General: Air Force faces NATO-like struggle

General: Air Force faces NATO-like struggle

The U.S. Air Force and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization share a similar dilemma of seeking global leadership with fewer defense dollars, according to one of the service’s top strategists.

NATO has “an aspiration for doing many things in this world that are good, yet a budgetary reality that doesn’t quite achieve that aspiration,” Maj. Gen. Steven Kwast said March 20 during a speech at the Air Force Association’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. “Here we sit with the same dilemma.”

Automatic budget cuts that took effect March 1 are set to slice about $500 billion from the Defense Department budget over the next decade, unless lawmakers back an alternative plan. The reductions, known as sequestration, come on top of about $500 billion in national-security cuts already included in deficit-reduction legislation passed in 2011.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this month ordered a review of the administration’s defense strategy from last year. The strategy, which seeks to shift focus away from the ground wars of the past decade and toward threats in the Asia-Pacific region, was made with the idea that Congress would act to avert the automatic reductions.

Kwast, director of the service’s quadrennial defense review, didn’t say how the Pentagon’s strategic revision will affect the Air Force or his work on the review, a planning document published every four years. The next report is due in February 2014.

“It is very difficult to make adjustments in this environment,” he said. “It’s very important for subordinates like me to not get out in front of those who have the wisdom, the knowledge and the capacity to make very meaningful changes as we move forward.”

Kwast said making comments before the strategy is revised would be premature and declined to specify which weapons systems or technologies may be affected.

“The brightest minds in our nation are thinking on this right now,” he said. “The American people deserve a defense that is sufficient to the need.”

Kwast said the service must be more innovative if it wants to maintain its leadership role during an era of declining defense spending. Otherwise, it may be saddled with unsustainable programs and stuck in a scenario “where we spend $10 billion in 10 years to deliver something, and the enemy steals it away from us in 10 months, with a good programmer and about $10 million,” he said.

Kwast said investing in air power makes sense, even in a period of financial uncertainty, and urged officials to speak with one voice on Capitol Hill and beyond the Beltway.

“Our role is to find innovative and creative ways of bringing solutions to our political masters,” he said. “It starts by telling our story with congruency so that we are a house united, so that the appropriators of the world give us the resources to build those innovative approaches.”

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New conops like BWB aircraft with hundreds of ground attack missiles and develop and deploy coastal launched prompt global strike missiles.

Step 1: Cancel the F-35 (all variants)

Step 2: Re-start F-22 production line, and bang out another 200–250 jets.

Step 3: Crash program for F/A-XX

If per chance the implied message is: The USAF needs innovative ways to remain credible going forward in the coming austere budget environments, and thus the USAF must stay the course with the flat out unsustainable F-35 Program to satisfy said requirement, etc, etc, etc, we are doomed indeed.

Innovative cost-effective, approaches (both evolutionary and clean-sheet) to maximize muscle while cutting fat in austere budget environments however, is definitely something to jump-start and accelerate on ASAP.

The old guard paradigm (the acquisition process still being implemented today) is dead on arrival and a non-starter going forward. It must be discarded decisively and true strategic leadership must apply.

We are indeed in an epic struggle that must be honestly looked at in the mirror today.

God speed.

That’s funny that they face this struggle. I’m struggling to find if I care.

The USAF get themselves in their own financial messes through wasteful spending on luxuries and ridiculous high tech weapons that are not practical. Now that sequestration is kicking in they have finally found themselves in trouble. In my opinion they got what was coming to them and this will force them to make more wise decisions regarding their spending.

There is much fat in the Air Force budget to begin with. A little fiscal austerity could make them prioritize in some ways. However, political interests, vis-a-vis the F-35 delivery and follow on production, will put pressure on them as well. That pressure may, in fact, preclude wise cuts that are more prudent. Its a “Catch-22″ situation. For those in leadership positions it is time to tighten the belt and have the courage to do the right things without consideration of personal goals.

The Air Force would save untold millions if it was not its own branch. If it were under the Army still, a few dozen multi-star generals would not be needed, even more single star generals, a separate band and color guard untis, separate boot camps and other training pipelines like MPs, nurses, mechanics and special operations could be done away with or consolidated. All of their unique paperwork and stationary, uniforms and the like could be standardized with the Army. AF SOWs and the 160th SOAR could be integrated and the SOF units that are too mission specific to be their own stand alone units could either be fully integrated with regular SOF units or done away with.

