Shifting Patterns of Air Warfare

April 1, 1997

ACC: General Hawley

Operations tempo is so high in some parts of Air Combat Command that overworked people may start leaving the service in droves, ACC Commander Gen. Richard E. Hawley told attendees at AFA’s Air Warfare symposium, held January 30–31 in Orlando, Fla. The problem will be greatly aggravated, he said, if the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) calls for new force cuts.

“Our people are working hard, and they know it,” the General said. “They want to know if there is any light at the end of the tunnel.” While his ACC personnel are “dedicated men and women” who have “not been found wanting . . . in their commitment to ‘service above self,’ . . . there are limits on how much we can ask these wonderful people to give. It is my sense that we are close to that limit. Once we cross that fine line, the exodus will be devastating and difficult to reverse. We must find a way to keep our force structure and our commitments in balance. I believe we can do that.”

The QDR potentially could “lead to further reductions in our already heavily committed force structure,” said General Hawley. “As a primary provider of air combat forces to our joint warfighters, I advise caution as we contemplate this course.”

The General noted that alleviating the high operations tempo has been his top priority, and there are some successes to show for the effort. The number of ACC personnel deployed beyond the USAF-wide goal of 120 days away from home station “was cut in half” in 1996, compared with 1995 levels, despite a shrinking force and no letup in commitments.

To further manage the work load, the General explained, ACC hosts a worldwide contingency- and exercise-scheduling conference to build some breathing room into the pace of deployments and to “spread the work more evenly across the force than we have done in the past.”

Scheduling criteria “help us avoid scheduling any one part of the force for too many events in too short a period of time or violating the sanctuary periods the units need to prepare for—and recover from—major tasks,” according to the General. Some units that were overtaxed were found to be undermanned. Where possible, the empty billets have been filled to relieve the stress.

In addition, General Hawley said, ACC is working with the other services and USAF components to find comparable, substitute capabilities that can fill in to provide a breather. Regional commanders in chief are also being asked to occasionally “do without.” He added that if a capability is simply too much in demand and too short in supply, “we will advocate . . . investment in additional force structure,” as ACC has done in the case of RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft and combat rescue forces.

In spite of the pace, 1996 was “our safest year ever, . . . both on the ground and in the air.”

Reflecting on last year’s other achievements, the General noted that in 1996, ACC also “demonstrated and refined the concept of the air expeditionary force” with deployments to Bahrain, Jordan, and Qatar. In conjunction with Air Mobility Command, response time and logistics footprint have been reduced on each deployment, with aircraft in place and ready to begin combat sorties within 72 hours of the “go” order. A second Qatar-bound AEF, the 4th Air Expeditionary Wing, was scheduled to deploy in February.

Bombers stole the spotlight in 1996, as all three serving types demonstrated new or more powerful capabilities, General Hawley said. The B-2’s new Global Positioning System–Aided Munition was a huge success as three aircraft shacked 16 different targets from 31,680 feet, “destroying or damaging each one.” In Operation Desert Strike against Iraq last September, B-52Hs deployed to Guam flew a 34-hour round-trip mission to launch Conventional Air-Launched Cruise Missiles, scoring “13 hits on critical air defense targets.” Moreover, the B-1B gained the ability to carry and drop cluster munitions, allowing it to threaten “a much wider range of targets.”

“Once again, our global airpower provided the means for us to answer aggression and to demonstrate US resolve without a massive and costly deployment,” General Hawley asserted.

This year, the Air Force will get its first Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and the first Block 30 B-2s will be delivered, further enhancing precision attack capabilities.

Preserving programs that will ensure future air dominance will be the chief challenge of 1997, General Hawley said, as tactical air modernization comes under further scrutiny.

“This nation has invested billions [of dollars] to achieve technological dominance in aerospace,” he said, but “when we propose to spend less than two percent of a much-reduced national security budget to provide guaranteed air dominance through the first third of the next century, we are questioned at every step of the way and held to a standard that no other development program has ever been asked to attain.”

