Scrap AWACS, JSTARS; Plough Dough Into F-35, Wynne Says

Scrap AWACS, JSTARS; Plough Dough Into F-35, Wynne Says

Former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne wants the Air Force to get rid of large surveillance and reconnasisance aircraft such as  AWACS and JSTARS, which are vulnerable to attack because of their huge radar cross-sections, and take the money saved and shove it into the Joint Strike Fighter program.

Wynne made his arguments on the website Second Line of Defense, run by the international defense consultant Robbin Laird. I spoke with Wynne this morning. His essential argument is that large aircraft such as these, while possessing excellent capabilities, are so vulnerable in time of war that the enormous amounts of money spent paying the large crews needed to fly and maintain these systems would be better spent making F-35s into the flying intelligence and targeting networks that they are designed to be.

“The F-35s are far more survivable and therefore effective,” he said.  Combine F-22s and F-35s with a capability like Gorgon Stare and you would have a difficult to beat combination of highly survivable intelligence gathering and offensive capabilities.

Following is the full text of Wynne’s commentary.

The Air Force as well as the rest of the Armed Forces and the rest of the United States government faces an unusual crisis in budgeting. All are scrambling about trying to determine the least-bad parts of the budget to trim, or, in worst case, cut. Clearly this needs radical thought, but should be driven by mission in each case. When survivability is added as a requirement, and the threat is assessed as it is seen today, this becomes easier. Let’s consider the end of the large aircraft ISR fleet.

The large aircraft command and control as well as the large aircraft intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance fleet are artifacts of a different era, the era of satellites with insufficient range and scope, the era where remotely piloted vehicles were small and not worthy of the name C4ISR. Now, however, times have changed. The MC-12 is highly touted as the solution where one dominates the air domain. The Global Hawk and Predator B reigns supreme in many aspects of the fight. The need for the large C4ISR platforms has drifted away.

In a future era, where the air domain is disputed, can we really risk the large, populated C4ISR airplanes when we actually have penetrating stealthy aircraft with better radars and M-Int devices, and the 3-digit surface-to-air missiles are valid to 200 or 300 miles? This is well beyond the range for the systems known today. No wonder the Air Force is looking to partner with the Navy on the P-8 follow-on; there is no survivable mission when you get far off shore. Indeed, our ships are protected by an array of surface-to-air missiles with standoff range enough to truly discourage errant approach by these very expensive aircraft.

This is well beyond the range for the systems known today.

Recently, in a paper titled “Renorming the Asymmetric Advantage, I cited the need to leverage available stealthy technologies and their sensors to stay alive on the battlefield of the future. There seem to continue to be a belief system that indicates that the enemy will allow these airplanes to operate with impunity, but will otherwise attack the tanker aircraft that support TAC air assets. Where does this logic prevail? Well, for the most part, within the ISR force structure and the contractor community that supports this force structure. Strangely, it also dwells in the hears and wallets of the air combat community that pretends that they will have a very hard time surviving a future air battle yet defers to the ISR community for leveraging the sensor assets they and they alone carry.

I would strongly recommend to the present air staff that they do something radical, and that is to argue to stand down any C4ISR asset that is larger than an F-22 or F-35, and ask the question: what gap does this create, and how best is this gap filled? This is the true battlefield outcome. Much like thinking about a day without space, let’s really think about just how long the force will have access to the large C4ISR assets. And while we are at this analysis, consider how many lives that we systematically put at risk when reach back seems so very satisfactory in every other element of the expeditionary command and control, in this Internet age where satellites dwell and relay tremendous data streams and where Global Hawks and Predators infuse CAOCS with highly reliable target and intelligence information.

NATO is presently arguing whether they should own an AGS, and in response to September 11, 2001, they very generously allowed the deployment by the United States of their Airborne Warning and Control aircraft, illustrating that when used in the defense, there may well be merit in the C4ISR fleet. It is also noteworthy that in the Mid-East there is a small enough battle space that if they are aloft, they could provide some warning from incoming enemy aircraft. It is also known that in that role, they won’t last the first 10 minutes of the exchange. The United States is opting for missile defense and essentially integrated air defense system for missiles. Aircraft in that case are relatively easy to spot, and many countries are in fact installing such integrated air defenses around their countries.

Secretary Gates likes to eloquently equate a lack of use in the current engagements for assets he doesn’t wish to fund, and yet here is a marvelous opportunity to save an entire force structure. Where is the argument that they are a serious element of the fight in AFPAK? How long has it been since they were employed in Iraq? This argument needs to be seriously examined, because perhaps they have value in the defense of the American continent. But in this era where it is questionable whether even 4th generation will survive, a 737 or 767 would have no chance. The excess savings should be redistributed to leveraging TACAIR into a truly integrated attack force, in such a way that it is clearly capable of defeating all comers and to include present triple digit defenses. This is a deterrent effect which is credible, and if needed, deadly to the aggressors.