We already have F-22, B-2 and cruise missiles to sneak in and open the door by destroying any air defense or other key targets. What we need now is to replace the air frames we actually use in the long part of war (outside of initial attack). We need new updated F-15/16s (still a better design than 90% of what is out there from adversaries) and a new bomb truck to replace the old as hell B-52s (re-engined B-1?.?). Maybe even some new A-10 airframes for good measure. Remember, we actually use these airframes on a daily basis unlike the F-22, B-2 and potentially the F-35. We could probably do all of these programs for the same cost as the F-35.

Wastful spending? Like the 2nd flight of the LCS, rebuilding the Miami? What the american people NEED; is a coherant foreign policy, with clear strategic, tactical & economic objectives. Then modify & integrate our force structure to fit that policy with regional partnerships & treaties. Oh! sorry guys my medicinal weed is wearing off. With POTUS & the present crowd of “Progressives” in control fat chance. With SECDEF Hagel calling the shots; 3 years from now the US will have a hollow land force, 9–12 month sea-borne deployments & non-intgrated, ill trained forces more concerned with trans-gender operations than forced entry operations, sea lane freedom of transit and power projection capabilities. The only hope we have is a shift of power in the mid term elections, and a reset in DoD spending priorities. One can only hope

Yeah, but MIRRORS aren’t forward looking, now are they…???…
Combined with smoke, though, mirrors have served DOD / Congress well for decades now…
And most of the American people, well, we LOVE our smoke-n-mirrors shows…
However, new, *NEW* forms of MIL-CIV-GOV integration will be needed YESTERDAY…
That’s where the mirrors come in…
I’m glad to see our most forward-deployed (Mars-based ) troops are so on the ball…

Good ideas, VERY GOOD ideas…
But, the unique identities of the 4 branches MUST be preserved, even though we adopt commonality of use..
There’s no reason that ANY troop can’t be trained at ANY base, or that EACH branch handle all logistics of every other branch.…4 separate systems is STOOPID…
We can co-integrate, and cross-integrate, EACH branch, while still maintaing service identities…
We need to PLAN, PURCHASE, TRAIN, and FIGHT as a cohesive WHOLE,
and NOT as 4 disjoint parts trying to coordinate…
Thanks, Bman…

Cutting personnel, starting from excess general officers and officers would be the ticket. Do what the private sector does: identify excess personnel, give them incentive packages, send them on their merry way.

We all know the private sector is so wonderful…

Don’t worry, Sgt, the OFFICERS are handling UAV planning&procurement…

DOD & JCS need to stop being led around by the nose, like sheeple…
Let’s continue the psychotic delusion of “civilian” / Congressional control of the military…
…while planning progresses and accelerates for the
…i’m still awaiting re-supply from my med-cannabis guy.…

I suggest the officers remember to encrypt the UAV data this time.….…. and no landing in Iran.

*Congress gives the PROFESSIONALS better COVER, when the pols babble all manner of nonsense…
…the ONLY voice that should matter globally, is POTUS, as supreme c-in-c…
…and even HE is only the lead PR guy…
Things will change, and I mean CHANGE, when Obama is elected in 2016…
You say Obama CAN’T be elected in 2016…???…
WRONG!.…Nothing in the Constitution will prevent Obama from winning POTUS 2016.…
Michelle will just wait until 2014/15 to announce her candidacy…
Michelle Obama as POTUS would ROCK America AND the FREE WORLD ORDER!.…
Sorry if I spilled the meme…

The Air Force needs to concentrate on the STRATEGIC NUCLEAR Deterrent and getting their Minute Man fleet to top condition right now. Then they can worry about any other strategy that comes out of the quadrennial review. They should leave the drone operations to the enlisted personnel and worry more about how to keep their old airframes flying!

Strategic Arms at the expense of all other air missions?

That’s probably why the Russians created a branch that focused on exclusively strategic missions. Caveat being that it creates another player fighting for budget pie.

What is wrong with the Minuteman III?

Michelle Obama as P and Barack as VP?

That would be interesting; though a Michelle/Hilary ticket would be hilarious. See what I did there?

