Air Superiority, 14 Years Away

USAF’s projected force structure “is not capable of fighting and winning” an air war in 2030, demanding a faster approach to fielding new weapons and an array of new technologies that aren’t available yet, according to the just-released “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan.” The report is the result of a year-long Air Force cross-specialty analysis of what it will take to control the skies 14 years hence. Though the results of the study were briefed to the press last month, the new document offers additional details about USAF’s approach, saying it will seek “a balanced approach” between stand-off and stand-in methods to take down enemy air defenses. The B-21 bomber particularly will be needed to strike enemy airfields and air defenses “repeatably,” and there will need to be investment in “long-range, high-capacity” weapons, whose development will be “paired” with new platforms, including a “stand-off arsenal plane.” In the near future, there will be a “campaign” of experiments launched, aimed at defeating “agile intelligent targets,” and USAF also expects to start an analysis of alternatives for a “Penetrating Counter-Air,” or PCA, system next year. However, it specifically rejects “traditional” approaches to developing new systems, saying the typical long timeline “guarantees adversary cycles will outpace US development,” resulting in “late to need delivery of critical … capabilities.” (For more on Air Superiority 2030 read the Aperture column in the May issue of Air Force Magazine.)