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Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #425 on: May 20, 2019, 13:04:53 »
Would anything work for RCAF except prospect of good new fighters within, say, six years? Start of major piece, yet another by a serving American officer:

Quote
[USAF] Help Wanted: Experienced Fighter Pilots Apply Here

According to the Air Force, the military organization has a few job openings — over 2,000 — in the pilot department, especially if you have experience. In his three-part series, Mike Benitez does a wonderful job illustrating how the service got to this position and how the lack of experienced pilots degrades its lethality and disrupts its ability to replenish the force through basic pipeline training. A year after War on the Rocks published Benitez’s articles, I hope to offer a “front line” perspective as one of the pilots the Air Force is attempting to retain.

I am one year from being promoted to major. Eighteen months after that, I’ll be at the end of my service commitment. I have over 1500 hours flying, 300 of which are combat. I have been an instructor pilot for over two years, and I love my job. I am exactly the person the Air Force is attempting to retain, and they’re offering a $35,000 annual bonus for a three to 12 year commitment. Shouldn’t this be an easy decision? To continue the vocation I love with an employer that values my skills and is willing to pay me for them? Unfortunately, this is not the case because the active-duty Air Force has a messaging problem and an identity crisis.

We Want You (to Have No Control)

The Air Force is in desperate need of experienced pilots, especially fighter pilots. The RAND corporation has mathematically proven that the only way to ease the Air Force’s pilot shortage crisis is through the retention of experienced pilots. The failure of the Air Force to meet retention goals despite generous bonuses is well-documented in recent years. From my perspective, one of the main reasons pilots hesitate to sign these bonuses is the associated uncertainty. Once the commitment has been signed by the pilot, no guarantees are made by the Air Force regarding the member’s ability to remain in flying assignments or how long they and their family will live in a given location. Around the water cooler in the squadrons, the bonus is treated and talked about as a trap. The Air Force says that the organization needs experienced pilots, however the solution is not to bribe the pilots but rather to implement an appropriate policy. No one likes ambiguity, and the solution is making guarantees [emphasis added]. For a large percentage of fighter pilots, guaranteeing the ability to stay in flying assignments communicates that their skills are valued and would go a long way in convincing them to continue serving. Show you care and value them, their skills, and their families, and they will stay. As Capt. Danny Dees said, “in order to halt the present retention trend, we need to develop a sense of commitment . . . our rated force toward the service and conversely, the service toward our rated force.” This especially will be crucial if the force follows through with multiplying from 312 squadrons to 386, with seven additional fighter squadrons.

Who Am I?

Maj. Roger Garrett explains that the problem pilots face is that the “biggest measure of success in today’s Air Force is promotion.” As a fighter pilot, my biggest measure of long-term success is time in the jet. I don’t look at the chief of staff of the Air Force and wonder in awe how he did it or what his keys to career success were. I walk into the bar and find the oldest and meanest looking fighter pilot and ask him “how in the hell did you get so lucky? Tell me how I can fly for as long as you did!” The epitome of this ideal is Lt. Col. Rob “Sweetness” Sweet, a Desert Storm veteran and former prisoner of war who still flies A-10s in the 476th Fighter Group.

A survey conducted by an Air Command and Staff College student found,

    The dilemma perceived by pilots…is one of being forced to choose between two unacceptable alternatives: they can enhance promotability and job security by giving up what they enjoy and getting a staff or rated supplement job, or they can continue in rated duties and unnecessarily jeopardize their promotion opportunities.

The report continues:

    [M]any of the airline pilots, as well as Air Force pilots who plan to . . . [separate], indicated they would have remained in the Air Force if they were given an opportunity to spend a career performing flying duties and be equitably recognized for doing so.

These statements are not from 2019, but from a survey in 1979 during another pilot retention crisis. The time was different, but the problem is the same. The majority of men and women currently in cockpits joined the Air Force to do one thing — fly — and that should be ok. The time and dedication it takes to learn the job and continue to adapt to new tactics and threats is endless, challenging, and rewarding.

However, when I tell people that I only want to fly, the common response is that “you’re an officer first and you should want to lead.” What they perhaps don’t realize is that fighter pilots lead through execution...

Capt. William “Basher” Piepenbring is an A-10C instructor pilot. He currently serves as a line IP in the 25th fighter squadron Osan Air Base, Korea. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force.
https://warontherocks.com/2019/05/help-wanted-experienced-fighter-pilots-apply-here/

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Offline dapaterson

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #426 on: May 20, 2019, 13:14:27 »
Pilots want to fly.

That Air Forces around the world do not understand this speaks poorly of their institutional leadership.
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Offline Dimsum

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #427 on: May 20, 2019, 14:52:21 »
Pilots want to fly.

That Air Forces around the world do not understand this speaks poorly of their institutional leadership.

Yes.  And since Air Forces are led by and large by Pilots, one would think that they, of all people, would understand this. 

But then again, if they only let the Pilots fly and leave the "leading" to others, then Navigators would be the leaders, and no Pilot wants that to happen (again).    :rofl:
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline dapaterson

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #428 on: May 20, 2019, 14:54:10 »
I don't know; with advances in AI, letting GPS box command might be a marked improvement.
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Offline SupersonicMax

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #429 on: May 20, 2019, 17:10:46 »
There are two types of pilots:  those that do this for the flying and those that do this as a mean to progress in rank and position.  Those that do this for flying are your tactical leaders.  They lead in the execution.  Those wishing to progress in rank lead in the strategic planning.  Both have an important role.  The two groups don’t really understand each other (“Why wouldn’t everyone want to fly for life” and “Why wouldn’t everyone want to be he CDS one day”). That’s why pilots in senior leadership positions don’t necessarily understand and definitely not support the “flyer for life” concept.

Offline Good2Golf

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #430 on: May 20, 2019, 17:18:44 »
There are two types of pilots:  those that do this for the flying and those that do this as a mean to progress in rank and position.  Those that do this for flying are your tactical leaders.  They lead in the execution.  Those wishing to progress in rank lead in the strategic planning.  Both have an important role.  The two groups don’t really understand each other (“Why wouldn’t everyone want to fly for life” and “Why wouldn’t everyone want to be he CDS one day”). That’s why pilots in senior leadership positions don’t necessarily understand and definitely not support the “flyer for life” concept.

There are some notable exceptions to the ‘two types of pilots’ rule, although few and far between and one of them retiring last Friday doesn’t help their dwindling numbers.   Overall though, I agree with your postulate.