Cancelling the F-35 program is a non-starter, not to defend it but realistically we are responsible for the state of this program, good or bad. Re-starting production of any 4th generation aircraft is criminal. Replacement of the F-16 is required, mechanically and we “CANNOT AFFORD” to begin again to design a replacement aircraft even if it was a Wright Flyer. The F-18, AV-8B, A-10, etc., same again. Today our choices are either to continue the F-35 or park the out of hour’s aircraft in the bone yard with no replacements.

It carries a warhead that no one will ever use.

News alert: our military demise is by choice and it is not caused by budget cuts: we can have a stronger military and USAF for less money.
Message to USAF: truncate the F-35A to 200 planes and declare victory, temporize the fighter gap with new F-15SEs, evaluate if passive radar technology will make stealth obsolete and then move with the USN on the FXX project ASAP. Close oversea bases, build new long range strike platforms instead.
Message to USN: reduce the carrier fleet, build 4 Virgina attack subs/yr including some with extended missile compartment. Put tactical nukes back on our attack subs, removing them was an anti-deterrence measure. Cancel the LCS.
Message to Obama: we need a strong nuclear deterrence including new nukes and ICBMs.
South Korea and Japan should move forward in building their own nuclear deterrence. 10 Japanese nuclear missile subs would go a long way to deter NK from an attack on Japan bases.
Let Europe build their own missile defense shield and pay for it also.

Kwast’s talk was ONE SOLID HOUR of meaningless platitudes! His ability to speak at length, without notes, and say absolutely nothing was impressive in its way.

I agree this means I mean should mean more F-22s more upgrades for F-15s and more funds to keep hevy bombers like the B-1, B-2 and B-52 in service. Dump the F-35.

Just the old there ‘s no alternative to failure line.

Concur! The USAF gets funding for their bases. They build their offices, swimming pools, clubs and rest of the goodies the other services don’t have. THEN, they go back to Congress for additional $$$$ because they don’t have the money to build RUNWAYS!! Need to save personnel money, cut half the Col & Generals!

We “CANNOT AFFORD” the F-35 either. It would be better to buy upgraded 4th gen fighters and keep the neat stuff in development until our economy heals. This just isn’t the time.

What wrong with MM III? It was fielded in the 1960’s, and is simply worn out. It always amazes me that people think we can continue to place band-aids on these 40–50 year old weapon systems and keep them around. Many of the systems have been upgraded, but the basic infrastructure is museum-worthy. The Reentry System is untouched, except for the SERV program. It simply has to be replaced. Soon.


I beg to differ with you. You just made the most eloquent defensive support for the status quo TACAIR recap strategy — ie, stay the course — one could make.

That is the strategic-antithesis of something I would expect from a Sioux chief Running Bear?

Absolutely the USAF would have more capability and more deterrent to provide to the overall force structure if they accelerated an alternative 4.5+ recap plan for the next 6–8 years while DoD and USAF evaluated and decided on a more sustainable and prudent ‘next-gen’ TACAIR force structure acquisition strategy.

If you disagree with that, please reply, and I personally, as well as I’m sure others, would be more than happy to debate that uncertainty which you might have.

I would concur with you TonyC, that the Strategic Nuclear forces should be supported and upgraded accordingly and funded separately under a separate budget allocation. That is a must, most unfortunately, still today in the 21st century.

But the Strategic forces should not contradict or disproportionately compete with necessary cost-effective modernization and innovation of tactical force capabilities and deterrent.

Actually, the AF would like to reduce the number of bases it has to fund. What runway have they have they tried to build but coudn’t???

Yes…let’s plan and purchase as a whole. Oh wait, we did that…its called the F35.…

If you want a bomb truck, why replace the B52?

The problem with the F-35 is in part a result of sharing a common airframe between services. The AF and the Navy should go separate ways with their aircraft design.

Agree. Why do we need manned fighter jets and bombers when we have drones?

We actually don’t have ‘the drones’ though, yet.

A couple such prototype UCAV Programs are in various stages of the design and development phase, but even they would not initially be capable of performing the necessary automated and autonomous air-air functions and defensive actions required for survivability and value. Besides, drones are in a political hot-spot and not an acceptable mainstay of the force structure with any certainty yet, politically.

