Maj. Gen. John J. Nichols hosts retired Brig. Gen. Bob Edmonds, senior vice president of marketing, Elbit Systems of America; Peter J. Rubcic, director, systems analysis and simulation, Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems; and retired Lt. Gen. Michael R. Moeller, vice president, integrated customer solutions, Pratt & Whitney Military Engines for a discussion about “Long-Range Precision Strike” at the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 3, 2022. Watch the video or read the transcript below. This transcript is made possible through the sponsorship of JobsOhio.
Maj. Gen. John J. “Boris” Nichols: OK, well, good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the Long Range Precision Strike afternoon session. You know, it doesn’t go missed on me that we are currently opposite General Cotton and General Bussiere in the other room. But thank you for showing up. I think this is going to be a really important discussion today. By way of a quick introduction, my name is John Nichols. I’m the Director of Global Power Programs, working for Miss Costello and General Richardson and SAF AQ up here in in the Pentagon. And it’s really an honor to serve as a panel moderator today, for I think what is a very important discussion. I’m just going to start with a couple points before we go into intros and opening comments by our great group of panelists today. You know, I do believe and I would offer that we are at an important inflection point, in terms of the United States Air Force, with respect to not only our operating concepts, but also our force design. And I would offer that long range strike is at the heart of both of those particular items. You know, there’s tremendous investments that we are looking at and currently happening right now, that are going to take our long range strike capabilities.
And they’re going to continue to move those and they’re focused around what I would offer is some important attributes that long range strike brings to the battlespace. And I think for this audience, we’re probably pretty familiar with those. It’s mass, it’s precision, it’s range. And finally, it’s survivability in a highly contested environment. In my acquisition seat currently, I will tell you that I’ll add one more attribute to this discussion. And hopefully the panelists can touch on this today. And that’s the affordability. How do we do this within existing budgets and existing top lines? So the theme for this afternoon’s panel is how is the United States Air Force capitalizing on its operational imperatives to set the conditions for dominant long range strike employment. This is creating persistent and decisive effects in highly contested environments.
To help us do that today, we’ve got an all-star group of panelists. So by way of a quick introduction, starting to my left, your right, I’d like to introduce Lieutenant General Mike Moeller, US Air Force Retired. He’s the vice president of Integrated Customer Solutions for Pratt and Whitney Military Engines. To his left is Brigadier General Bob Edmonds, U.S. Air Force Retired, senior vice president of Marketing, Elbit Systems of America. And finally, Mr. Peter Rubcic, director, Systems Analysis and Simulation with Northrop Grumman Aeronautics Systems. So with that, we have got a great group. Let me just offer before we get into opening comments and some Q&A—And what I think I’d like to do is, we’re going to bounce back a few questions here. But I would really encourage that we do some audience participation. So I think we have at least one mic stand up. So kind of be thinking about these questions as we proceed through the panel. Let’s work backwards from the threat briefly. When you look at what our peer and near peer adversaries are doing, they’re chipping away at our air to air and our air to ground sanctuary that we’ve enjoyed for really, you know, multiple decades. They’re far in front of us when it comes, in terms of hypersonics, and arguably, cruise missiles, and kind of shortening that gap, bridging that gap. We’ve seen the scary China briefs that are out there from the various intel organizations. And it is very clear to this group, that they are building distinct capabilities to close gaps, and they’re doing it in very large quantities. So long range strike is going to be the principal means by which we compete with those adversaries to project, that are attempting to project power outside their borders. There is no better deterrent than to demonstrate that we can hold any target on the face of the planet at risk and offer the President of the United States exquisite options to get after those targets sets. Secretary Kendall kind of talked about this this morning. And to quote our secretary, let me just offer this before we get into this discussion with the panel. The heart of our mission is to deter aggression. We don’t want to fight wars. We want to prevent them and the way that we prevent conflicts is to convince the other side that you have the will to fight, the will to resist and the capability to deter and defeat aggression. So that’s really, I think the essence of the long range strike: the ability to not only deter, but when called upon, to defeat that aggression. So with that, some opening comments. General Moeller, I’ll give you first dibs. Thank you again for participating this afternoon. And over to you all, thanks.