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I do not know the nuances between an F35 & F22’s radar capabilities relative to these larger aircraft, but on face value if they really can match upto the larger planes, it makes sense. So I have to ask, what capabilities are lost? And in general is there anyway to take advantage of the larger size of these aircraft in mounting even more powerful systems.

That doesn’t make any sense. Larger plane = larger radar = more power and more range. Not to mention they can probably loiter for much longer than an F-35 ever will be able to AND there is no way one pilot in an F-35 can do all of the work that a full crew in an AWACS is doing. The only logical thing in that article is that these planes won’t be survivable in triple-digit SAM environments where they can reach out to 200+ miles. But that’s why we pay for the air power that we that we can quickly gain air supremacy and then vulnerable aircraft can fly around at will. Realistically, the only countries where this would ever be an issue are China and Russia, but given the odds of us going to war with them it’s hardly logical to scrap AWACS and JSTARS. It sounds like this guy has an agenda…

An AWACS isn’t *just* an airborne radar/ISR system. It is also a command and control system — a mini-CAOC as it were.
From an E-3 AWACS, a dedicated staff can control numerous air operations which simply cannot be duplicated by a flight of F-22s/F-35s. These ops range from combat to surveillance to disaster control.
Even in Afghanistan NATO E-3s will be flying to support flight control and deconfliction — and NATO has total air dominance there.

Dependence on SATCOM, which would provide the (near) real-time data link from forward UAVs and aircraft back to CONUS CAOCs, is an Achilles heel waiting to be cut.
Interference — if not the downright shooting down — of satellites is a capability that is here and in the hands of peers.

Also remember that even though secure data-links can’t be deciphered, they can be jammed.

An E-3 is a mobile command center, whose mobility is an asset all in itself. I’m an F-35 supporter, but having it replace the E-3 in the battle command/CAOC is ludicrous.

Sounds to me like he just wants to pawn this responsibility solely on the NAVY. These birds not only provide intel but are also air traffic controllers which is vital at night and in bad weather. The larger birds can stay in the air longer and cotroll numerous sorties and watch over our pilots while they are engaged in thier missions. Yeah I just think he wants to shuffle responsibilities and get the AF more fighter jockeys in the air is all I get from his far from truth statement.

I would like to nominate this idea for “Worst Idea of 2011.”

.. Man, it’s only January.

Michael Wynne. former VP of GD. As former USD AT&L greenlighted fubar programs. Either resigned (quit) or fired due to nuclear weapon mishap in 2008. Of course, SecAF is about as far away from nuclear weapons operations as the east is from the west, probably much deeper story. Disregard his recommendations, another good option is to follow the opposite of his policy.

Boomer he obviously only cares about saving F-35 no matter what the cost. Doubt that he read DoD Buzz’s story on the USAF Tester’s evaluation of Gorgon Stare, or the tester’s report for that matter.

f-35 have kill many programms and many in future with massive reductions, in the end this plane was not “THE“plane like all imagine.
to big to fail, can’t say better

Good Afternoon Folks,

What former Sec. Wynne is saying has been happening for quite awhile. The Global Hawk is in the process of taking on several of these missions as well as the refueling mission. Follow platforms to the Global Hawk are already on the shop floor.

Unmanned to unmanned refueling at 50,000 feet is far to tempting of a concept. ISR, AWAC, JSTAR missions that can go and be on station for a week or more at 70,000 ft. are reality now.

The concern that one of these 707’s could get hit by an ADM has been the AF Navy nightmare for a generation. The loss of both the platform and life would be had to take on todays low casualty environment.

Since combat operations have become joint service missions it make sense to combine the AF and Navy with non military agencies that are in the same “trade”, both for economics and for making information more quickly available to the end users. What is not needed though is another major regional command or more F-22’s and F-35’s.

The P-8 is a legacy platform that most likely will be quickly retired or have its mission changed.

I’m surprised that nothing about scrapping the US Second Fleet has come up here.

Byron Skinner

The logic is faulty; good thing Wynne is the FORMER AF Secretary!

Before this is all over, every program in every branch of service in every Western country will have been scrapped so the money could be poured into “making” the JSF into “what it was designed to be.”



The Global Hawk tanker is just a DARPA concept test at the moment. I did a search and found absolutely nothing that suggests that the Global Hawk has been flown as an AWAC, nor did I find evidence that it was in development.

What on earth does your implication of streamlining military and non-military intelligence assets have to do with AWACS, a tactical-level intel and command platform?