So it’s actually a misnomer and an often confused piece of the equation that we should just ‘switch to drones’ today, despite the truth that they (next-gen drones) will no doubt include greater relevance (gradually) as part of the overall composition mix (as the various models become mature and prove themselves as reliable).

The drones you speak of and often spoken of — those semi-autonomous systems which should and could ultimately replace portions of manned tactical (and bomber) aviation — are probably at least 7–8 yrs away to beginning their incremental introduction to the overall force structure.

Yet still, that process will take decades as there’s much development and design necessary to come with the various ‘capable’ future models sufficient to fill requirements and technologies needing to be proved, etc.

So back to square one… in the long-term, absolutely yes, Drone ‘innovation’ will most likely become an essential factor of the equation. Yet in the immediate and medium-term, ‘innovative’ acquisition and procurement solutions needed to fulfill various requirements will still need to require manned elements in ‘tactical aviation’ sphere… yet, just more cost-effective ones.

That said, there’s a valid camp of thought which would indeed advocate for studying the feasibility and prudence of increasing investment in the next-gen stand-off munitions, coupled with less costly but reliable launch platforms. So in a sense, those stand-off munitions are in essence, ‘one-way’ drones, which theoretically, if acquired in sufficient numbers could replace overall numbers of platforms required to provide deterrent and capability.

Actually the 22nd Amendment prohibits Obama and any other President from running AFTER serving two terms. Only a change to this amendment, which in its self would have to be done by 37 of the States ratifying a new Constitutional Amendment allowing for more than two terms. The 22nd Amendment also dis-allows a past President from becoming a Vice-President, so that he/she could become President again.

The F-22 when designed and built, was supposed to be the “best ever”. What happened that AF leaders decided it was not? It has yet to be tested in combat that I know of. If it has, could someone please tell us when?
For money purposes only, the F-35 needs to be dis-continued now. Restart the F-22 line, upgraded with newer avionics, new internal wiring, upgraded weapon systems,and so forth. Build a fleet of around 1500 of these aircraft. At the same time, upgrade the A-10, F-15, F-16 and FA-18. Offer NATO, Australian, New Zealand, Japan, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Israeli Air Forces the F-22 in place of the F-35, with the same deal originally agreed to for the F-35. Although money figures might be considerably lower. I WOULD NOT allow it to countries such as Saudi Arabia, or other middle eastern nations. Restart the B-2 production line, so we would have a fleet of 150 of these bombers. Upgrade the engines, bringing it back to the orginal design which was to be supersonic. With new era engines such as the type the F-22 uses, the B-1 could also become a “Supercruise” powered aircraft. Also upgrade avionics of the B-1 bomber and increase the number of these bombers to 150 more than we currently have. Bring the F-111B out of mothballs, and upgrade its avionics, “Supercruise” the engines, and re-align weapons capacity. This aircraft was a very good one, and could easily fit into AF needs for a light tactical bomber.

Barring any new issues we are stuck with the F35. That’s the reality. I wish they would announce a RFP for the longest range precision strike missile they could get to fit in the F35s internal bays.

The Airforce was forced to take the F-35 from Mr.Gates or did you all forget that. The top Airforce Brass were doing everything possible to get more F-22s they retired F-117s ‚dozens of B-52s and a lot of other planes to free up funds to buy more F-22s . You would think that our leaders would listen to the people who know the most about dominating the airspace so attack and bomber aircraft can support our troops. But Mr Gates told congress and the president that we needed to fight on more equal terms and then set about taking a grinder to the cutting edge advantage we held over other militaries.

He wanted to buy prop planes and shift away from high tech and high threat environment wars to low tech low intensity conflicts. The problem with that thinking is that the high tech cold war equipment was flexible enough to take on low intensity conflicts ( gulf wars 1&2 almost all cold war equipment) , but the low tech can not do the high intensity conflicts . Then Mr Gates got into it with Airforce Brass because they said they were going to get more F-22s no matter what Defense Secretary because they knew they would need them,Mr Gates vowed to cancel the F-22 which is what he did (Power tripping ego maniac) Then he made the Airforce take the f-35s , and the Airforce brass that had not been made to retire ( or lose their pension) were made to sing the F-35 song .