Regards
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Offline Dimsum

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #431 on: May 20, 2019, 20:14:04 »
There are two types of pilots:  those that do this for the flying and those that do this as a mean to progress in rank and position.  Those that do this for flying are your tactical leaders.  They lead in the execution.  Those wishing to progress in rank lead in the strategic planning.  Both have an important role.  The two groups don’t really understand each other (“Why wouldn’t everyone want to fly for life” and “Why wouldn’t everyone want to be he CDS one day”). That’s why pilots in senior leadership positions don’t necessarily understand and definitely not support the “flyer for life” concept.

Similar thing with ACSOs, although I think there's also a third type - the one who wants staff/educational opportunities more than "flying for life", but not necessarily command positions. 
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline tomahawk6

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #432 on: May 21, 2019, 08:54:26 »
IMO the limiting factor is the insistence that as you progress you must command either a flight,a squadron or a wing. I think allowing pilots to fly without being forced into a command position. I think the Israeli Air Force allows this. So you might have a Colonel piloting his aircraft commanded by a major who is squadron commander. Although with rank inflation a chronic problem that squadron commander might be a Colonel since wing commanders seem increasingly to be Brigadier Generals.

Offline SupersonicMax

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #433 on: May 21, 2019, 10:02:55 »
The only benefit on doing this would be increase in pay even as a professional flyer.  The “fly at all cost” folks don’t care about rank but do care about their bottom line.

Offline Loachman

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #434 on: May 21, 2019, 17:02:28 »
The failure of the Air Force to meet retention goals despite generous bonuses is well-documented in recent years. From my perspective, one of the main reasons pilots hesitate to sign these bonuses is the associated uncertainty. Once the commitment has been signed by the pilot, no guarantees are made by the Air Force regarding the member’s ability to remain in flying assignments or how long they and their family will live in a given location. Around the water cooler in the squadrons, the bonus is treated and talked about as a trap.

Bingo.

The CF "Pilot-Get-Well" programme of the late nineties had this same fatal flaw. I was one of those eligible for the full $75000 amount (others were eligible for $50000, and some for $00000). I'd also just reached my pensionable point. Who in their right mind would trade that freedom for such uncertainty?

Only one guy in 400 Squadron did, and he was planning to stay in until CRA regardless of what happened.

As it was to be paid in three annual chunks and not spread over the full period, much more than was necessary would have been lost to the taxman anyway.

Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #435 on: May 30, 2019, 12:41:00 »
USAF LCOL suggests mixed fleet of F-15EXs and #F-35As to replace F-15Cs (note homeland defence/NORAD role, some nice graphics in big piece):

Quote
F-15EX and F-35A: The Future of American Air Superiority
...
The optimal solution may include a mix of F-15EX and F-35A to replace the F-15C. This involves starting F-15EX procurement immediately to address F-15C readiness concerns and assess the viability of transitioning some, but not all, F-15C squadrons to the F-35A. If the assessment is positive, the Air Force could begin the 3–5-year transition cycle to build infrastructure supporting the F-35A and cross-train personnel at selected bases. Additional F-15EX and F-35A aircraft would then be purchased between 2025–2029 to complete the divestment of the aging F-15C fleet. While this will result in high procurement costs, the Air Force will return on its investment close to 2040 by divesting the F-15C and its high annual operating cost. The F-15EX will provide superior firepower and magazine capacity to complement the advantages of stealth provided by the F-35A and F-22. This option spreads procurement costs over several budget cycles, addresses readiness and capacity concerns, provides increased capability, allows time for F-35A basing to establish required infrastructure, and lowers annual operating costs by getting rid of 40-year-old fighters...

Brad Orgeron is a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.


https://warontherocks.com/2019/05/f-15ex-and-f-35a-the-future-of-american-air-superiority/

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Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #436 on: June 04, 2019, 16:26:05 »
B-1B blues:

Quote
B-1 Lancer readiness is in the toilet, here’s why

The state of the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B Lancer fleet is bad — really bad — and lawmakers on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee want the service to come up with a plan to fix the problem.

The United States’ long-range strike capabilities “may be placed at increased risk by aging structural problems with the B-1," according to the panel’s markup of HR 2500, the House’s version of the fiscal 2020 defense policy bill, released Monday. The Lancer isn’t getting the resources and attention necessary to improve its mission-capable rates.

The situation has gotten so bad, according to the subcommittee, that the number of B-1 aircraft that are fully mission-capable is now only in the single digits. What’s more, B-1 aircrew are being rerouted from flying the bomber to other aircraft, because there aren’t enough Lancers for their necessary training...The Air Force has 62 B-1 bombers. In fiscal 2017, the most recent year for which aircraft readiness data is available, the Air Force said that the Lancer’s mission-capable rate was 52.8 percent, meaning about 32 or 33 bombers were ready to fly at any given time.
https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/06/04/b-1-lancer-readiness-is-in-the-toilet-heres-why/

Earlier:

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USAF Upgrade, Service Life Programs Point To New Roles For B-1Bs

Nearly 18 years of almost continuous deployment as one of the world’s largest and most unlikely close air support aircraft have taken a toll on the U.S. Air Force’s B-1B bomber fleet.

...Air Force must first address the wear and tear imposed by the activity of the last two decades on the B-1B’s structures and engines, even as some experts call for reassessing the aircraft’s value in the event of a high-end conflict erupting before 2036, the fleet’s scheduled retirement date.

But the focus now is mainly on repairs. Starting in fiscal 2018, the Air Force began a program to extend the service life of the bomber fleet’s 289 GE Aviation F101 engines through 2040...
https://aviationweek.com/military-trainers-light-attack/usaf-upgrade-service-life-programs-point-new-roles-b-1bs

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« Last Edit: June 04, 2019, 18:57:03 by MarkOttawa »
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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #437 on: June 04, 2019, 18:33:06 »
I hope this will get top priority from the fighter mafia. Might as well do a full makeover which will be cheaper than a piece meal fix ie engines todat,wings and air frames later.

