Operating Abroad

Dec. 1, 1998

Gen. John P. Jumper is commander of US Air Forces in Europe. Before this assignment, he was deputy chief of staff for air and space operations (1996–97) and commander of 9th Air Force and US Central Command Air Forces (1994–96). He is the principal figure in development of Air Expeditionary Forces. On Sept. 15, he met with the Defense Writers Group in Washington. Here is some of what he said.

Access to Overseas Bases

“Any country that is worried about its survival is not going to stall on [granting USAF forces] access [to its bases]. But our job, in the meantime, is to posture ourselves so that our presence is valuable to those who are going to need our help. I’m not sure we have always taken that sort of a look at it before, but this is the way in the new expeditionary air force that we have to think about it.

“We have to think about [the] cultural and diplomatic end of this ahead of the game—that, along with exercises and a helpful presence, [like] some of the sort of things we’ve done in Bahrain, where we’ve gone in and helped the F-16 maintenance people and the Bahrain air force achieve new efficiencies that they hadn’t been able to do before in the maintaining of the airplane.

“This is very valuable to them. Little things like that make you valuable to a country.”

Missile Threat to Access

“In the short term, … I don’t see the numbers of missiles out there that would be able to take out … an airfield [being used by USAF units]. We struggled for years in the Cold War [to develop means for] taking out Warsaw Pact airfields and finally decided [that], with all the might of the United States—[using] conventional weapons—you really can’t do it.

“With a few Scuds, can you take out an airfield? No, you cannot. You can contaminate with chemical weapons, but that is what we practice for.”

Dealing With Chemical Attack

“We were vulnerable to it during the years of the Cold War. We practiced the art of doing our business in chemical protection suits the whole time, for 30 years, that I [have been] in the Air Force. When I was a wing commander at Eglin AFB [Fla.] in 1988, we practiced generating airplanes in chemical gear. I’d prefer to forget those summer days in chemical gear, but the fact of the matter is that all services have practiced doing these sorts of things through the Cold War.”

Defending US Access

“None of the [US armed] services are sitting still and quietly watching other nations build missiles and not [doing] anything about it. Just like any other threat that emerges, yes, we are dealing with this. …

“Now the question is, how do you defend yourselves against this sort of missile problem? … Is it an easy problem? No.

“The policy of this nation is that we are going at it from many different directions, through the technologies being built [for] theater missile defense and offense, to include the airborne laser. …

“It is interesting to note that there are technologies that can do things like delimit terrain, even in the desert. If you digitize the terrain and you put the right limits and filters in there, and look at [areas] where [you] could really launch a Scud missile—… places that have access to roads, that have access to good hiding spots, where the terrain meets certain requirements, et cetera—… you’d be surprised at how few places there are.

“It is things like that [which] tell us where to search, where to focus [our] capabilities, where to put [our] Joint STARS search pattern, where to take the picture from the U-2 from many, many miles away, [how] to identify that and take care of it.”

Levels of Access

“The best example [of gaining local access] is Desert Shield. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney personally went into the area, took irrefutable evidence of a vital threat to the nation [Saudi Arabia], which perhaps at that point was not fully accepted, and received the response, ‘We need to go deal with that threat.’

“In NATO, it tends to be different because … access [and] interoperability [are] the code word[s] of the Alliance. So, when we talk about going into the Czech Republic or Poland or even the Partnership for Peace missions—Bulgaria, et cetera—you are welcome. … We practice servicing each other’s airplanes. Their technicians can work on our airplanes. Our technicians work on theirs. There is a different spirit in the Alliance that gets you around these sorts of problems.”

Getting Lighter

“[The Air Force wants to become] lighter and leaner in the command-and-control world. Those of you who recall the Gulf War [know] we had this compact little package of about 2,000 people that we put down in the basement of the Royal Saudi Air Force headquarters in Riyadh. That is what it took, in those days, to run a 2,000-to-3,000-sortie-a-day air campaign, which is what Desert Storm was.

“What we want to get to is the ability to get that number down [by] orders of magnitude. … I want the joint force air component commander to be able to deploy forward with an 18-inch [satellite] dish, a laptop computer, and a printer and, if he had to, be able to do his job with not much more than that.”

Forward to the Past

“The Air Expeditionary Force idea was born of a need to be able to react quickly. It was to get us back to the rapid part of deployment. It is something we actually did very well, back in the mid-1950s. … In the mid-1950s, [the job of 19th Air Force] … was to pick up and rapidly deploy anywhere in the world. They did so to Turkey, Lebanon, and other crises around the world. We were very much into the business of light, lean, lethal, rapid deployment.

“The [development of the] AEF was about getting back to that sort of discipline. It put a force on the ground that was a deterrent force that could transition to a fighting force that was small enough to be lethal but not so large that it took away a CINC’s … ability to make a further decision.”

Reaching Back

“Where will this take us in the future? I think it takes us to a place where a lot of the work that we saw done in Desert Storm in the basement of the Royal Saudi Air Force building might be done in some central location like Langley AFB [Va.], where you are doing the data base manipulation, you are doing the computation, and running out the air tasking order—[doing it back here] so you don’t have to have all that equipment forward.

“Those people who are living at Langley, helping you fight your war somewhere in the Middle East, are wearing fatigues, and their body clocks are on that other theater’s schedule to do that job. They even belong, perhaps, to the person who is deployed forward as the joint force air component commander, but they are doing their job in a place that practices that sort of stuff day in and day out.”