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael R. Moeller: Thanks, Boris. I really appreciate the opportunity to be on the panel with my distinguished panelists. And we’re covering a very important topic and I’m—before I talk specifically about the importance of long range strike capabilities for the US Air Force, I just want to reiterate the importance. I believe we’re at a nexus when it comes to strategy and how we think about the future. And in some cases, we are wedded to the past as we come out of Afghanistan and Iraq. So with that, just a bit of historical context before we start. So, from an air power perspective, since Desert Storm, the US is simply—US Air Force has overwhelmed adversaries across the full spectrum of combat operations. We’ve owned the skies, and essentially operated with impunity from large bases in uncontested airspace. Recent combat operations have been regional affairs, where for the most part, the US Air Force was tasked to protect and support ground forces. Boots on the ground was the measure of merit for success during most of the campaigns. This will be, as you alluded to, Boris, this will not be the case if we face a near-peer competitor with the ability to go beak to beak with our Air Force, while simultaneously holding our main operating bases at risk. The cornerstone for future operational success requires a family of systems that can operate from long range from CONUS if required, and with heavy payloads carrying a wide array of both kinetic weapons and non kinetic capabilities in order to deter and defeat. As you talked about, it also has to have this multi mission flexibility to stand off and penetrate to survive while operating in and through that the most advanced air defense systems. Since the Cold War, US Air Force bombers have played the critical role, I would argue, and of course, I’m biased as a B-52, and B-1 aviator, but I would argue that bombers played the critical role in deterring the Soviet Union. The last great power competition. I’m convinced that in the future to win the high-end fight against a near peer competitor, that bombers overhead rather than boots on the ground will be the measure of, and play a crucial role in, victory against a near peer competitor. Only the US Air Force maintains a viable strategic bomber fleet and the enablers to ensure that any potential adversary has no sanctuary. I’m going to emphasize this again, Boris. Geography, even for countries that have strategic depth, like Russia, China, and Iran, it provides no safe haven from a bomber force or a family of systems. Long range airpower can hold targets at risk that are heavily defended, or protected, whether that be hardened, deeply buried, or mobile. Additionally, because US Air Force long range airpower can launch from anywhere on the globe, it makes it extremely difficult and expensive for an adversary to employ an effective defense in depth. We’re at a crucial point with modernizing our bomber fleet, and the associated a family of systems. It remains an asymmetric advantage for America. But in when we talk about the right balance of standoff and penetrating platforms and capabilities, one thing that we don’t talk about enough is capacity, the importance of having the numbers—the numbers to ensure that we have the force structure in place to generate sorties required to conduct sustained high tempo operations from long distance over a longer campaign, while at the same time ensuring that we’ve got a credible air breathing nuclear deterrent. It’s a tough task, but it’s something that we have to take on right now. We are at a nexus. Thanks again, Boris, appreciate it.
Nichols: You know, a lot of time was spent this morning in the Secretary’s keynote about the operational imperatives. And when you look at those operational imperatives, seven of them, there’s a lot of cross-cutting interdependencies between each of them. Frankly, you know, you look at B-21 family of systems, kind of that global strike capability. How does that tie into ABMS? And I think the panel will hopefully explore that today. How does that tie into space updates for things that have to fly long-duration missions, and employ long time of flight weapons. So there’s a ton of dependencies with the imperatives. And I think that’s an important part, even as we look at next generation air dominance, because what feeds one will likely have important effects with what feeds the other in terms of long range strike. So thanks, General Moeller for that. General Edmonds, opening comments, please.