You’re full of it,

no kidding. why don’t we just built star destroyers with photon torpedos while we are at it. or why don’t we just make the flying humvees with frickin laser beams on their foreheads into an MDAP: http://​www​.popularmechanics​.com/​t​e​c​h​n​o​l​o​g​y​/​m​i​l​ita

I laughed about your joke, but I’m baffled myself: What on Earth are U.S. Americans doing to their own Airforce??! Is ANY plane type on Earth ever worth giving up the entire air branch?

And of ALL possible plane types, even the one you wished only your worst enemies had invented for themselves??

As a famous direct ancestor of mine, an invincible Gallic Résistance fighter named Asterix, was reputed to exclaim in similar situations: “Those Romans are crazy!”

They can’t. AWACS use a similar array to the spinning, 360º radar coverage. The F-22’s array, while possessing similar maximum range at its most narrow setting, cannot cover the same volume of airspace at one time. Think of an AWACS like a lighthouse, and an F-22 as a really good flashlight. In fact, pilots have described fighter radars as “searching for a dragonfly in a pitch black room.”

They can’t match up, I should say.

Oh good, a new excuse to feed unlimited amounts of money into the F-35 Black Hole.

Maybe money should go into a new bomber ‚or an F-22 replacement, or…

On June 5, 2008, Robert Gates announced that he had accepted the resignation of Michael Wynne as Secretary of the Air Force because of “a decline in the Air Force’s nuclear mission focus and performance” and “lack of a critical self-assessment culture”. Gates specifically cited two incidents in which the Air Force had lost track of nuclear weapons or parts; in one incident, nuclear weapons fuses had been mistakenly sent to Taiwan when helicopter batteries had been ordered, and in the other, the 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident, a B-52 bomber had been flown across the country armed with six nuclear-armed cruise missiles that no one realized were on board.

Keep the command and control crew, but dump the AWACS. The command team sits in office chairs in the United States and watches screens painted by F-35 and F-22 radars. The stealth aircraft fly half as far from their targets as an AWACS would and by the Radar formula, their radars have the same effect as radar that is sixteen times as powerful and twice as far away.

The crew of the virtual AWACS are automatically alerted to radar dead zones (AESA means only 120 degree of arc) and direct an aircraft or two to turn slightly to cast radio frequency light into these dark corners.

The Chinese respond by downing all USAF satellites and tactical control switches to a CVN with line of sight to the edge of the stealth fighter “cloud”.

Credibility: Refers to the objective and subjective components of the believability of a source or message.
Traditionally, credibility has two key components: trustworthiness and expertise, which both have objective and subjective components. Trustworthiness is based more on subjective factors, but can include objective measurements such as established reliability. Expertise can be similarly subjectively perceived, but also includes relatively objective characteristics of the source or message (e.g., credentials, certification or information quality). Secondary components of credibility include source dynamism (charisma) and physical attractiveness.

Eliminating the AWACS and Jstars has another effect. The ability of Boeing to craft these flexible Command and Control and ISR platform hides the eventual need to replace these aircraft with whatever replaces the KC-135. It is one thing to outsource the tanker, outsourcing the recreation of those roles to EADS is a real challenge to security.

If vulnerability is the concern, think about upgrading the AWACS rather than scrapping the concept. Get an AESA radar on there and some improved countermeasures. I wouldn’t be surprised if a large, ultra-modern AESA radar could be used to electronically scramble an incoming long range missile.

The APG-81 and APG-77 are great fighter radars but they can’t match the 360 degree coverage provided by a real AWACS.

I long to return to the early fourth-generation. There was an aircraft for every job, and the only multimission machines didn’t try to do everything.

I find myself wishing I could post a picture of the Picard facepalm. Get rid of AWACS and JSTARS? Brilliant idea. Let’s scrap all the tankers while we’re at it.

An AWAC with limited electronic attack is a pretty good idea.

Good Afternoon Folks,

To @Earlydawn. I reread my previous statement again and I can’t find anywhere when I said these abilities are yet operational. As usual you make other peoples statements up to fit your purpose.

In tomorrows media though you will find where the USAF let a contract today. The headline will read “USAF Selects Northrop Grumman to Research Air and Space Command and Control.” NG make the Global Hawk by the way.

Another interesting aircraft to watch is the Predator C Avenger. An RFI went out last Spring for a variant the “Sea Avenger” This airframe could be a strong competitor for the missions planned for the P-8. One strong advantage is the Avenger is to be a carrier aircraft.

To ffb. There will be a USAF for a long time to come, all of what is happening now is the same as happened in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s when jets were taking over from prop. driven aircraft.

The USAF like the USN will adapt. Like the large 1000 plane bomber formations of the 8th. AF in WW II became history, and we moved on to the B-52 that will give way to the next generation.

The missions that this post refers to are the first to be changed, they have in common being dangerous, long, and dirty. The next to go will be the tactical strike, if it isn’t already gone.