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #438 on: June 11, 2019, 15:48:50 »
Another major piece on F-15EX and F-35A--some excerpts, pity we don't see this sort of very detailed and quantitative public analysis in Canada.:

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The Wrong Fight Over Fighters: Understanding the F-15X Purchase

Since the March release of the 2020 defense budget, the Pentagon’s decision to purchase new F-15X fighters to replace geriatric F-15Cs has occupied a disproportionate share of defense coverage, analysis, and congressional attention. Confusion reigns, as initial explanations by the Pentagon, convinced almost no one and were often met with befuddlement because the Defense Department did not adequately explain the purchase to Congress. Why, seemingly out of the blue, the Pentagon was asking for more fourth-generation aircraft when then Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson had previously stated that achieving the proper mix of fighter aircraft meant buying stealthy fifth-generation planes, “not new fourth-generation aircraft.”

In the absence of a convincingly argued case for the F-15C replacement decision, the public debate devolved into a fight between Boeing’s F-15X, the modernized fourth-generation fighter, and Lockheed’s F-35A, the stealthy fifth-generation alternative. Framing the F-15X purchase as an either/or proposition vis a vis the F-35 makes for a compelling story but does not accurately capture the complexities of the case for replacing aging F-15Cs. Policymakers and observers have focused too often on comparing the capability and physical characteristics of each aircraft. In reality, Pentagon officials made the decision primarily based on mission requirements, short-term readiness concerns, and the long-term costs of operating the fighters.

Even so, because the comparison between F-15X and F-35A is shot through with uncertainties, the decision to purchase F-15Xs should be viewed as neither a slam-dunk nor a harebrained idea. However, the brouhaha over F-15X and F-35A distracts from far more important debates the nation should be having about the future of American airpower. The most valuable commodity in politics is time, not money—and the F-15C replacement debate represents a massive opportunity cost for an Air Force with nowhere near the capacity and capability to carry out its missions according to the National Defense Strategy.

“Out of the Blue”

The Pentagon proposes to buy 80 F-15Xs over the next five years, likely expanding to an eventual buy of 144 or more to “refresh” the F-15C/D fleet—and potentially the F-15E fleet down the road. The Air Force did not request these aircraft. Rather, the Pentagon’s independent cost-estimation shop—the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Office (CAPE)—ran its own analyses and eventually brought the Air Force around to its position, whether through convincing or by fiat. Either way, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis signed off on the decision...

Costs of Replacing the F-15Cs

The Air Force has long known that its 235 F-15C/D Eagle air superiority aircraft face the end of their service lives in the mid-2020s. Most of these aircraft serve in Air National Guard units conducting the homeland air defense mission, intercepting Russian military aircraft [emphasis added, i.e. NORAD] and civilian aircraft that stray where they shouldn’t...

The Air Force has long known that its 235 F-15C/D Eagle air superiority aircraft face the end of their service lives in the mid-2020s. Most of these aircraft serve in Air National Guard units conducting the homeland air defense mission, intercepting Russian military aircraft and civilian aircraft that stray where they shouldn’t.

As a baseline, the 30 year-old F15C fleet currently costs $42,000 per hour to operate, and that rate is growing quickly, which means that either the F-35A or the F-15X is cheaper to operate after about a decade. CAPE pegs new F-15X cost per flying hour at $27,000. Given extensive experience with the modern version of the F-15 airframe, those costs may be slightly higher or lower, but they are relatively well known. F-15Xs would enter service in the "mature phase" of the bathtub. In comparison, according to recent testimony by CAPE director Bob Daigle, the F-35A currently costs $44,000 per flying hour. However, the F-35A remains in the "immature phase" of the bathtub, and the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin plan to drive the cost per flying hour down to $34,000 per hour by 2024 and are shooting for $25,000 per hour by 2025, according to the head of the program. Achieving the ambitious goals for F-35A operating costs will not be easy. As the program head noted, “the 25 by 25 wasn’t generated by the program office nor by CAPE. It was a stretch goal given to us by our leadership.” And while the F-35 program has made steady progress on driving costs down, the F-35 still faces significant problems with spare parts availability, the Automated Logistics Information System, and depot-level maintenance.

If F-35 operating costs flatline at $34,000 in 2024, procuring F-15Xs instead of F-35A would save $1 billion by 2030 and about $3 billion by 2040. However, if the Air Force and Lockheed were to drive F-35A costs down to F-15X levels, there is almost no difference between the long-term business case for the two aircraft. In short, whether one assumes a worse or a better case for operating costs for the F-35, the “savings” in buying the F-15X rather than the F-35 is relatively minimal over the long haul in the grand scheme of the U.S. defense budget...

In addition to the relatively minimal differences in long-term operating costs, analysis shows that differences in initial costs don’t move the needle all between the options. The five-year upfront costs of both the F-15X and F-35A are remarkably similar. According to Air Force budget documents, the F-15X will cost an estimated $80 million per plane. F-35As currently cost $89 million a copy, and the Air Force will likely meet its near-term goal of $80 million a copy. Other upfront costs are also similar...

Reading between the lines—given the nearly identical procurement costs and the uncertainty about long-term operating costs—Pentagon officials placed an extremely high value on how quickly on the transition timeline for F-15C replacement options. Officials, including Gen. Goldfein and Secretary Wilson, noted the transition from F-15C to F-15X would likely be very smooth. As Goldfein sums it up: “it allows you to use the same hangars, same construction, same base, same operating equipment which is 90 percent common, same maintainers, same operators and no time and minimal cost to make a transition.”  In a May hearing, Air Force military procurement chief Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch testified, “the time to transition from an F-15C to an F-15X we estimate at three to six months, while the time to transition from an F-15C to an F-35 could be anywhere from 18 to 36 months and would require MILCON and other attributes that are not in the budget.”

The fact that transitioning squadrons from the F-15C to the F-35A could take from one to three years effectively erases Lockheed’s ability to deliver 80 aircraft slightly more quickly. Of course, 18 to 36 months is a vast range. Using the lower bound of 18 months, the delay to transition from F-15Cs to F-35As might be matched by Boeing’s slower F-15X delivery timeline. At the higher bound of 36 months, the transition could be delayed by years, worsening the existing readiness problem created by aging F-15Cs and tilting the near-term analysis of operating costs in favor of the F-15X.

Capabilities and Missions

... the mission of homeland air defense, which the F-15C replacement aircraft will perform, does not require a ton of eye-watering capability. As one defense official explained, this is a “mission set for which we do need the capabilities” of a tactical aircraft, “but for which we don’t need a penetrating aircraft that’s more expensive [emphasis added, i.e. NORAD].” And, even if there were a major conflict with Russia or China, it’s not the case that F-35s involved in homeland defense could be just added to the front-line force. In such a scenario, it’s unlikely the defense secretary or the joint chiefs would recommend (and the president accept) the idea of stripping fighter squadrons from homeland defense to send abroad. In this respect, arguments over the comparative capability of the F-35A and F-15X somewhat miss the point.