Retired Brig. Gen. Bob Edmonds: Yeah, thank you, Boris. And thank you AFA for the opportunity for me to be a part of this important panel. We’ve made the strategic implication of why it is. I’m excited for two reasons. I was fortunate to be part of the US Air Force that enjoyed air supremacy. Part of that as an F-15 pilot as I contributed. But the first reason I’m excited about now is that it’s a different world. I won’t belabor it, we’ve said a few things already. It’s highly contested. It’s complex, it’s complicated, is connected. So it’s different now, to create that air supremacy, which has to do with this new operational environment that we’re in, that we’ve already alluded to. This is the nature of, really, warfare is, it moves out, and we’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to find the tools and the capabilities that are in the hands of the Airmen and the Guardians and others that can actually exploit it and keep air supremacy so that we can go about our mission and what we provide to the joint force. And the second part of it is really looking at, well, those seekers and systems and sensors, the key enablers, and I’m excited about it, because at Elbit America, that’s what we specialize in. We specialize in these types of sensors and seekers that can be a game changer and investing in the future to meet that threat. Because when we think about it, I’ll give a little teaser. Maybe later, we’ll get into it. But I really think those, got to be adaptable. And they have to be flexible. And as you said, affordable. And I think that’s a real key word. And it’s not third in the list on my priority. But it is part of a three-way look at how we need to be looking at enablers, those sensors and secret. So I look forward to a little bit more of that as we move on.
Nichols: As a as a former Eagle driver, thank you for your role in the air superiority mission. There is no doubt that air superiority is important. It’s what we do for the joint force. But let us never forget that air superiority is an enabler. Because at the end of the day, I would argue that you have to hold value targets, targets that the adversary values in their territory, at risk. Air superiority is important and will always be foundational to what we do, but this long range strike piece in terms of lanes that open up, temporal spaces, and time periods where we can get strikers in and back out, weapons in to hit targets, is critically important. So with that, thank you. Thank you very much. And finally, Mr. Rubcic. Pete, if you’d go ahead and offer opening comments, please.
Peter J. Rubcic: Thank you, Boris. And gentlemen, thank you for your service. I pale in comparison to what you’ve done for the country here. You probably wonder why is an analyst up here talking about this, but I’ve spent my whole career really focused on penetrating family of systems capabilities, the strike, [inaudible] attack, ISR, how you bring that all together. I really think we are at an inflection point where we’ve got to realize we’re not building silver bullet forces anymore. We’re not going to go in and do this alone. It’s going to be part of a joint force. In a right world it’s a coalition force that’s part of that joint force. And I think we as contractors are really looking hard at how do we integrate capabilities and make the most of what we have. Affordability is about making the most of what you have, and leveraging innovation and technology to give you those game changing capabilities. So I really think it’s an opportunity for us going forward to think about how do we bring all the tools in the toolbox together enable that joint force. I think that gives us that affordable presence of mass and effective weapons that are both lethal, and with survivable capabilities to deliver those lethal effects. Back to you.
Nichols: Okay, awesome, gentlemen. Thanks for opening comments. And so what we’ll do is I’ll pitch a few questions out, we’ll kind of go down the line again. And then the intent is really to open it up for audience participation. I don’t know how other venues have done this, but I would encourage that, so please think of your questions. And we’ve got about 25 minutes to the end. So I think we can certainly get to that piece. But first, General Moeller, if I might offer the first one, so, you know, services bring different things to bear here, in terms of long range strike. Normally some pretty good, you know, competitive spirit here as a former Air Force A8, and again as you alluded to, B-1 and B-52 operator, if you could offer from your perspective, what you think the Department of the Air Force and the United States Air Force brings in terms of kind of its long range strike, maybe mindset, themes and that type of thing. Again, not to harp on good joint force rivalry, because we will fight as a joint force, and inter service rivalry, but what makes the Air Force Special in this particular topic?
Moeller: And it’s, it’s another great question, Boris. And it’s really, it’s related to what I talked about in my opening comments. The most important piece from a long range perspective standpoint is the air breathing bomber component, with all of the capabilities that you talked about, and the attributes that you talked about, as well as the ability to—it provides flexibility to the joint force commander, because it’s recallable. And so you can commit the bomber force from long range. And you can recall it if events change on the ground or in the air. The other piece that I wanted to talk about is that for a long range strike, we, the name actually really is restrictive. Because of it, whether we talk about the platforms, B-52, or B-21. B-1, or a family of systems. LRS could stand for long range sensor, long range strategic network hub, Bob, as you talked about, and I know we’ll spend more time on it. The difference for the US Air Force is, it brings a mindset of how to employ long range strike over the course of, across the full range of mission requirements for the joint force commander. And again, only the US Air Force has viable bomber force with the weapons, the training, the tactics, and the roadmap towards the future, when we talk about how it contributes to the joint force overall.