The manned mission will evolve to the unmanned mission for most operations. There is nothing glorious or romantic about have airmen/airwomen killed needlessly.

Byron Skinner

In recent Red Flag exercises, F-22’s were exploited as mini-AWACS platforms. In some instances they were able to respond more quickly than the E-3’s. However, in the C3 role, I agree, the F-22/F-35 flight crews will be too busy actually dealing with the fight than actually trying to plot the fight. This is another reason why it’s important to have an on-scene air battle staff.

The Global Hawk program is kept afloat by hopes and dreams from the joint and coalition community, like the F-35 program. The Global Hawk program is still in the prototype phase… as it had been since 2001. Have you been physically near that program? It’s a mess. It’s only overshadowed by the F-35 program because of the differences in scale. Yet recently the program came under fire, an article about the dissatisfaction over the program and threats of cancellation was featured here last year.

You too have become a victim of the Global Hawk kool aid.

Oh gee… when is our glorious government gonna figure out that we NO LONGER need the USAF? The air force should have NEVER been a separate service in the first place! We can thank President Harry “Screw-it-up” Truman for THAT horrendous mistake? I say, simply DISSOLVE the USAF & put them BACK as the US Army’s air branch as they SHOULD have remained!

I’m not sure that many comments on this thread are dealing with reality — but then, I’m not sure they’re not.

I’m no DOD insider or, for that matter, a military industry insider — or any other kind of insider.

But leaving Wynne’s jargon aside I think he was saying that many of the nations with which we are most likely to war are obtaining the ability to shoot down large radar cross-section aircraft at a distance which is greater than the range of the AWACS or JSTARS radar range. So if in the near future it seems likely that you are going to have to attack a country with a capable air defense system our AWACS and JSTARS are going to be shot down within a few minutes with little to no tactical or strategic gain.

If I understood him right and if the air defense missiles’ range is greater than or nearly the same as the AWACS radar range, then I think there is some merit to the argument he is making.

Of course, I could posit the ability of our AF to attack all the ADM sites and neutralize them and then assign a bevy of F-22’s or the like to protect the AWACS while it penetrates to a useful range. But one would have to ask whether we’ll actually be able to find and destroy all the Air Defense sites and whether modified F-22’s and F-35’s in combination with satellite and drone assets might not be able to perform a similar task and in a more survivable fashion.

What’s more, I wonder whether even if we can maintain arguably survivable AWACS, in the eventuality that they are not available or shot down if having networked radars and other sensors in relatively survivable and presumably less valuable platforms as a back-up might not be wise.

And yes, I’m concerned about our communications security/viability but I’d think that could be a problem whether our fighters are communicating with an AWACS or a satellite or a Global Hawk-type aircraft.

I’d also note that current enemy capability is not future enemy capability. Also, what is officially happening is not what is happening in the background. So I believe Iran is officially not getting the S-300, but unofficially I understand the S-300 is being sold to another country which is then sending them to Iran. So what is now a viable and useful platform may not be such in the future.

Anyway, I’ll look forward to being corrected, but I really think that looking at utilizing stealthy/survivable platforms as battlespace information collection assets and learning to integrate that with satellite and very high altitude asset platform data to form a cohesive understanding and utilization of the battlespace with redundant communications systems would be intellectually defensible. I think that I’d probably try to do that with the AWACS as the preferred hub for data integration, analysis, etc. but train to operate without AWACS and JSTARS if they become unavailable. I don’t know if it can be done, but I hope so.

Now I’ll sit back for a while and let you all correct my misconceptions and suppositions. I will truly appreciate it.

Indeed. Rumor has it the F-22A has some limited electronic attack capability with it’s APG-77, with the room an AWACS provides you could do a lot more.

“To @Earlydawn. I reread my previous statement again and I can’t find anywhere when I said these abilities are yet operational. As usual you make other peoples statements up to fit your purpose.”

I didn’t accuse you of saying that it was “operational” either. I said that I could find absolutely NO evidence that an AWACS Global Hawk had been flown, nor developed. Why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and cite sources?

Also, you still didn’t explain how an unmanned Global Hawk AWACS replaces a manned AWACS in the command and control role.

“In tomorrows media though you will find where the USAF let a contract today. The headline will read “USAF Selects Northrop Grumman to Research Air and Space Command and Control.” NG make the Global Hawk by the way.”

I looked this up, and found this. Cut for length:

“Under the contract awarded by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Rome Research Site, Rome, N.Y., Northrop Grumman will conduct technology experiments to show methods that allow distributed SOA-based IT infrastructures to operate as a larger, virtually integrated command and control (C2) system. The company will explore community of interest-based data models, information protocols, and message exchange standards so that specified services can be best accessed and managed across the enterprise. Northrop Grumman will also examine evolving information technologies and common integrated C2 operational threads within and across the air and space warfighting domains.”