... The Air Force faces massive shortfalls in both the health and capability of its fighter fleet. Alongside the need for high-end capability, the Air Force simply needs more tactical aircraft immediately begin building a healthy force. As Air Combat Command chief Gen. Holmes mentioned, buying too few fighter aircraft per year means the Air Force will continue to pay ever-increasing amounts for smaller numbers of operational aircraft: “buying 48 F-35s a year will merely create a force, 30 years in the future, that averages 30 years of age per airplane.” General Goldfein has explained the exact same phenomenon: “[The F-15X buy] helps us to get at our target, which is 72 aircraft a year, which is what we need to be able to drive aircraft age from its current 28 average years to 15...

Rick Berger is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he works on the defense budget, the National Defense Authorization Act, military appropriations and acquisition reform, as well as on other national security budget-related issues. @bergerrichard
https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2019/06/11/the_wrong_fight_over_fighters_understanding_the_f-15x_purchase_114494.html

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Offline MarkOttawa

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #439 on: July 03, 2019, 14:56:02 »
Conclusion of a very interesting argument by serving USAF colonel on USAF fighters (F35A, F-15EX) and various capabilities required in various theatre against different opponent. Note also point that conventional ordnance delivered vs. China will hardly bring it to its knees, need to cut off its maritime trade:

Quote
Shapes, Part I: The Shape of Airpower
...
The Air Force has since adopted a target-centric worldview that treats hostile entities as if they are subject to a “first-ring” strategy that will magically cause enemies to capitulate when airpower is applied. That didn’t even work in Iraq the first time around. The Air Force’s use of precision weapons may have blinded it to the limits of airpower in affecting regime change — particularly against a regime that has proven remarkably resistant. If we think we’re going to bomb China into submission with precision weapons, we’re deluding ourselves. A modern country of China’s size and sophistication is simply not brought to its knees by any flavor of conventional war. Stalin’s Russia wasn’t. Churchill’s British Empire wasn’t. Chiang Kai-Shek’s China resisted a much more powerful Japan. Japan, Germany, and Italy succumbed to physical occupation of their territories and the destruction of their military forces — options not available against China.

That doesn’t mean there are no viable war-fighting strategies. As I’ve pointed out before, China is an island nation, and one with unfavorable geography to boot. We don’t think of it as an island nation, because it doesn’t have water all around it, but its terrain is forbidding. If China is to import necessary materials, export products, or project power that might threaten U.S. interests, it must do so in or over the maritime domain. The land routes are bedeviled with difficult terrain and a limited ability to haul goods — Shanghai can move more tonnage into its port in less than 60 days than all of China’s land routes move in a year. This dependence on maritime traffic opens the country up to a repeat of the counter-maritime strategy that ended Japan’s East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere in 1945 — provided the U.S. military has the proper forces to execute it. The way to deal with China realistically is to focus on limiting its ability to project power (which may be achievable) rather than seeking victory through strategic bombing (a pipe dream). That requires range and payload.

Of course, China is hardly the only adversary the Air Force should be prepared to fight, and the Pacific is not the only theater. Russia threatens U.S. interests, posing a powerful land-based threat to Europe and an emerging expeditionary threat elsewhere. Iran looms large over the Persian Gulf, posing the twin problem of long distances and a lack of friendly border countries for the most part. A nuclear-armed North Korea is still technically at war with South Korea, sitting atop some of the most rugged terrain in North Asia. And the violent extremist threat has in recent years required airpower employment in Africa and Southwest Asia. The prevalence of violent extremists combined with their widespread distribution means the end of the constant rotational presence that has devastated Air Force readiness is nowhere in sight. With a variety of challenges comes the need for a variety of response options.

The Shape of Airpower

As a smart investor relies on a diversified portfolio, so to must the airpower strategist rely on a diversified set of airpower options. The Air Force does actually do this when it comes to bombers: It currently has three models of bomber, with the B-2 optimized for stealth, the B-1 for heavy conventional loads, and the long-serving arsenal plane, the B-52, possessing unmatched — you guessed it — range and payload. We have the C-17, C-130, and C-5 all providing airlift. The KC-135, KC-46, and KC-10 refuel other aircraft in flight. The idea that the F-35 would replace the F-16 and A-10 (vastly different aircraft) was fanciful at the beginning, and it hasn’t gotten any more viable with age.

A procurement strategy that limits the Air Force to a single model of fighter denies the nation a diversified set of airpower capabilities and closes off the use of unique options against a major power. It almost seems as if the Air Force is stuck in the 1980s, when the Soviet threat loomed large over Europe, and the Chinese military was still focused on mass over technology. The long-awaited “pivot” to the Indo-Pacific region with airpower capabilities looks to be a repeat of the focus on irregular warfare required by simultaneous conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan — a focus that never actually came to fruition and instead resulted in a misuse of high-end airpower capabilities for low-intensity operations for more than two decades. A similar condition prevails today: Airpower capabilities designed for one theater and one adversary are applied where they do not fit, in defiance of historical evidence.

The Air Force needs to regain a diversified force, optimized for a variety of conflicts. This diverse force should acknowledge the nature of the most capable adversaries (Russia and China) and the widely differing geography that comes with each. The Air Force has belatedly realized that it should have bought more F-15s, and with the F-15EX, proposes to buy the most advanced variant of what is, inarguably, a world-class fighter. It’s a poor reflection on the state of discourse about airpower if it devolves into an argument of which fighter is “better.” Better for what? Where? Range and payload, baby.

Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions over 10 combat deployments. He is the last American aviator to reach 1000 hours operationally in the mighty Phantom II. As an irregular warfare operations officer, Col. Pietrucha has two additional combat deployments in the company of U.S. Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently assigned to Air Combat Command. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. Government.
https://warontherocks.com/2019/07/shapes-part-i-the-shape-of-airpower/

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #440 on: July 08, 2019, 13:35:11 »
Meanwhile in Israel:

Quote
Crunch Time For Israeli Air Force: F-15X Or F-35?
Last month, the defense ministry issued official inquiries into acquiring both aircraft -- but, for now, the budget can buy only one.