Nichols: So if we could riff off that point a little bit, Bob. So again, it’s not just the platforms itself, it’s not just the weapons itself. It’s about payloads, right? And the payloads could be a host of different things. From your perspective, Bob, could you, if you would, just kind of go into a little bit—in your mind, what are some of these enabling things that we will need to do in terms of closing the long range kill chain? Because really, at the end of the day, that’s what this is about, is closing that kill chain. So if you could offer your perspective on that, please.
Edmonds: Sure. Thanks for the question. It allows me to kind of get to what I peeked at you on three different things I think are important. And to your point of it’s a broader system, and it is about longer ranges, this contested environment is complex, but it’s big, it’s larger. You’ve got strike, you’ve got to get into territory, and you have to have some longer standoff weapons. You got to have some enablers that not only will protect and help get the platform in, but once you get there, you know, how do you advantage that? How do you keep that tyranny of range and distance? When I kind of think about those enablers, adaptable, flexible, affordable, adaptable, meaning, you know, they’ve got to really be available for a variety of different types of contested environment. Not everything’s the same. We see it now. We talked about China very much a pacing threat, probably a different environment in Indo-Pacific than it is in a European theater that we may be looking at here. So it’s got to be adaptable to the scenario, flexible, you know, kind of flexibility based on target threat. What are you trying to go after? Is it single? Is it multi mode, kind of flexibility that you need in a front end type of a seeker or a payload? And then, you know, affordability. Part of the overarching theme not mentioned of course is here we are with, still in a CR. We’re normally here at this conference, and there’s a budget out and we’re talking about the budget and where we’re going. So doesn’t matter what it’s going to be. We talked a lot about this before we came on: the budget will require of us that these are going to be affordable. And not just for the budget reasons, but we’re going to need many, many, many of them. These enablers, as you look out in there, because we talk about family of systems, what we want to be able to do is take this when you penetrate and you can have multiple weapons go out, multiple sensors, enablers. You think about Skyborg program, Loyal Wingman, all those attritable types of assets that are out there. So it’s got to be affordable so that we can have those. And we think about the different types of capabilities within that. So what we’re doing in the company, which has given me some perspective, as we invest here in the US, whether it’s New Hampshire, Texas, Florida, even here, we have some capability, we’re looking at different types of sensors and seekers. It’s got to be fast, it’s got to be connected, we’ve got to have automatic target recognition. So you can target back and forth rapidly, it’s got to have a data link. So you can share it amongst manned-unmanned teaming, it’s got to have some AI involved in it. So if we think about that, across the line of these kinds of investments, that’s the kind of front-end sixth-generation enabler and seeker that’s got to be part of the system. And I’ll finally end with just thinking about the continuum for a minute, because while I mentioned affordability, it’s not either/or, you know, there’s a continuum, a continuum of affordability on one end, there’s very higher cost types, exquisite. And then on the other end, there’s the lower, you got to have a lot of them, but maybe it’s ready now. And on the continuum of technology, ready now versus out in the future that we’ll definitely need and we continue to invest in it—So we have to balance on that continuum of it. And then the continuum of the mission, you know, is that mission going to be, you know, part of that larger, very hotly contested JADC2/ABMS environment mission where you really need to be connected with all of these and have the kind of secure data link. So there’s a lot of different factors involved there. And for the DOD to think about, I believe, with the types of enablers that are needed to be successful. I think you bring up some really important points. And when you look at that mix between the exquisite which tends to equal a little bit pricier, and kind of some of the non-exquisite things, I think there’s that balance, and what does that balance look like? Not every target out there needs a hypersonic, nor can we afford to make that happen. So where’s that mix? And maybe there’ll be additional audience questions on that.