General Hawley asserted that the debate over the F-22 and other tactical aviation programs “has gotten too emotional.” The Air Force, he noted, has carefully sequenced buying the planes it needs over the next 15 years, and at no time will the investment exceed two percent of the defense budget.

“We are not buying all of these things at the same time,” he said. “It is a myth that we can’t afford these. The question is, do we want to?”

AETC: General Boles

The streamlining and rationalization of military education that was intended with the formation of Air Education and Training Command is taking place, according to its then-commander, Gen. Billy J. Boles.

The merger of Air Training Command, Air University, and combat crew training has created “the sixth largest air force in the world,” he said, and the effort is yielding both savings and better-trained people.

One big way to save is by training jointly with other services. General Boles said that “one of every three” students in AETC “is in a joint school” and, within three years, that number could top 50 percent. He noted that jointness is expanding so much that it is possible for a pilot candidate to go from commissioning through pilot training “and never see an Air Force base until after he or she is awarded . . . wings.”

Another push is to get Air Force people trained faster, at less cost. The “mission-ready training” program provides system-specific education right out of basic training, rather than months of generic system education before “graduate” courses at the assigned base.

Airmen now reach their bases “fully trained . . . and ready to go” at four months rather than five. At 600 maintenance technicians a year, “we just saved [50] man-years right there,” General Boles observed.

More is being done with computers and the Internet to improve and accelerate training, General Boles noted. Some correspondence courses can be taken by CD-ROM or interactively over the Internet, with participants thousands of miles apart.

New simulation equipment, with highly realistic threats and visual systems, can allow an F-15 pilot to electronically “dogfight” an adversary at another base, as well as tie him into Airborne Warning and Control System simulators and other “composite force” participants. Eventually, all this will enable AETC to achieve its goal of never permitting a pilot “to experience an event for the first time in an airplane.”

General Boles paused to say that simulation is not a complete substitute for experience, and he is not “advocating cutting flying time [in favor of] simulators.” However, he believes the strides being made in simulation can “make the crews much more efficient.” Nevertheless, in its 1998 budget request, the Air Force proposed cutting its monthly crew flying time by 30 minutes.

Still in the planning stages is the “Air and Space Basic Course,” which will be given to all incoming officers, and eventually to all senior and midgrade noncommissioned officers, as well as some civilian employees. The “basic course” is expected to take about six weeks and will give an individual “the big picture” of the Air Force mission and its contribution to national security, General Boles said.

Privatization and outsourcing in AETC will continue, he said. The process is not “much different from what is taking place in the business world today. Businesses are shedding a lot of functions that are not part of their core competencies, so they can focus on their core competencies.” For example, he said, there’s no reason a blue-suiter has to teach basic electronic principles. The savings from outsourcing can reach 35 percent, the General added.

Recruiters are meeting their goals without lowering standards, but recruiting will remain a challenge as the percentage of high school graduates going on to college continues to increase. The Air Force needs about 35,000 enlistees—including 5,000 in the Guard and Reserve—and about 5,000 new officers annually to keep its personnel strength up to par, General Boles said.

The current fighter pilot shortage is part of a cyclical problem that has defied permanent solution, he said.

European Command: General Jamerson

Ongoing operations in Bosnia-Hercegovina, Africa, and the Middle East underline that a strictly CONUS-based force is not in the best interest of the US, asserted Gen. James L. Jamerson, deputy commander in chief, US European Command.

The various contingency operations in which US forces are involved entail work “that cannot be done from the continental US. That is not because . . . anybody is incompetent; you just can’t do it from here. You’ve got to have some forces over there to have this engagement,” he said.

By having regular, military-to-military contacts with allies and potential allies—and in many cases, among forward-deployed forces from all the services—operations can be rehearsed and connections maintained that permit contingencies to be dealt with far more effectively and swiftly, General Jamerson maintained.

” ‘Multinational’ is . . . much, much easier to say than to do,” he observed. “We are forward-presence, forward-based, forward-stationed, and we think it is important to stay that way,” he said.