 Just like the US, Israel is wrestling with whether to buy Lockheed’s all-new, stealthy F-35s or the latest upgrade of Boeing’s long-serving F-15. But Israel must make this decision under extraordinary external and internal pressure. From without, it must conduct airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets in Syria amidst rising tensions with Iran. From within, it must find funding despite a growing budget deficit and an embattled Netanyahu government headed for its second general election in five months this September.

“A decision and an acquisition must start now,” an Israeli senior source told Breaking Defense. Ideally, the Israeli Air Force wants a squadron of each type, at $2.5 to $3 billion apiece. (In contrast to the debate in the US, the Israelis don’t see any significant difference in the two airplanes’ operations and maintenance costs). But practically, given the tight budget, the IAF has to choose which fighter to buy first and which to delay for several years.

Last month, the defense ministry issued official inquiries into acquiring both aircraft: a Request For Information (RFI) for the F-15X, which would count as a new acquisition, and a Price & Availability (P&A) request for the F-35I, since that would be adding more aircraft to an ongoing purchase. Israel has bought 50 F-35s to date and has long intended to buy 25 more; it operates some 25 older-model F-15I strike fighters.

The stealthy F-35 is better able to slip through advanced air defenses like the Russian-made S-300s now in Syria, but the F-15X can carry heavier bomb loads: 29,500 pounds for the F-15X versus 22,000 for the F-35 in a “beast mode” that gives up stealth. The F-35 has uniquely advanced electronics that enable to scout ahead and spot targets for other aircraft — such as F-15s — but the F-15X is more easily modified with Israeli equipment.

Israel has invested heavily in recent years in the battlefield networks required to share data between aircraft. While most of these systems are highly classified, one major example we can discuss is Rafael’s BNET. Rafael VP Yoav Wermuth described BNET as uniquely capable of autonomously managing congested radio spectrum to simultaneously handle large numbers of transmissions, process them, and merge them into a single wideband IP network with high data rates, many users, and minimal delays. BNET has been employed in recent exercises where F-35s transmitted large amounts of targeting data to other parts of the force.

    #Israel Air Force successfully used #Rampage for first time. Due to the danger of #Syria Air Defense Force's S-300PM-2s, #Israel Air Force had to use the rocket to target a rocket/ ballistic missile factory + weapon warehouses of #IRGC proxies in #Masyaf, #Syria on 13/04/2019: https://t.co/4YjD7ySZ5O

    — Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) April 14, 2019

Another home-made system of keen interest to the Israeli Air Force is the Rampage missile, reportedly used in recent strikes in Syria, where its long range allowed it to be launched from beyond the range of Syrian anti-aircraft systems, its combination of supersonic speed and maneuverability allows it to avoid being shot down, and its precision limits collateral damage [emphasis added]. The weapon was jointly developed by Israeli Military Industries (IMI) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). While the companies cannot confirm any combat use of Rampage, they did note the missile is well-suited to strike command posts, air bases, maintenance depots, and other targets defended by advanced anti-aircraft weapons.

“We need a heavy truck for these systems,” one source told Breaking Defense. That kind of thinking would favor the F-15X [emphasis added].

But another perspective favors the F-35 for its combination of stealth, sensors, and communications that allow it to gather and share intelligence, including targeting data, over networks such as BNET. “With the threats Israel faces, this capability is essential,” a source said.

A decision is expected by the new government to be formed after September’s elections.
https://breakingdefense.com/2019/07/crunch-time-for-israeli-air-force-f-15x-or-f-35/

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #441 on: September 09, 2019, 13:00:21 »
Lots more on the Century Bomber, note Pratt & Whitney Canada turbofan in running for new engines--what will our Liberals and lefties think of Canadian power for a nuclear-capable aircraft?

Quote
U.S. Air Force B-52 Upgrades Kick Off With Focus On Strong Early Start

A clear sign of the revived fortunes for the B-52H fleet is a sudden scheduling dilemma. As the U.S. Air Force juggles reengining, radar replacement and the integration of a host of advanced new weapons on the 60-year-old strategic bomber, finding enough aircraft to support flight testing and operational requirements has become an unexpected problem.

Prime contractor Boeing is trying to help the Air Force find a creative solution. A traditional approach would call for dedicating at least two B-52Hs to each upgrade project, but that would deprive operational squadrons of too many aircraft. The solution may be to combine tests from multiple projects on a single flight, but that requires orchestrating multiple technologies in development on different timelines and contracts, says Scot Oathout, Boeing’s bombers program director.

Source selection for new engines to open around year-end

Future defensive upgrades are considering crew size reduction

It is a scheduling challenge that would have seemed quite unlikely a few years ago. The Rand Corp. think tank in 2015 called for retiring the B-52H fleet as a cost-saving measure. But the Air Force moved in a different direction in 2018, choosing to retire the younger B-1 and B-2 fleets by 2040 and organize the bomber mission around future B-21s and B-52Hs.

The new commitment to operate the B-52H fleet through 2060 implied a heavy price for modernization. The B-52H’s age was underscored in June with a photo released by the Air Force of the captive-carry test of the Lockheed Martin AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW), a hypersonic boost-glide weapon [emphasis added]. Fifty years ago, the same B-52H launched the Lockheed D-21, a Mach 3.2 surveillance drone operated by the CIA until 1972.

So now the Air Force is catching up for lost time. Over the next decade, the B-52H fleet will be transformed with new sensors, engines and weapons. More upgrades are still under evaluation, including an avionics and defensive systems refresh that could further reduce the crew size to four from the current five. But the focus within the program is just getting through the next few years with so many overlapping upgrade schedules on the books...

The spotlight is on the B-52 reengining program. Boeing is on contract with three engine companies to complete a conceptual design for replacing all eight 1950s-era TF33s on each B-52H with turbofan engines, such as the GE Aviation CF34-10 or Passport, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 or Rolls-Royce BR725 [emphasis added]. The conceptual designs explore solutions to the complications of grafting a modern propulsion system onto a 1950s airframe. The complexities include the problem of shifting from a 1950s philosophy of mounting the engine to the wing pylon at the engine core, to the modern approach of attaching the engine at the fan section, says James Kroening, Boeing’s B-52 modernization program manager.

All three engine companies will complete the concept designs by around November, Kroening says. Once the design baselines are fully understood, Boeing will open the source selection process by year-end or in early 2020 for a single contractor to supply at least 608 engines.