Nichols: So thanks for that perspective, Bob. So to Pete, kind of riffing off the, the idea of cost. So when we look at, as we kind of figure out what this you know, from your perspective there at NG. You know, B-21, and whatever is flying next to it, right, you know, family of systems, quarterback backward pass, you know, some of those concepts. From your perspective, because the company’s got a lot of expertise in this realm. Where do you see this going in terms of the family? And then also the affordability piece, the Secretary I would say, you know, put up a marker today for industry and talked about at approximately half the cost of the crewed, the manned platform. So if we go unmanned with some of this at half the cost, do you think that’s achievable? I know, there’s like four parts to that question. But if you could just kind of hit on some of those things.
Rubcic: I, you know, you think about the tradespace of range, payload, stealth, and the ability to deliver affordable effects at range at strategic depth. I think knowing where air vehicles close, there’s a challenge to get to designs that close that maximize everything. What you’re looking for is how can I maximize my forward presence of weapons, and that comes from being able to penetrate and persist in the battlespace, so you can unload that entire magazine. You want to make sure you have sufficient sensing distributed that feeds that front end of the kill chain so that you make the max of every sortie. Clearly, Northrop Grumman specializes in the most advanced stealth capabilities, and we can’t get into the details here. But I’ve spent my whole career working on that. And so we understand the advanced threat; we understand what it takes to mitigate it. There’s a lot that can be done with enablers and joint force capabilities. Certainly, blending stealth and electronic warfare is something we’ve seen as great synergy unmanned adds to that affordability by reducing the crew that you have to train and sustain. And so I think we can get there on the air vehicle side, being somebody who works for an air vehicle company. Northrop Grumman is working really hard at delivering affordable, effective—and what I mean by effective, survivable—aircraft that can deliver munitions. That’s where I think he achieved that affordability, cheap munitions that are survivable, lethal, delivered from a platform that can endure in the environment. I think that’s our perspective of how we look at it. And certainly the systems we deliver are focused to include those attributes.
Nichols: And I think when you talk in terms of going fast in this deal, if you’ve got a production line that’s building a platform, and you can stay within the constraints of the same outer mold line, if you will, and strip it down, because it’s now going to be unmanned. And we can get, hopefully, to that price point, I think that allows us to perhaps go fast. You start up a new line new design, you know, that’s going to add years as we acquire another weapon system. So, thanks for that. Well, hopefully, that kind of got the juices flowing here in the room. If I could ask, if you would step up to the microphone, or better yet, if you could stand up, remove your mask and talk loudly, so that the audience can hear it, we’ll just kind of go to that effect. I’d like to get some audience participation. OK. Sir, over on the side.
Question 1 [Inaudible question]
Nichols: If I could just offer, then I’ll pitch it to the panelists. You know, let us not forget that the United States of America was the lead of hypersonics for a while, right. Call it early 2000s. I mean, we were leading the technology, and then our focus shifted to something else. And it’s not worth probably too much debate on, you know, why it shifted, but our focus was somewhere else in the Middle East to another important mission for the nation at the time. But we led the world in hypersonics, China took note of it, and both China and Russia have continued to progress along that realm. When you look at what, if you want to look get a true sense of how serious a nation is about what they’re doing with their development, look at their live missile fire tests. And I think General Hyten has said, to keep it at the level of this room, China has done hundreds and hundreds of hypersonic missile firings, missile tests, we can probably count ours on about, you know, two hands or less. They’re outpacing us. But let us not forget that we led the world in that technology. And we need to close that gap and gain that back. So I will offer that just one niche example of where this is right now. I would kick it to the panelists, please. No particular order, whoever’d like to respond.
Pete Rubcic 28:05
I’ll take a shot at this, I think, you know, you can have two football teams come to the line of scrimmage. And one team might be bigger than the other. The other might even be faster. But the coordination and execution of the team together is what really is the difference between teams that win and teams that lose. I think of the United States. And our ability to defeat countries like China, Russia, will be our ability to operate as a team and execute on tempo, on cadence. What does that mean? We take it back to our systems. They’ve got to be reliable, they’ve got to work the first time, they’ve got to be able to be interoperable, and not just interoperable on PowerPoint, but truly share data at tactical timelines. And I think there’s an opportunity for industry to take the lead, because we tend to wait for requirements as developing company organizations. So we design and build to requirements. So from the warfighter side, we need requirements. But we as an industry can innovate and think where JADC2 is going, getting the family to work together to share information on tactical timelines, whether it’s from space, from unmanned systems, or the manned systems, I see things like B-21 being the quarterback and calling the plays that our team can execute way better than our adversaries. And I think that’s going to be our strategic advantage. We’ve got to make it connect. We got to make it work on tactical timelines, but the coordination is where we’re going to beat them.