Yeah Byron, IT solutions sure sound like Global Hawk AWACS to me. You are absolutely full of it. I can’t believe that anyone on here takes you seriously any more.

AWACS have a pretty tremendous radar range. They’d operate in the “rear area” of the air battle, if you will, with a dedicated CAP for defense. They’re always vulnerable to fighters, granted, but I can’t see they getting close enough to an IADS network to be vulnerable to SAMs.

E-3s were a big part of Desert Storm, and did fine against Iraq’s air force — one of, if not the most modern in the Middle East, next to Israel.

I’ve thought almost since they were conceived, that these were flying targets. There is probably a use for a few of these; but this mission is being taken over by unmanned aircraft. And anything that will help get as many F-22’s and F-35’s is a good idea. All the airborne early warning aircraft in world won’t do you any good if there aren’t enough fighter and attack aircraft to vector.

Because the Air Force had already been operating as a separate service within the Army, complete with their own representing officials in the Department of War (before it became the Department of Defense).

Apparently the mostly independent USAAF knew what it was doing. Enough that men like General Patton had enough confidence and trust in the USAAF that he even left his entire southern flank open, choosing to let the XIX Tactical Air Command cover it, while he advanced to the Seine.

Would an air force under the Army’s command been able to secure the air superiority that many take for granted, that many simply come to expect? So much that many don’t even know that the last time US ground forces ever came under enemy air attack was in the 1950’s Korean War? The USAF has been so successful in safeguarding air superiority that few other nations even bother trying to match US airpower.

Yup, in the case of air superiority, looks like the USAF is a victim of it’s own successes.

It’s not rumor. It’s fact. Not just the F-22. The F-15C’s that are equipped with the APG-63(v)2 are also electronic attack capable; they were the first AESA-equipped fighters to be able to do so. They were also the first fighter aircraft to be equipped with AESA radars (the APG-63(v)2), making them first-generation fighter-based AESA radars. The F-22’s APG-77 is a second-generation fighter-based AESA radar.

Also, you can do a google search for “AESA high powered microwave” or “AESA directed energy weapon”. The F-15C’s with the (v)2 radar have already demonstrated the ability to use their radars as DEW’s, frying the electronics onboard incoming missiles; F-22’s likewise. The APG-63(v)3 radar started production the other year and 178 F-15C’s will be equipped with this radar, dubbed the “Golden Eagles”. The (v)3 radar further improves on the (v)2’s capabilities, putting it in the same generational capability as the F-22’s APG-77 radar… with some limitations posed by the older avionics architecture.

“AWACS and JSTARS are going to be shot down within a few minutes with little to no tactical or strategic gain“
Long-ranged SAM platforms that threaten our C3/C4 systems are not employed in large numbers. When being employed into a high-threat environment where these SAM systems exist, dedicated EW aircraft will be present. The electronic warfare capabilities of our current fighters, both dedicated EW aircraft and fighters with supplemental EW capability (fighters equipped with AESA radar all possess varying levels of EW capability), they will be able to handle the incoming missiles. A very large volume of missiles might overwhelm the group, with which more EW aircraft would be assigned if this was anticipated. Or they would just eat the cost of large-scale cruise missile strikes, as it would be cheaper (both human and monetary) than losing an entire air group.

“But one would have to ask whether we’ll actually be able to find and destroy all the Air Defense sites and whether modified F-22’s and F-35’s in combination with satellite and drone assets might not be able to perform a similar task and in a more survivable fashion.”

Destroying the ground-based radars is more effective than attacking the actual SAM launch platforms. They’re easier to spot (just look for the radar signature; also their static nature makes them easier to spot from our ISR assets), and they’re the more economic option (since ground-based radars support numerous SAM sites). Mobile radar sites are problematic in that they can power down and move, but their radars are much shorter ranged.

“What’s more, I wonder whether even if we can maintain arguably survivable AWACS, in the eventuality that they are not available or shot down if having networked radars and other sensors in relatively survivable and presumably less valuable platforms as a back-up might not be wise.”

I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say here. It sounds like you’re saying it’s not wise to have networked aircraft as a backup if our C3/C4 systems get shot down. But our current generation of fighters have already had networked radars as part of their Fighter Data Link upgrades from years back, with bandwidth upgrades to Link16 in the works or being fielded. If Aircraft Alpha has a firing solution but no missiles, and Aircraft Bravo’s radar is inop, but has missiles and is in firing range, Alpha can transmit the firing solution to Bravo, who can then take the shot. I haven’t kept up on this issue, but last I heard (from 2009), F-22’s were having issues with networking with legacy equipment (mainly other aircraft).