He echoed remarks from the other speakers regarding the high operations tempo of US forces overseas and, noting that US Air Forces in Europe is down to 2.33 wings, said, “I’ve always contended that when you start measuring fighter wings with decimal points, things are getting a little bit tense.”

General Jamerson also cautioned against further reductions in force structure unless comparable reductions are made in commitments. He pointed out that some taxing operations, once started, can go on far longer than expected. Operations Northern and Southern Watch in Iraq are both more than five years old, and the US has been running an air bridge to Lebanon for 14 years.

“These things do not go away fast,” he said. “It is easy to get in, hard to get out.”

The General asked industry attendees to put their efforts into technologies that will multiply the strength of US forces—particularly information-sharing technologies—but to also put a great deal of thought into the concept of operations of these new systems.

“Help us with the trade-offs,” he said. “That is important. We have got to trade something out if we are going to bring something in.”

He also stressed that new technologies and systems, regardless of how valuable, must be cost-effective.

“We’ve got to have . . . clear information on . . . the cost of bringing it on board,” the General said. “This is eating us alive. . . . We get handed something that is really good. Everybody turns around and goes home, and nobody spends much time thinking about the cost over the next 20 years” nor the personnel required to run it.

PACAF: General Lorber

Pacific nations are watching the Quadrennial Defense Review with great interest to see if the US will remain engaged there with the same level of commitment it has maintained throughout the twentieth century, according to Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. John G. Lorber.

“Crisis is inevitable” in the Asia-Pacific theater, General Lorber reported. The explosive growth of economies in the region “creates divisive forces. The need for raw materials and access to markets breeds competition. And, unfortunately, competition often breeds conflict.”

Nations in the Asia-Pacific region “look to the United States for help in . . . dealing with these challenges. But the question they all raise . . . is whether we will be there when needed.”

If there were reductions in the size of US forces dedicated to Pacific operations, it “would, in my opinion, cause an arms proliferation,” General Lorber asserted.

He noted that nations in the region now have the money not only to buy but to develop the technology necessary to deal with each other—and the US—on even terms. All look to China and its “shift . . . from a large standing army” to qualitatively better overall forces—including sharply improved air forces—as reason to be nervous and build up forces, the General said. To avoid provoking China, however, the Asia-Pacific nations are reluctant to formally cooperate in mutual security coalitions, he said, further increasing the need for US engagement in the region to offset the threat and to be an impartial broker during conflicts.

A reduction from the current level of 100,000 US troops in the Pacific theater “would, in my opinion, produce a signal to [those] . . . nations that what they feared was beginning to occur—US withdrawal from the region,” General Lorber said.

The Air Force is particularly critical to security in the region because of its ability to act quickly, over long ranges, and with very little in-country support or prepositioning, the General said. Long-range assets, and particularly precision weapons, will be vital to stopping a conflict before it becomes too large to control.

“We must have air and space superiority. In many cases, our ground forces will be outnumbered,” he said. “We just won’t have the luxury of large stockpiles and immediate resupply. . . . Every bomb, every bullet, must count.”

With the introduction of advanced Russian and European aircraft to the region, the US no longer “corners the market” in air dominance, he added.

In response to questions, General Lorber said he believes the two Koreas will eventually be reunited, but he can’t predict whether it will be through conflict or peaceful means. In any case, the reunification “will occur only after a rough and very turbulent journey. It will not follow the ease of the structured German model.”

Should a war break out in Korea, USAF’s biggest problems would not be the North Korean Air Force but deconflicting US and South Korean air forces “operating in a space one-fifth the size” of the area of Operation Desert Storm. Better friend-or-foe systems need to be in place “that allow us to use [beyond-visual-range] missiles.”

Airpower would have to move “very fast” against advancing North Korean ground forces to “stop the destruction level” that would otherwise occur in a ground war there, the General said. The ramifications of a ravaged peninsula would be “felt by all” the nations of the region, “including the US.”

Regardless of the path to unification, the other nations of the Asia-Pacific region are already wondering what role a unified Korea would play economically and militarily in the region, the General said.