Edmonds: Let me piggyback for a second because it’s [inaudible]—I take a slightly different tack on how we’re going to succeed. The team approach, look, this is a huge country. And we have great capability and industry and partnerships. So an example with Northrop right now, Elbit America is partnering with them on a US Army program that is talking about precision strike. And we’ve got a very advanced higher technology seeker front end on a smaller missile they can put inside a larger payload, that when we launch out, for the US Army is going to then put instead of one, multiple ones on target, that are all collected and collaborative and inside of an environment. So we’re using a collective, not just US Air Force money, but US Army money, collective money, where we can drive it down, and we transfer that over, capability. So you don’t have to redo it again and duplicate it, because we don’t have that kind of money to do it. So you’ve got a collaboration within industry, a collaboration within the joint force. And I think that’s when the key point, because now you’ve got a much better capability total, and the US has great innovation that can do that. And I’m just going to tag on, working for Pratt & Whitney, I think probably just taking a look through a propulsion lens. You know, when you look at it, ultimately I think if there’s also a cultural institutional shift inside inside each of our companies to think differently, especially when we talk about CCA, collaborative combat aircraft, right, these uncrewed wingman aircraft. So a good example, we know that the future requires—Well, Pratt and Whitney prides itself on building reliable, safe, high performance, long lasting engines in this CCA environment. Why can’t you take a commercial, a bizjet engine, detune it or tune it up and apply a new APU so that in fact, auxiliary power units, so you’ve got a high power output. And you can do that at half the cost, because you’re not building this exquisite high performance engine. Instead you’ve got an engine that will perform for, I don’t know, three years, five years, depending on what the service needs. And it can fly point at .95, .98 Mach. So that that is something that fundamentally we had to change internal to the company in order to think differently about the future in this environment.
Nichols: Okay, awesome. Thank you for that first question. I appreciate it. Sir, with the microphone.
Question 2 Hi, Glen. Glen [Kohler?], retired Air Force, retired Lockheed, now a consultant. And my question is, we talked about systems. And yet, I think we’ve got a pilot mindset, in that we talk about manned bombers, and then we’ll talk about NGAD, manned or unmanned, however it ends up. Then we’ll talk about Skyborg. But we’re missing a component, because the first thing we do in any kind of IADS, we send in hundreds of cruise missiles to beat down the IADS. I don’t know why the system isn’t talking to all these cruise missiles, as a window opens and a B-21 slips in. And rather than get into specifics of any one program, I’ll just call it a next generation cruise missile to avoid any confusion with what weapons we are not talking about. But I think we miss an opportunity to network those missiles that are inbound, that have a good picture of the environment, who can go fall on a grenade in case they see a [inaudible] that B-21 didn’t pick up or wasn’t planned for. And so I just want to throw it out there, that instead of doing things for half the price of a $500 million airplane, I think we ought to be doing it for a hundredth of the price. Thank you.
Nichols: Okay, good, good points. I think it gets to the concept of a sensing grid. The distinction between you know, what’s a weapon, what’s a collector. Who’s passing data from whom, to what, to where, is all part of the architecture that we’re building out. So I think it’s a great point. Panelists, any comments, please?
Edmonds: Yeah. You know, one of the things that we’re thinking about right now. We use the word kill chain, but it’s really a kill web. So I’d like us to change our terminology in the future because it’s really about the web that’s there and a connectivity that’s there. So what we’re finding out really in the front end seeker and sensors part is, we have to—multi-end or multimode is not just GPS denied or EO or IR. It’s really about a multimode that can take advantage of a secure networked environment of a kill web so that you can pass that information on. But then you have to add it to the AI and ML we talked about so that once you get that information, then you’re gonna have a really rapid technology type of targeting associated with retargeting and otherwise within it.
