Air Dominance 2030

Even though the Air Force is already well inside the F-22 replacement cycle, the Pentagon doesn’t expect to be “pockets empty” when the Raptor reaches retirement age, Pentagon systems engineering chief Stephen Welby said Friday. “We have 30-year aircraft plans,” he told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. The new Long-Range Research and Development Plan, he said, which is assessing “Air Dominance 2030” and will report to Pentagon leaders in March, is asking whether the attributes of future air dominance “are … the right capabilities, … the right mix of capabilities, and are they properly informed by the art of the possible.” It will also determine “are there better break points where we might want to change the plans we’re on today, to take advantage of better options?” The Pentagon is trying to “think through” the “competitive environment,” as well as “the right time to introduce technologies” applicable to air dominance, Welby noted, and stage them such that they jibe with “obsolescence of capabilities we’ve deployed.” The “third offset” approach to finding asymmetric counters to adversaries “may succeed and it may not,” he admitted. “We’re trying to do something different, and that’s fundamentally risky.” However, he’s convinced the Pentagon will “learn something from this process.” The last time an offset strategy was pursued “it was 40 years ago” and the riskiness is something Pentagon leaders are learning to accept, Welby said.