“There is tension on the Korean peninsula, growing economies that are breeding competition for limited resources, military modernization, and nuclear weapons, yet the Asia-Pacific [area] is more stable, more peaceful, now than at any time this century. So our strategy is working,” General Lorber said, arguing for a continuation of the capabilities that make the strategy possible.

AFMC: General Viccellio

“For the very first time in our Air Force’s 50-year history,” combat support and logistics have been designated as core competencies of the Air Force, observed Commander of Air Force Materiel Command Gen. Henry Viccellio, Jr., who retires May 1.

The “agile combat support” competency underlines the critical nature of a supply train “tailored” and delivered directly to front-line troops without expensive and time-consuming intermediate steps, the General told the Orlando conference.

“The days when we could prepare for war through forward-basing or by pushing massive inventories of supplies and equipment out to our deployed forces are long gone,” he said. “Tomorrow’s forces will require supplies and sustainment . . . delivered in a matter of hours, not days or weeks or months.”

The laboriously crafted Cold War logistics system “is incapable of meeting today’s constantly changing requirements,” which must be more akin to an overnight package service, General Viccellio said. “We can no longer stockpile massive inventories ‘just in case.’ We’ve got to respond to our warfighters’ needs ‘just in time.’ “

The Air Force has copied commercial operations like Federal Express with its Air Mobility Express and Worldwide Express programs, but the effort to achieve “lean logistics” goes further, the General said.

Lean logistics will allow operators to see inventories on a computer screen and call parts or goods forward without endless paperwork. It will mean increasingly reliable, low-life-cycle-cost weapon systems that either rarely fail or degrade gracefully, with plenty of warning.

Reliability and maintainability will rise to achieve importance equal to performance in considering new systems, General Viccellio asserted, if those systems are going to last the projected 40 to 90 years they may be in service. He argued that the last big investment in reliability and maintainability technology was more than a decade ago and that another infusion of money into the field would yield big dividends.

AFMC is also cutting costs by not overspecifying work to be done by contractors and by entertaining all-new methods to reduce inventories and overhead and is “beginning to get some credibility with Congress” in the process.

In an effort to discipline the Air Force, Congress sharply reduced parts funding, forcing USAF to live off inventory, which was difficult because much of the parts stockpile was inappropriate to the modern Block 40 F-16s and F-15Es that needed support.

“We set out a very aggressive program, . . . trying to define what we really need to hang on to for this post–Cold War Air Force,” General Viccellio reported, adding that the liquidation effort “has produced income for us and it has offset the need for procurement, which was Congress’s goal.” The effort is “not over yet, but we have reduced the value of our inventory by billions.”

The Air Force is still bound by the 60-40 rule, which mandates that no more than 40 percent of depot work can be contracted out.

“We were unsuccessful in getting relief” from Congress on that rule last year, the General noted, but the outsourcing and privatization initiatives at Kelly AFB, Tex., and McClellan AFB, Calif., may hold the key to further depot reductions.

At Kelly and McClellan, “I’ve told lots of industry folks . . . it’s up to them to make it a success. If it is a success, then we can go back to Congress with a very powerful track record and perhaps get the relief we are looking for” from the 60-40 rule.

Acquisition: General Muellner

Acquisition reforms have allowed the Air Force to save or avoid $17 billion in costs over the last few years, which can be used to help pay for needed modernization or pay the bills for unfunded operations, according to Lt. Gen. George K. Muellner, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.

He said the services only have about $40 billion of the $60 billion that needed modernization will cost and the other monies must come from acquisition streamlining, lower system costs, outsourcing, and privatization.

Part of the issue is getting stability in programs, because “when we take a dollar out in the short term, we end up putting three or four dollars back in the long term to fix that problem.”

Efforts are being made across the board to divest USAF of capabilities it doesn’t need, General Muellner said. “We are up to 75 or 80 percent” in outsourcing science and technology, and the goal is to go higher while still retaining enough expertise “to remain smart buyers.”