Nichols: So we’ve got about five minutes left. What I’d like to do if the audience will participate is let’s do some speed Q&A. And with that, I’d ask you to ask a specific question to one of the panelists. So go direct, and we’ll try to get through a few questions quickly. And then we’ll wrap it up here in about in about four minutes or so. So any anyone else with questions? Okay, in the back, OCPs. Talk up, please.
Question 3: So we talked about the Air Force being the only service that can do long range strike. And bombers will reign supreme. And we’re not wedded to history, although that that discussion seems that we are wedded to history. That’s only for context. But the Army is actually doing a lot in long range strikes with a lot of capability that they’re fielding and programs. So how are we managing that roles and responsibilities at the higher level and making sure that we’re not creating duplicative, wasted effort?
Moeller: I’m happy to start. So one of the things that that I’ve seen is that the services all have their different, obviously, their different mission sets. When the Army talks about long range strike, let’s use hypersonics for example. They assume that the sensors are overhead. So, and where will the sensors come from? Well, it can come from a satellite, certainly, but the most, the most critical updates, in a very, very high, highly turbulent evolving environment, in an advanced air defense landscape, is when you have a system overhead that can provide you with forward sensors that can provide you with near real time updates that can in fact actually strike if required, and is at the leading edge of the rest of the force structure. So yes, I see in some ways Army hypersonics development as complementary to the Air Force’s unique role with long range strike, especially when it comes to a viable, penetrating bomber.
Nichols: Okay, I think there was another question back from the same section. Okay, go ahead, please.
Question 4: Master Sergeant Travis [Irvin] (sp?), Headquarters AFSOC, with the JASSM being launched via airdrop off the back of a C-130, and it was being successful, how do you see that shaping the long range strike environment? So your question is, instead of your traditional delivery platforms, kind of other things, right, that can push munitions out the back, that effectively close kill chains. Is that kind of the essence of your question? Yes, I’ve heard a lot about bombers. But now with this new capability opened up, do you see this as a one off thing or this now like any airdropped platform’s capable of long range strike?
Nichols: Bob, Pete, you guys want to want to jump in on that?
Rubcic: Yeah. So I think those systems are create an interesting dilemma for the adversary, because every C-130 now becomes a bomber. And I think there’s some advantages to that. The thing I’d like people to think about is, is the range at which you will have to deploy those weapons from a conventional platform. You know, clearly we think of the threat that was talked about earlier today, and how that pushes conventional platforms out at greater distances. That puts a burden on the weapons to be able to travel that distance in a short timeline drives us to hypersonics high speed weapons. I like the mass, believe me, I think that’s a great way to think about how we deliver mass. But if we have platforms that are capable of penetrating with large weapon bays, I think we ought to maximize that too. So I think it’s about the right mix. I think earlier Deptula talked about, you know, our capacity, we really have a capacity problem. And to the other gentleman’s comment, we want to make sure that we’re solving that capacity problem in a smart way. We don’t want to be over investing in in, you know, exquisite long range weapons and then not invest in other areas. Likewise, Northrop Grumman, those penetrating bombers, we like the idea of the bomber carrying inexpensive weapons, lots of them. But we realize there’s a mix, there’s a force mix that has to be established. And we really haven’t talked about the new concepts that are going to be required when we start integrating manned and unmanned capabilities. That’s going to require battle management. The autonomy will get there. You know, Northrop Grumman does a lot with autonomy. So I think it’s an opportunity for us to leverage all the tools in the toolbox. And I like the idea of the mass. The question is, how do you build that mass and its effectiveness into the future battle management systems. Thanks.
Nichols: I really appreciate the audience participation. Thanks for all the really good questions. The shot clock that we’ve got our eyes on has just expired. So I just want to thank this this group of panelists not only for your time, but for your insights today. And, you know, instead of a gift to offer to you, I just want you to know that there was a gift generated on your behalf to Airmen and Guardians to get them to the barbecue. So thank you for your participation. How about a round of applause to this group? Okay, everybody, a paid political announcement here: the final session keynote, entrepreneur and philanthropist Eric Schmidt is going to be 4:40pm. So here in about eight minutes in the Gatlin ballroom. Thanks, everybody. Appreciate you being here.