“And yes, I’m concerned about our communications security/viability but I’d think that could be a problem whether our fighters are communicating with an AWACS or a satellite or a Global Hawk-type aircraft.”

Depends on the operators OPSEC policies. Back in 1999 during Allied Force in Kosovo, units were employing weak OPSEC procedures that allowed their AWACS transmissions to be easily intercepted, ruining many battle plans. An OPSEC review identified numerous amateur mistakes that would’ve prevented interception.

“learning to integrate that with satellite and very high altitude asset platform data to form a cohesive understanding and utilization of the battlespace with redundant communications systems would be intellectually defensible.”

Already being done. And worded like you would see it on a PowerPoint slide for a briefing to our civilian leadership.

“but train to operate without AWACS and JSTARS if they become unavailable.“
Procedures are already in place for our pilots to utilize in the event of C3/C4 asset unavailability.

AWACS is not a function being taken over by drones. I don’t know where people are getting this idea.

Also, many a couple decades ago the question was often asked why even have aircraft such as the SR-71 and the U-2 when we have satellites. Satellites are predictable, and our enemies know when one of our satellites will be flying overhead and can prepare to cover themselves as such. Inclement weather is often problematic, especially in regions where inclement weather is a fact of life.

There’s also a huge vulnerability with UAV’s. The leash. That is, the communications link between the UAV, the satellite, and the ground-station. You’d better believe research and development money is being invested into systems to attack that vulnerability. This is the reason why nations like Israel and USAF CSAF Gen. Schwartz stated that there will be no plans on moving to an all-UAV Air Force.

People love the AWACS and JSTARS but it’s been known for two decades that they are obsolete and will be cut down in the first few minutes of an air war. Not pouring more money into obsolete equipment makes sense. Just funny he wants to take the money saved and pour it down the JSF toilet.

Progress isn’t kind to those that can’t evolve. A very similar situation was faced in WWI with cavalry and the same arguments of there made of “no alternatives”. So cavalry had to charge into the machine guns.
After a short while it didn’t look like a good investment.

Thanx for the responses.

Y’all sound both intelligent and informed. I appreciate the education.

“Combine F-22s and F-35s …”

what F-22?

Yes, this type of rhetoric and his lack of credible leadership is one reason he is FORMER SECAF. Thank goodness. You can bet this thesis is somehow tied to his pocketbook on behalf of his corporate masters.

AWACS, JSTARS are indeed big birds.
The F22, plus a NOT NEARLY READY F35 simply do not equate as a one to one swap.
First, The F22 is limited essentially to one region, there are not enough to go around.
Second, the F35, in all its variants is still years from Operational Deployment.
Finally, in the near term, IE TODAY, we need eyes in the sky, eyes on the ground and the current birds will do that for us.
Money spent on upgrades equals a return NOW, not in some distant future.
Semper FI

maybe from Lockheed & Boeing investors???

Um I do think they are developing it, unless you are in the know of all government programs in development. One of the goals of the global hawk is the development of larger radars in block 40. I don’t know where your getting your information from either, but you sure don’t know. Not saying that I do, but I read some about global hawks taking over for awacs. Believe it or not its up to you.

excellent points. whenever anyone declares our forces are dogmeat, they conveniently like to leave Wild Weasels out of the equation. We don’t even risk our highly touted stealth technology without EW support. YGBSM!!

“it seems likely that you are going to have to attack a country with a capable air defense system our AWACS and JSTARS are going to be shot down within a few minutes with little to no tactical or strategic gain.“
Not even the most biased, corrupt, industry-friendly, exotic technology promoting computer war game would predict such a scenario. UNLESS… maybe if those aliens from Independence Day brought the pain to us. But then again, all we’d have to do is just hire Boeing & Lockheed to reverse engineer the captured alien craft we maintain at Area 51 and problem solved.

It doesn’t make any sense to convert a passenger airplane into a tanker. Jet fuel is much closer in density to bombs than it is to passengers and cargo. We should be working on a tanker/bomber now and scrap the idea of turning either the Airbus or Boeing airplanes into tankers.

The only program even close was an air-to-air radar package for the Global Hawk. Note — a radar package. Not an integrated command and control system that can vector aircraft. An AWACS isn’t just a flying radar. It’s also a command center.

If you have a link, please post it.

What’s the solution?

Seemed to work fine for KC-10 and KC-135.

AF Chief, I was in the USAF and I spent a good time on a SAC base. It was a tightly run, but those nukes didn’t move an inch in those days unless there was a plan in place, and everyone from the supervisor to the Wing Commander, to the president, the Queen of England, the Pope and God Himself signed off on it. Those guys knew one mistake could cost a lot of lives. I miss SAC. I KNEW immediately that when Tony (dumb sh|t) McPeak merged SAC and TAC into ACC that garbage like this was going to happen.