Another potentially huge savings would be in what is called “autonomic logistics, . . . [which means] it doesn’t take conscious action to make it happen,” the General said. Right now, the newest commercial airplanes can, to some degree, monitor themselves and automatically request needed parts “without a lot of human intervention. That is exactly what we would like to provide to our warfighters,” the General asserted.

Efforts to reduce cycle times, staffs, and red tape, “are really working well. . . . We are seeing much lower costs,” the General continued. “We are seeing contractors accepting more responsibility for their performance. We are using that money, plowing it back into modernization,” he said.

The Air Force is pioneering the use of “past performance” as a determinant of contract winners and will continue to put emphasis on it in future awards, he said.

The challenge in outsourcing and privatization, General Muellner noted, “is not only to do it, which is what we are facing right now, but actually to save money as a result of doing it.” With regard to depots, “the jury is still out as to when we will start recognizing those savings.”

NSA: General Minihan

The diffusion of power with the end of the Cold War has created a world with more danger and conflict, seeing increased threat from weapons of mass destruction and from information used as both a weapon and a battlefield, observed Lt. Gen. Kenneth A. Minihan, director of the National Security Agency.

In an age of threat mainly from “failed” and “rogue” states, the danger to the US is not mainly from conventional weapons but “asymmetrical” challenges, General Minihan said.

“The threat is becoming ‘de-massified,’ ” the General asserted. Hostile forces “are likely to pursue deniable covert action, such as terrorism, subversion, and insurgency, while acquiring missiles, chemicals, and biological weapons of mass destruction to deter retaliation. They will have limited staying power in a confrontation, but when they fight, they will have the potential to inflict a great deal of harm. We will need to rethink our own ‘small-war’ strategies, with particular attention to deterring weapons of mass destruction.”

Information is both the greatest advantage and, given American dependency on information, the greatest weakness of the US, General Minihan said.

Coupled with weapons of mass destruction, information warfare creates an “environment [that] will be messy, not Clausewitzian, and highly ambiguous. . . . It will be increasingly difficult to answer the questions, ‘Are we under attack?’ and ‘If so, by whom?’ “

General Minihan called for cooperation between industry and government in protecting information against attack, urging the acceptance of government cryptographic “keys” that can enter any system as a defense against lost or corrupted information, for law enforcement, and for improving collaboration with allies.

The General also argued that the US must have “information dominance” because without it, all other weapons and systems can be defeated. However, he urged that systems not be “gold-plated” with prohibitively expensive or unwieldy defenses but, rather, be “layered” so that intrusions can be detected and defended against as they happen.

The problem is one of “balancing trade-offs among the finite resources, the cost of losing information or systems, and the probability of attack,” he said.

General Minihan noted that he has persuaded Defense Department leaders to eliminate the classification “NOFORN,” or “No Foreign,” on information dispersal, because it impeded the flow of information through multinational channels to the allied warfighters who needed it. He also asked industry to help devise more flexible, powerful, and transportable information systems “to get us to be lighter and more agile.”

Vice Chief of Staff: General Moorman

Gen. Thomas S. Moorman, Jr., in his remarks to the Orlando symposium, focused on USAF’s long-range planning effort, which is moving from the conceptual to the action phase.

“This plan will drive the [major commands’] mission-area plans,” he said. “From that, the Air Staff will produce the annual planning guidance, which will in turn drive the [program objective memorandum],” the Pentagon’s five-year budgeting process.

“For the first time in my memory, we will have a traceable and auditable planning and programming system,” the General observed. He added that none of it would work if it lacked the “corporate buy-in” of the whole Air Force, and for that reason he has been leading a consensus-building effort involving all the major command vice commanders and functional commanders.

In addition, “the Air Staff and Secretariat have been deeply involved in developing this plan over the past several months,” to ensure a true USAF consensus.

Addressing himself to the industry attendees, General Moorman said it has yet to be worked out “how exactly you . . . become exposed to the details of the plan. But we realize that must be done. . . . Ultimately, what is important to you is [that] it will allow you to have a clear and understandable statement of our priorities, so you can make your investments and [direct] the thrusts of your technologies accordingly.”