I gave you a thumbs up for that enthusiasm and true interpretation of history, as unfortunate as the whole fiasco it has become, but imho, I must say that this same Air Force ‘Brass’ should have around FY09-FY10 instead been calling for what is now today, the F-15SA.

That would have been a prudent compromise and reliable mix to the the force structure.

Take the F-15SA and add APG-82, perhaps interchange a couple of the lessor components such as the MAWS selected and interface, etc, and call it a day.

An FY10 F-22 would have cost a unit WSC cost of what, around $184m + necessary retrofits down the road?

Could have cut a deal and said, “ok, look, the F-35 will be further delayed and more expensive than we currently even estimate, let’s be frank. We need a strategic stopgap, given that the F-22 is having problems and is cost-overrun too. Give us an FY11-FY16 F-15E+ @ 8–10 units per year, aircraft which can be incrementally upgraded with off the self, mature systems as they become required.” Unit WSC cost would have been what, around $150m including Sniper pod, MAWS and IRST!?!

Save the R&D on a new 10 year missile development. In lieu of that required project, load up on stand-off JASSM-ER/LRASM with the money saved. Add a ton of MALD/J for good measure. Forget building into the internal bays for now, leave them for 4x AMRAAM self-defense. And in this config, she will benefit from CFT. Budget for that, ASAP.

The F22 was never intended for strike primarily. It still isn’t. The 187 we have aren’t even fully coded for air to air let alone strike, so there are billions that have to be spent to just get the few we have to all somewhere useful. 1500 more is just another gamble given the F22s issues with no savings to be had and no naval version.

Too much emphasis on tacair is the problem. We have never even used our existing legacy platforms at their full potential. We are never going to engage in this fantasy of flying into day airspace with manned platforms.

day one airspace.

Then again… you cant always dictate the order of battle and know for sure when that day one might actually be. It might be flipped and forced you instead!

The contingency therefore absolutely needs to be capable and prepared to handle such a scenario, i.e., a fantasy defensive capacity that out of nowhere suddenly becomes dead real whether one is ready or not. Yes, things can be chaotic very quick, but consider too that could actually be part of the tactics being intentionally played into the equation by a calculating adversary. Thus, part of the deterrent against that hypothetical is of course, in fact being capable and prepared to defend (or retaliate against) such fantasy, on short notice. Otherwise, one is just yielding to that significant advantage and potential strategic blow, via a surprise move. History, sadly, can have a sneaky way repeating itself when not expected. Just saying the fuller calculus of the issue is far more complex and fluid than simply being written off as fantasy.

You guys are all alike. NO VISION! When you get your heads out of the stratosphere, and look around you, back here on the surface of the earth, you will realize that PEOPLE and SQUADRONS need LEADERSHIP, MANNING and MANAGEABLE DUTIES. Additional duties, deployments, etc. have stretched your enlisted force PAST the limit. When squadrons are giving up bodies to pull escort and bailiff duties and technicians are being transferred from unit to unit on an almost daily basis, SOMETHING IS WRONG!!! When some form of stability is brought back to SQUADRONS, then you can go pontificate about billion dollar programs.

A high level of discipline within the force is far more intimidating than any “new fangled” weapon system. Especially when everyone outside the U.S. knows that we are thin and bodies are evaporating. Your technical prowess is not in the weapon system. It’s in the technicians. Technicians are stretched too far and for too long. Planes don’t fly without all the other guys. The horse goes in FRONT of the cart.

The DoD seems to be eat up with its own brand of consumerism. They can’t be satisfied with the thousands of toys they have. (Yes, I know that threats evolve and emerge) It’s always some up and coming guys performance report that dictates that some shiny new thing is the answer to all that ails us. Stop buying more new stuff and start mastering the stuff you have. E.g. Training for the thousands and thousands of enlisted personnel struggling to keep up with the constant change. Manning for all thos units who have had to suffer because some up and comer wants to cobble together a “NEW” thing out of the hides of all the other units. Leave well enough alone and focus on the tasks at hand.

Agreed. A coherent National Security Strategy, paired with ACTUAL resources/units/goals could do wonders! As for coalitions and regional partnerships… The other countries need to start chipping in. Why is the U.S. footing the bill on computers, venues, logistics, C2, fuel and training? If they really want to be part of the fight, then they need to put their money where their mouth is. On a side note, trans-gender ops will not come into play in any meaningful way. The force is ready and willing; any time, any place.