Michael Wynne is a corrupt loser, just like Darleen Druyun, Teed Michael Moseley and Bullfrog Roche. He’s got zero credibility.

Appalling — Mr. Wynne adds a new dimension to bureaucratic incomprehension — he is in dire need of an abdominal window insertion.

Does anyone really have a clue what is best for this country at any particular time???????????????

I like where Cobb is going with his idea, although I think people misunderstand the complexities in shooting down satellites. It is extremely difficult to do and requires weeks of planning. The preparations are also vulnerable to detection.

Thank you for the additional response.

I think I’ve learned a bit from this thread and I appreciate that.

Yes he has the Lockheed agenda, if you convince them to drop these two platforms then the money can be used to buy more F22 and F35. If Lockheed would quit overrunning the Air Force would have had enough money to buy additional aircraft but instead the money for the overruns curtailed that

Remember AWACS is for controlling the Air War; Joint STARS controls the ground war. When we have wiped out the enemies Air Force AWACS is not really needed except to act as an Air Traffic controller.

They tried that with the E-10 program which was scrapped by the Air Force

Here is one thing we have missed if we get rid of Joint STARS and AWACS, the Air Force will have to use almost all their F22 and F35 to be able to handle what the current Fleet of AWACS and Joint STARS do. Any way these aircraft do have defenseive capability plue you can always have a couple of F15 or 16 flying cover for them like they did in both Iraq wars.

This is a ploy to free up more money so Lockheed can build more airfraft and go over BUDGET on them. Wonder how many more aircraft could the Air Force has bought if Lockheed had not gone onver budget?

I totally hail that thought!!!

I’ve posted my solutions and will continue to post. Some of the biggest problems we have with acquisitions are undertaking too risky endeavors in Major Defense Acquisition Programs, inability to develop stable requirements and executable concepts, and overall inability to estimate Uncertainty & Risk, especially from the Senior Leader (whose decisions are the ones that count) perspective. The solution is to divorce high risk technology development from Major Defense Acquisition Programs. Any program that would require 5+ years from Milestone B to Milestone C should not be approved. High risk technology development, and sub-system or commodity development, can be done using capital specifically designed for it, such as DARPA. The goal of DARPA and/or other laboratory technology development should be ensuring technologies are operationally suitable, and we have legitimate cost data, before we try to integrate into an MDAP. We need to approach MDAPs with an incremental improvement perspective. As we modernize and replace old systems, it is simply not acceptable to lose existing valuable capabilities.

Another example of a politican talking with his mouth and not his brain. The F-35 should be deleted from the DOD Buget and the money put in the F-22 modifications and new builds, the F-35 is a waste of time and money. Stop it now makes sense for the American People lets stop wasting money on obsolete weapon system mr. Gates

excellent point

excellent points

“Here in the real world they spend all their time tanking and hauling around dead air you and I get to pay for in increased drag and fuel consumption. ”

Here in the real world, in the real operating environment, and not in front of the computer at home (where it’s oh-so-easy for people to make snide remarks but oh-so-difficult to get off their butts), KC-10’s are in fact providing additional logistical flexibility at time critical situations. Even when though they’re not hauling cargo while performing tanker duty, there have been countless situations where they came through in a clutch for humanitarian flights, aero-medicvac flights, and delivering critical parts/equipment. Because we only have so many C-17’s, C-130’s and C-5’s that aren’t getting younger.… especially as the C-17 looks to be suffering the same fate as the C-141. The KC-135’s were tasked to pull double-duty to help relieve the overworked C-141. History repeats, now we have the KC-10’s, and still the KC-135’s doing the same for the C-17.

I’m not gonna argue with the rest of your diatribe, there’s nothing to argue there because I pretty much agree with every bit of it.

bombers are more expensive then airliners, plus it would be kind of expensive to add the tanker capability (real, not only buddy tanking and alike) + the bombing capability to a single plane. and i won’t even mention stealth treatment etc.

and a mach 3 tanker is made of gold

All, sorry this is so verbose.

In general I am not prone to reply to blogs or commentators, but this one in particular seems to be especially dangerous for the future security of our combined air forces and for our national defense. (I am a USMC Naval Aviator and former fixed wing flight instructor)

There is a basic flaw in logic that this article ignores…task saturation. All pilots regardless of the platform they fly, to include our newly minted UAS brethren have or will at some time in their career be subject to this potentially life threatening aspect of flying. To put it simply, a pilot that becomes task saturated loses both situational awareness (S/A) and situational understanding (S/U) to the point that they may miss some aspect that is critical for the safe operation of their a/c…let alone the control of multiple assets operating in a highly contested conflict. To argue otherwise misses an essential reality that will be faced by the pilots in the scenario presented in the article. It is important to remember, that our forces have not faced a contested air battle since Korea (limited air to air in Vietnam).

