Air Force Not Prepared for Fifth-Generation Adversary

Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said the Air Force is not ready to fight against a near-peer adversary, like Russia or China, that would deploy fifth-generation capabilities. “Against a high-end adversary, we lack the capabilities and the numbers,” Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday morning. “We’re ready to fight in the Middle East,” he said, making reference to the war against ISIS and its related terrorist networks. But he said the Air Force today lacks the end strength to take on a great power competitor. Beyond increasing the size of the force, Wilson said large exercises like Red Flag are the way to address the gap. The Air Force recently made a “significant investment” at Nellis AFB, Nev., for this kind of joint, air-to-air combat training, and USAF has focused especially on “incorporating space and cyber” into the mix. But he also said that, because of funding and op tempo realities, “not enough people can go to it and they’re not frequent enough.” So the Air Force is also investing in “live virtual constructive training,” Wilson said, which focuses on “reproducing a Red Flag environment” and is particularly useful for exercising F-35s and other fifth-generation aircraft.