...the Air Force plans to integrate several new weapons on the B-52H for prototyping demonstrations and as future munitions. The testing includes launching of the AGM-183A, the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon and the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept. The Air Force also plans to integrate the nuclear Long-Range Standoff Weapon, which remains in source selection [emphasis added].
https://aviationweek.com/combat-aircraft/us-air-force-b-52-upgrades-kick-focus-strong-early-start

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #442 on: September 16, 2019, 14:37:54 »
Boeing/Saab T-X trainer gets official name--crappy image, see at end of post:

Quote
Air Force announces newest Red Tail: ‘T-7A Red Hawk’


...
https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1960964/air-force-announces-newest-red-tail-t-7a-red-hawk/

Now this is the ticket:

Quote
Report says Boeing/Saab T-X trainer would make an ideal light fighter


...
https://combataircraft.keypublishing.com/2019/09/09/report-says-boeing-saab-t-x-trainer-would-make-an-ideal-light-fighter/

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #443 on: September 20, 2019, 15:25:07 »
World vs near-pear adversaries just keeps getting tougher:

Quote
OPINION: Can US Air Force keep pace with its ambitions?

Speed kills. To defeat a near-peer adversary such as China or Russia in a future conflict, the US Air Force (USAF) must operate at a pace that such nations will be unable to match.

As outlined by service leaders at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space & Cyber conference, the USAF must innovate rapidly and maintain a grueling tempo to keep its qualitative edge.

Some evidence of progress can be seen – Boeing’s newly rebadged T-7A Red Hawk was designed and flown for the T-X contest in double-quick-time thanks to its adoption of model-based engineering processes; and Raytheon’s proposed new Peregrine air-to-air missile draws on the company’s combat-proven weapons pedigree.

Equally clear, however, are the programme and contractual shortcomings afflicting the KC-46A tanker created from Boeing’s commercial 767. Eight months after making its first delivery and with four category one deficiencies still to be resolved, the airframer faces a challenge to win the confidence of a frustrated Air Mobility Command customer.

Perhaps the air force gathering’s biggest shock was a suggestion that some of its Boeing B-1B bombers might have to be retired early, due to unexpected stresses caused by flying the type under more benign conditions than the low-level, supersonic environment for which it was created.

Cutting the “Bone” could free up funds to grow the USAF’s future Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider fleet beyond 100 examples, but such reductions would be controversial. Could the service again face the kind of opposition seen when it unsuccessfully tried to retire its ground-attack stalwart the Fairchild Republic A-10?

The USAF’s leadership clearly have accelerating ambitions, but it remains to be seen whether the service’s budget and equipment plans will be able to match such a relentless pace.
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/opinion-can-us-air-force-keep-pace-with-its-ambitio-460997/

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #444 on: November 14, 2019, 13:45:00 »
Latest USAF thinking on arsenal plane--would be esp. useful to take on China at range:

Quote
Hypersonic Weapons, Battle Management Now Part of Arsenal Plane Discussions

The years-old idea of an “arsenal plane,” a flying munitions truck that could accompany fighter jets and unmanned aircraft into battle, is now adapting to include the Air Force’s new technology pursuits.

As the Air Force evolves its thinking on the prospect of an arsenal plane—whether that be an existing bomber like the B-52, a cargo plane like the C-130, or something else entirely—top service officials are acknowledging the need to consider hypersonic weapons and new ideas in battle management.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics, suggested at a Nov. 12 Defense Writers Group breakfast that the service’s bombers are evolving to fit the concept of an arsenal plane.

“If you look at our force going forward, a lot of the programs that we have are turning the bomber force into something else,” Roper said. “A B-52 with a lot of hypersonic weapons on it is, I will call it a bomber, but it's certainly not dropping things down—quite the opposite, right? It's almost a missileer instead of a bomber.”

Roper said he and Air Force Global Strike Command boss Gen. Timothy Ray have been moving through many reviews as the service works to put hypersonic weapons on the B-52. Global Strike is also exploring the idea of expanding the B-1’s weapons capacity from 24 to 40 munitions, according to an Air Force release, though the B-1 and B-2 are slated to retire in the coming decades, leaving the B-52 and the future B-21 to make up USAF’s bomber fleet.

In September, Ray told reporters the B-1 could carry hypersonic weapons on its external hard points and at least four internally, as well as ferry the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, its extended-range variant, and the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile.

“We’ve got to move from being the roving linebacker of the Middle Euphrates River Valley and [Regional Command North in Afghanistan] to being the roving linebacker of the North Atlantic and the Pacific—LRASM, JASSM-ER, hypersonics—and so we’re taking a very close look at how we might make that adjustment here very soon,” Ray said of bombers.

Ray told Air Force Magazine in a Nov. 13 interview that arsenal plane experiments will take place over the next few years, and will begin to tap into the broader, networked Advanced Battle Management System idea the service is pursuing.

“Some are are pretty sensitive, some are in the formative stage,” Ray said. “We're going to tie as aggressively as we can to where the air battle management, all-domain [command and control] experimentation game plan is going on for the United States Air Force, because you have to connect everything that shoots to this sensing and this kill chain grid that's under development.”

Roper indicated that what constitutes an arsenal plane may come down to how an aircraft is used, not only whether it offers a new design. That means planes outside the Air Force could fit the bill, too.

Can we think more broadly, about how an airplane carrying a lot of weapons can be looked at?” Roper said. “There are a lot of other systems that are currently in development, even some outside of the Air Force, that seem to make sense. ... We want to take a broad look at, how does the standoff bomber work in the contested environment in a way that's complementary with the stand-in B-21? [emphasis added]”
http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pages/2019/November%202019/Hypersonic-Weapons-Battle-Management-Now-Part-of-Arsenal-Plane-Discussions.aspx

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #445 on: November 17, 2019, 11:46:02 »
Conclusion of what I think is important piece on USAF's operational rather than strategic focus:
Quote
More Enablers, Less Effects: How the US Air Force Has Reshaped Its Way of Warfare
...
The primacy of information is not new; indeed, it is airpower’s most historic role, enabling ground forces to benefit from intelligence regarding troop movement in World War I. In this, the F-35 functions as a kind of vintage throwback. And there is nothing wrong with this. Indeed, what gets lost in many airpower discussions is that—removing technology from the equation—there is far more continuity than change in the domain’s history.