The Air Force could learn a lesson from the Marines. Make do with what you have. Better yet, Learn to do without. The only way to make those two COAs work is called DISCIPLINE. Try it. It means less time at the golf course.

Bman, I disagree. The army has little understanding of the concept of “Airpower.” Having the Air Force become subordinate to a “Land” force is a step 66 years BACKWARDS in time. Airmen are a breed unto their own. Soldiers are nothing like Airmen. Army Generals would kill for our capabilities, but I truly believe they would sell the Air Force short and would place more emphasis on subordination of air assets to the land force than appreciating the levels of effects the Air Force can have with little resources. Much less, they would plunder the budget and eventually create the extinction of Airpower and Airmindedness.

There is really only three branches of the service, the Navy, Army and Air Force. The Marine Corps remains a part of the Navy. They receive their medical rom the Navy, their supplies come through the Navy system, and their pay comes from the Navy, to name a few. When I was active there was some discussion in DC about seperating the two, but it was decided that they worked just fine as they were.

You can look at the Marines as the ground fighters of the Navy, they can be found on all of the capital ships of the Navy, the Carriers and Battleships, when they get reactivated, and on some of the cruisers. They also can be found on almost all of the Navy bases. The Marines and the Navy work well together.

The Army and the Army Air Force worked well together during WW II, but some of the Generals like LeMay wanted to be seperate from the Army, so they could have a certian amount of autonomy. But when the Army needs to go somewhere they rely on the Air Force to transport them. I always thought that the Army and Air force should have stayed as one branch.

Thanks for your service.
LPN/ret, HM2(FMF)/USN, Sgt/USAR, ACM/olc, CWVet, VNeVet, GWVet, VFW/DAV Life Member

First– the MM III was fielded in 1970. A minor point to be sure but it damages your credibility. Would you care to speculate what the failure rate for the MMs launched out of Vandy might be?

the F-111B was the naval version and only 1 was ever made to a what would have been the production standard all others were test bed airframes(6) of the F-111B and was canceled to eventually become the F-14.…
I think you actually meant the F-111F.…that was the most capable of the F-111 series…the FB-111A was eventually bought up to tactical standards as the F-111G version and was used only for fact all F-111’s(D,E & F) eventually had a standardised engine(TF30-P109)..but there still were avionics differences with in all models the –D’s and FB’s being the most similar..but the –F was the best and the –E were pretty much –A’s but with different intakes that were also used on D, F and the FB’s.…but many of these airframes had over 6000 hrs of hard low level use

Your just sore that you got suckered into the Marines, HAHAHAHAHAHA!

We the United States are not the same as NATO. They can not identify with us . We at the drop of a hat can organize and formulate and make our enemies do our will . To the nations that hate us you wish your country was like ours that’s your problem don’t make ours because we will make you do our will!!

We the United States are not the same as NATO. They can not identify with us . We at the drop of a hat can organize and formulate and make our enemies do our will . To the nations that hate us. You wish your country was like ours that’s your problem don’t make ours because we will make you do our will!!

You can put down your beer now at will(?), along with dropping that hat, too my friend and fellow citizen hehe…

Seriously, the US has a relevant and justified relationship with NATO of yesterday and the evolving relations and requirements of tomorrow. NATO, with US’s intimate participation, will be legitimate and credible heading into this new era of post-cold war uncertainty, and remain so at least until such time when there’s an effective worldwide coordinated organization, code of conduct and global disarmament process to replace it.

What the USA needs is to get pay-back from the freakin countries we have helped along the way to win their freedoms.

Yeah, over my 22 years in the Air Force Security Forces, I’ve had the displeasure of working with the inept and “armed but no ammo” Army on several occasions. With several different commands. Putting the Air Force under the command of Forest Gump is the stupidest thing we could do.

Stop the RERP program on the C-5’s and carry on with the legacy TF39 engines which will save a ton of uneccessary spending. The TF39 is a great engine that has proven itself over and over. The main reason it was deemed unreliable is beacause of the many unrealistic maintenance demands the Air Force put on the engine over the years.

you are mistaken. i am a 14 year veteran of the Air Force.

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