Air Force Irregulars

The Air Force may establish a wing dedicated solely to irregular warfare, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said Friday. Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Schwartz said the Air Force is “dedicated to establishing an appropriate institutional architecture” for IW, “perhaps a wing, at least,” backed up by a shift in “culture and career paths” to heighten the service’s commitment to non-traditional warfare. Formal meetings, and a decision, are scheduled for June, he added. At that time, the top USAF leadership will also review what “instruments and tools” will be needed to go along with “this mission space.” Schwartz said it’s a “fair question” whether special operations forces should be “scaled … up” to handle more IW roles, but he didn’t elaborate. (Boosting Air Force Special Operations Command’s IW role is not a new idea, and defense analysts have said the command needs a full wing just for the force that trains allies in counterinsurgency aviation techniques.) Schwartz also said USAF is exploring the “relationship of technology to IW” and looking for ways to “suffocate” an insurgent enemy by cutting off his support and keeping him under “unblinking” surveillance, Asked about new hardware being contemplated for the IW mission, Schwartz suggested that T-6 Texan aircraft—used currently as primary trainers—might be a good fit, if beefed up with light weaponry. Instructor pilots who teach foreign allied pilots might also be certified in counterinsurgency operations, Schwartz speculated, and teach both “skill sets.”