This continuity may include a return to mass, even after developments in precision capabilities had seemed to make this concept obsolete in the air domain. Likewise, [Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David] Goldfein may consider “attrition warfare” to be old-fashioned, but this assumption also could be a costly misstep.

Often, these kinds of discussions occur in a vacuum where the enemy does not get a vote and there is little real discussion of how one actually convinces the enemy to stop fighting by affecting will. Even in times of peace, discussions must begin and end with careful thought about how one translates kinetic and non-kinetic effects into enemy decision making. In other words, the strategic level of war must influence and dominate, not the operational level.

These are both very different views than the Air Force has taken since the interwar period, when it came to view bombardment as its primary contribution to the joint fight. Now, however, the joint fight, in Gen. Goldfein’s vision, centers around a relatively short-legged fighter with little kinetic capability that might struggle greatly in a cyber-aggressive environment. As such, the Air Force possibly has shifted multi-domain command and control to prominence for a number of reasons, including its desire to control information. Yet other services make reasonable claims to providing information, as well.

But, as Clausewitz reminds us, there is nothing that can cut through the fog of war, not even artificial intelligence, quantum computers, and the F-35. In World War I, airpower supplied the Army with information to affect the ground war. It is less certain what effect today’s quest for information results in with such a small current stable of aircraft.

The F-35 might be a game-changing enabler, but what effects is it enabling and how will those meet political objectives beyond destroying targets? Information, like air superiority, always has been a critical enabler. But the focus on information misses the connective tissue of warfare, that between one’s actions and one’s opponent’s reactions. Apps, networks, and even F-35s don’t win wars, they just enable us to have a fighting chance.

Heather Venable is an assistant professor of military and security studies at the US Air Command and Staff College and teaches in the Department of Airpower. She has written a forthcoming book entitled How the Few Became the Proud: Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874-1918...
https://mwi.usma.edu/enablers-less-effects-us-air-force-reshaped-way-warfare/

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #446 on: November 17, 2019, 21:05:40 »
Further to above post--in Iraq War I & II USAF did great deal to enable the success of US ground forces. But, since the US will not use large ground forces on China's territory, how does
air force (& USN) intend to make CCP in war accede to US political aims using only conventional weapons?

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #447 on: December 08, 2019, 11:41:06 »
More on USAF arsenal plane (aka "bomb truck") thinking, plus nuclear weapons command and control:

Quote
Ray Asks Roper To Explore “Bomb Truck” For Cheap Standoff Capability
"There is no significant game plan here," Ray said about the idea of a 'bomb truck.' "I just think, why not? You can't win if you don't play."

SANTA MONICA: Gen. Timothy Ray, Air Force Global Strike commander, says he has asked service Acquisition czar Will Roper to begin exploring development of a “bomb truck.”

“I think it would be a healthy excursion to go see if we can build a low cost, very simple bomb truck to increase our standoff weapons capacity,” Ray said. The idea would be  “leveraging existing technologies, instead of it being a full blown, highly integrated, stealthy platform.” Such a long-range standoff plane would be designed not just to be cheap, but also to have a short life cycle of around 10 years, Ray told the RAND West Coast Aerospace Forum here on Friday.

Ray said the idea is to bounce possible approaches off of what Roper is trying to do with the concept of a Digital Century Series: to rapidly churn out iterative versions of fighter jets every four or five years to be able to integrate new technologies are they become available.

“The question is what could be done if I wasn’t asking for something that I would fly for more than 10 years,” Ray said, “and to be a little bit more creative.”

“There is no significant game plan here,” Ray said. “I just think, why not? You can’t win if you don’t play.”

With regard to the future bomber force, Ray reiterated that “all the studies have told us that the number of bombers we require is somewhere north of 225.” But, he also stressed that it is not just the numbers that matter, but also the capabilities they bring and the connectivity they have. He added that the B-21 is his second highest priority in modernizing the nuclear arsenal, even though it will largely be carrying conventional weapons.

B-21 bomber

Ray also stressed the need for an overhaul of nuclear command and control (NC2) to make it more survivable and resilient — both as part of the overarching nuclear modernization plan and as an integrated part of multi-domain operations (MDO) and Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2).

“We’re chartered at Global Strike … to write what’s called a concept of force development for ‘NC2 over assured comms’,” Ray said. The concept development was approved by Gen. John Hyten before he left as head of Strategic Command to take up his new position as vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Ray noted.

“What you heard up here today on all domain C2, I’ll tell you, I absolutely see nuclear command and control in that conversation,” Ray said, “not as a separate kind of thing —  because of how fast technology is going and what it can do.”

Ray explained that the concept will develop “five or six vignettes, which should beget crisper conversations with industry; should beget prototyping and experimentation” in order to create the “the foundation for a more affordable version of an assured comms capability.”

He explained that the rest of the military is pursuing new technologies and ideas to assure communications at all levels, and the nuclear forces should not be left behind.

“We absolutely need to make sure we get our surfboard out as NC2 guy and catch that wave,” he said.
https://breakingdefense.com/2019/12/ray-asks-roper-to-explore-bomb-truck-for-cheap-standoff-capability/

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #448 on: January 23, 2020, 15:09:16 »
I just cannot see the money coming (further links at original); curious there in no mention of NORAD (and need for its modernization, e.g. North Warning System radars) and growing threat from Russian cruise missiles, both ALCMs and SLCMs:

Quote
Air Force Needs Fleet Able To Fight 2 Major Wars: CSBA
“Creating a more range-balanced, survivable, and lethal force will require a commitment by DoD and the Congress to significantly increase the Air Force’s annual budgets,” CSBA says.

To meet Chinese and Russian threats, the Air Force needs to increase and modernize its combat air power, including more use of advanced, long-range drones and force multipliers such as its nascent battle management, command and control (BMC2) system for multi-domain operations, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

In a study released today [Jan. 22], “Five Priorities For The Air Force’s Future Combat Air Force,” CSBA charts a course for the service to recover by 2035 from its current conundrum: an aging fleet with diminished force capacity and capabilities, trapped in a budget that continues to force choices between fleet sustainment and modernization.

The new study builds off an earlier CSBA report, mandated by Congress in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, on the Air Force’s future ability to meet the goals of the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) to ensure that the US military is able to take on peer power conflict. But CSBA now is arguing that the Air Force needs to build up a mixed manned/unmanned aircraft fleet and supporting infrastructure that can take on conflict with not just one peer power, but two at almost the same time.