The question of our air assets being able to act with impunity in a future conflict is worthy of further discussion. I agree with Former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne in his doubts that we will have the immediate air supremacy we have enjoyed in recent years. However, I believe he is missing the point and fails to understand the true capabilities provided by the “ISR” assets. The AWACS and JSTARS while seeing service in the current conflicts are only doing so utilizing a small portion of their true capabilities. While extremely capable assets in their current mostly ISR role, in a contested air battle they will truly demonstrate their worth. The ability to provide highly trained Air Battle Managers with the crews to support them, that have the requisite skills to plan deliberate actions and to make immediate time critical decisions are essential for the proper coordination of the Air / Land / Sea Battle. To best alleviate the inevitable fog of war, a fully trained team of professionals working in concert is required to handle the sheer amount of data that will be required to be processed for the safe coordination of a/c.

Having flown both fixed and rotary wing a/c and having deployed several times to combat zones working closely with all the sister services, I believe makes me qualified to at least be part of this conversation. I see a very small possibility that a single (or even dual) piloted a/c regardless of their skill could ever replace the crew concept that has been proven in combat without becoming task saturated. To ignore this concept will put more lives at risk then the loss of one of the big a/c. Investment in upgraded avionic packages to extend the ranges and capabilities beyond current systems would seem a better investment in a system that provides a true force multiplying effect on the battle field.

Semper Fidelis,

Greg Curtis

The biggest problem was that someone said when McPeak combined SAC and TAC into ACC. ACC is a Fighter Jock community and if it has over 2 engines and does not fly faster than mach 1 they donot like it. The only 4 engine aircarft ACC likes is their E-3 AWACS. So now wonder they had problems with how to run the B-52 they tried to run them like a fighter outfit and FAILED so they had to bring back SAC. Based on that then all the ISR assets, Joint STARS, Predator, Global Hawk and others should be removed from ACC and put into an ISR command that way all their funding will not be taken away to cover any ACC overrun programs like F-22 and F-35

I fly on them and you’d be wrong.

AWACS does not lead the way into combat. I place fighters between me and the bad guys so I am just fine thank you.

We do so much more than you will ever know.

Because the radars aboard a Global Hawk would be angular, like the radars in the nose assemblies of tactical aircraft like fighters. AWACS like the Sentry and Hawkeye have rotating arrays similar to ground radars. Aircraft with large rotating arrays can monitor a astronomically bigger volume of airspace at any given time.

Angular arrays are fine when you know the general bearing that other aircraft would approach from, but a lack of that kind of information is the implied conceit of air-to-air combat, and the requirement for AWACS.

Oh hi guys. I know that I am in no position to comment on this, but I might as well take a stab at it.

While it may be true that it is both safer and more efficient to use smaller, highly-instrumented UAVs to take to mission skies, collect data and TRANSCEIVE it to a Mission Command / Control station situated at home or near the front lines, the possibility of transmission interception and jamming also exists, and so does the technology to do so — all the enemy has to do is make a feasible system to do so [although it may be true that it is not easy to acquire both the materials and the know-how for such things]. Even an enemy EMP device is a very viable and very real threat to such methods.

In my opinion, the current AWACS / JSTARS programs are comparable to a versatile chess piece and a good solution; like a powerful and well-built present-day personal computer, it has space for upgrades. Stealth AWACS aircraft combined with the currently being developed laser offense and defense system for defense against enemy threats [aircraft / missiles] is a good way to go, although not really necessary at this time and budget. Although this is not saying that it is the most important chess piece; it is the entire mission force and support units, along with well-maintained communication and information exchange that bears that importance.

I don’t get the gist of why so many people don’t like our costly but very effective solutions to the problem of maintaining our air superiority, and in effect, our military force superiority.

Going over the top here, but if you really want to have THE kind of air superiority that really dominates above all, take the best of the best fighter pilots you can find, put em together, name them the Razgriz Squadron and stuff them in CFA-44 Nosferatus. Then let’s see [and I will be surprised] if any other country can put something better on the B7R’s Round Table.


Well now hold on everybody. The guy makes some good points. Here we have an incredably out dated flying tank managing a fairly important job. An F-35 definetly could not handle the COMM procedure that the AWACS can, but either can the AWACS. The AF has spent the last 30 years sticking these things together with bubble gum and duct tape only to have mIRC and IFF die out every ten minutes. Not only that, but the systems are still attempting to get upgraded! That’s like giving a new head unit to a GEO Metro after finding out nobody can sell you parts anymore. The era of AWACS needs to pass so that better aircraft can assume the mantle of this once kind of cool iron jalopy.


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