It’s Starting to Happen

A thorny military problem theorized back in 1992 is coming true, and making it essential that bombers and long-range aircraft not be placed on the defense chopping block, according to Barry Watts, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Speaking Wednesday in Washington, D.C., at an event sponsored by AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, Watts said that in 1992 futurists thinking about the “revolution in military affairs” worried that adversaries might develop tactical ballistic missiles with high precision that could knock out carrier battle groups or even an island base like Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, Japan. Such “area-denial” and “anti-access” techniques have since become a staple for countries like China, he said. “Now, it’s starting to happen,” Watts noted, but the US has a minimal bomber force just as long-range strike is taking center stage. The idea of pushing back—or canceling—the new 2018 bomber is “about as shortsighted as any I can recall,” Watts said, adding “it’s not clear that we’re good at making strategic choices.” (The Mitchell Institute event showcased a new Mitchell Paper, “Combat Air Forces in Crisis“)