While the study acknowledges that more money and people will be required, it does not offer cost estimates…

The upshot of the overall trend toward smaller procurement budgets, the study says, has been a much reduced fighter fleet facing increasingly lower readiness.

The bomber fleet has suffered in parallel. “The shortfall in the Air Force’s bomber force capacity has continued to grow over the last two decades, driven in part by force structure cuts, issues with force readiness, and a lack of modernization investment,” the study says.

Based on readiness rates in 2018, the last year included in the study, CSBA estimates the service currently has about 769 primary mission fighters ready for action, and “up to” 58 bombers ready to take off. This is out of a total inventory of 2,072 fighters and 157 bombers. (The readiness numbers for the fighter fleet may be slightly higher now due to an increased readiness rate for the F-35 in 2019.)

CSBA says the average age of Air Force fighters has “reached an unprecedented high of about 28 years,” and the average age of the bombers hovers at around 45 years. As often has been bemoaned by Will Roper, the service’s top buyer, this has led to increased costs and personnel resources to maintain the fleet.

A Way Ahead: Modernization, New Capabilities

CSBA sets out five priorities…

CSBA says that over the next two decades the Air Force “should accelerate the purchase of aircraft with next-generation stealth capabilities,” including B-21 bombers, F-35As, “a new multi-mission Penetrating Counterair/Penetrating Electronic Attack (PCA/PEA) aircraft,” and “penetrating” unmanned aerial vehicles carrying intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance payloads. The Air Force should also include “maintaining the survivability of the F-22 and procuring next-generation weapons, including a family of hypersonic weapons.”

Maintain the Air Force’s ability to generate combat power forward while dispersing to lower threat areas.

“Large scale Chinese Russia missile attacks on US theater airbases may not be the most significant threat to the CAF’s survivability,” Gunzinger said.

The future Air Force fleet should be “capable of supporting joint operations to deter or deny China or Russia the ability to achieve a fait accompli in these regions,” and at the same time be “able to generate strike sorties from bases located in areas that are at less risk of high-density missile attacks and generate counterair and other combat sorties from dispersed networks of closer in theater airbases.”

To enable this, DoD needs to “field higher capacity airbase defenses against large-scale air and missile attacks.” And the Air Force would require “additional resources and personnel end strength should it be given greater responsibility for the airbase defense mission.”..

Accelerate the development of Air Force next-generation force multipliers.

These include “next-generation hypersonic weapons, cruise missiles with counter-electronics high-powered microwave payloads capable of attacking multiple targets per weapon, advanced engines that will increase the range and mission endurance of CAF aircraft, and the datalinks needed to support multi-domain operations in contested environments.”..
https://breakingdefense.com/2020/01/air-force-needs-fleet-able-to-fight-2-major-wars-csba/

Good luck and all that.

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Re: USAF Woes
« Reply #449 on: January 29, 2020, 12:12:35 »
Conclusion of a very interesting argument by serving USAF colonel on USAF fighters (F35A, F-15EX) and various capabilities required in various theatre against different opponent. Note also point that conventional ordnance delivered vs. China will hardly bring it to its knees, need to cut off its maritime trade:

Mark
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USAF now officially moving to buy F-15EX after Congressional approval (further links at original):

Quote
The Air Force is officially picking up its first new F-15 in nearly 20 years

It's been nearly 20 years since the most recent F-15 fighter jet rolled off an assembly line for the U.S. Air Force, and the service is officially looking to add a fresh variant of the aircraft to its inventory.

On Tuesday [Jan. 28], a pair of twin pre-solicitation notices posted to the U.S. government's contract opportunities hub announced the Air Force's intent to procure both upgraded Boeing-made F-15EX fighters and fresh General Electric F110 jet engines associated with the new aircraft.

News of the solicitations was first reported by Aviation Week's Steve Trimble, who noted that the single-source notices mark "the first concrete steps to signing new orders and reviving U.S. F-15 procurement after a nearly 20-year hiatus."

The last year that Boeing produced an F-15 fighter for the Air Force was in 2004, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The acquisition of the F-15EX is specifically intended as "a refresh to the F-15C/D fleet and [to] augment the F-15E fleet," according to one of the pre-solicitation notices. Here are some of the aircraft's technical details and intended capabilities, as first reported by The War Zone way back in July 2018:
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The F-15X configuration is impressive as it includes a flat-panel glass cockpit, JHMCS II helmet mounted display (HMD), revised internal wing structure, fly-by-wire controls, APG-82 AESA radar, activation of outer wing stations one and nine, advanced mission computer, low-profile heads-up display, updated radio and satellite communications, the highly advanced Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) electronic warfare and electronic surveillance suite, Legion Pod-mounted infrared search and track system (IRST) and the list goes on.

With the help of the company's new AMBER missile carrying racks, the F-15X will be able to carry a whopping 22 air-to-air missiles during a single sortie. Alternatively, it could fly with eight air-to-air missiles and 28 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs), or up to seven 2,000 lb bombs and eight air-to-air missiles. We are talking crazy weapons hauling capabilities here. Keep in mind that the F-15C/D Eagle can carry eight air-to-air missiles currently, and the penultimate Eagle variant that is currently being built, the F-15SA, can carry a dozen.

The fiscal year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that President Donald Trump signed into law in December provided the Air Force with $1.1 billion to procure up to eight F-15EX aircraft, including two prototypes, ahead of testing by the service.

The aircraft's inclusion in the fiscal year 2020 defense budget wasn't easy: In September 2018, then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in September stated that the Air Force had no interest in picking up the fourth-generation F-15EX over additional fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

"We are currently 80 percent fourth-gen aircraft and 20 percent fifth-generation aircraft," Wilson told Defense News at the time. "In any of the fights that we have been asked to plan for, more fifth gen aircraft make a huge difference, and we think that getting to 50-50 means not buying new fourth-gen aircraft, it means continuing to increase the fifth generation."

After Wilson resigned in March 2019, the Air Force reversed course, proposing a buy of eight F-15EX aircraft rather than the Pentagon's original proposal of a dozen as a "short-term patch" to replace the service's aging fourth-generation F-15C fleet without cannibalizing spending for the F-35.

"We absolutely [are] adamant that the F-35 program, the program of record, absolutely stays on track and we don't take a dime out of the F-35," as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told the Senate Armed Services Committee the following April.
https://taskandpurpose.com/air-force-f-15ex-presoliciation-notices

Mark
Ottawa
Ça explique, mais ça n'excuse pas.