, but I am with CBH99 on this one.

There is no military power that can even come close to the US military, especially from a technological POV. I would put their F-15;s against any adversary, and the US would win. Couple that with F-22/35 and then God only knows the secret stuff,



 

Good2Golf

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Weinie said:
Got it D&B, but I am with CBH99 on this one.

There is no military power that can even come close to the US military, especially from a technological POV. I would put their F-15;s against any adversary, and the US would win. Couple that with F-22/35 and then God only knows the secret stuff,

‘These are not the UFOs from Area 51 you are looking for.’
 

daftandbarmy

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Weinie said:
Got it D&B, but I am with CBH99 on this one.

There is no military power that can even come close to the US military, especially from a technological POV. I would put their F-15;s against any adversary, and the US would win. Couple that with F-22/35 and then God only knows the secret stuff,

Of all the US arms and services it's interesting that the USAF, arguably, has been the least 'tested in battle' by the opposition over the years owing to the US military engaging in fights that primarily involve their ground and naval forces.

Seriously, since WW2 anyways, if you want your kid to be most likely to come back from a war uninjured, have them join the Air Force.

As a result a big dust up with a peer, or near peer, foe on the aviation front could result in a drastic 'learning curve' for the USAF.

 

MarkOttawa

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An assessment of the Pentagon's latest report on PRC's military power:

Breaking Down the Pentagon's 2020 China Military Power Report: A Quest for PLA Parity?

The report puts key concerns front and center: arguably, China's meteoric military progress in recent years has not simply narrowed the gap in limited niches, but has in fact pursued parity and even selective superiority to the degree that, broadly interpreted, "China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas".

Overall Assessment:

My first impression is that this is the latest and greatest of the Pentagon’s China Military Power reports since their inception two decades ago. At 173 pages, it is quite possibly the longest and most substantive. A high-water mark in public analysis from the Office of the Secretary of Defense to date, it begins with a self-critical stocktaking of previous editions, yielding striking conclusions concerning the rapidity and relative comprehensiveness of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s progress. This wake-up call regarding the current advanced state, and rapid forward advancement, of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military capabilities, should land loudly on the desk of Members of Congress and all other U.S. foreign policy and defense community stakeholders. Essential reading, indeed!

The report puts key concerns front and center: arguably, China’s meteoric military progress in recent years has not simply narrowed the gap in limited niches, but has in fact pursued parity and even selective superiority to the degree that, broadly interpreted, “China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas”:

- “Shipbuilding: The PRC has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants. In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.

- Land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles: The PRC has more than 1,250 ground-launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The United States currently fields one type of conventional GLBM with a range of 70 to 300 kilometers and no GLCMs.

- Integrated air defense systems: The PRC has one of the world’s largest forces of advanced long-range surface-to-air systems—including Russian-built S-400s, S-300s, and domestically produced systems—that constitute part of its robust and redundant integrated air defense system architecture."

One need not accept upfront the report’s assessment that “it is likely that Beijing will seek to develop a military by mid-century that is equal to—or in some cases superior to—the U.S. military, or that of any other great power that the PRC views as a threat.” But as this 7.5 MB tome documents with excruciating thoroughness the sea change in capabilities the PRC has achieved already, the following conclusion emerges cogently: “What is certain is that the CCP has a strategic end state that it is working towards, which if achieved and its accompanying military modernization left unaddressed, will have serious implications for U.S. national interests and the security of the international rules-based order.” That definitely merits the attention of all who value the peace and prosperity underwritten by the global system that has risen over seven decades from the ashes of devastating world war...[read on]
https://nationalinterest.org/feature/breaking-down-pentagons-2020-china-military-power-report-quest-pla-parity-168201

Andrew S. Erickson is a Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard’s Fairbank Center. He runs www.andrewerickson.com and co-manages www.ChinaSignPost.com.

Mark
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CBH99

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daftandbarmy said:
Of all the US arms and services it's interesting that the USAF, arguably, has been the least 'tested in battle' by the opposition over the years owing to the US military engaging in fights that primarily involve their ground and naval forces.

Seriously, since WW2 anyways, if you want your kid to be most likely to come back from a war uninjured, have them join the Air Force.

As a result a big dust up with a peer, or near peer, foe on the aviation front could result in a drastic 'learning curve' for the USAF.


You absolutely aren't wrong!  I agree with you 100%

Ironically enough, in a peer-peer dustoff against China, the Army might actually be the safest service to be in.  Who would have thought? 
 

Weinie

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CBH99 said:
You absolutely aren't wrong!  I agree with you 100%

Ironically enough, in a peer-peer dustoff against China, the Army might actually be the safest service to be in.  Who would have thought?

Notwithstanding the talk of "carrier killers" and other bugbears, the Chinese Navy wouldn't last more than 72 hours in a real faceoff with the US Navy. And their Air Force would fare even worse. The US Army would, in a peer to peer dustoff, destroy the Chinese army.
 

suffolkowner

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Weinie said:
Notwithstanding the talk of "carrier killers" and other bugbears, the Chinese Navy wouldn't last more than 72 hours in a real faceoff with the US Navy. And their Air Force would fare even worse. The US Army would, in a peer to peer dustoff, destroy the Chinese army.

Weinie, I'm not so confident, the USN has had a hard time avoiding freighters lately. It's not like the USN or USAF has a lot of recent combat experience either especially against anyone that could shoot back
 
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