PENTAGON: Two of the Air Force’s senior leaders argued today that fifth generation aircraft like the F-22 and the F-35 are needed for anti-access operations in what looked like a last-minute service effort to bolster the expensive systems before the 2013 budget is released.
Lt. Gen. Christopher Miller, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and programs, and Maj. Gen. Noel “Tom” Jones, director for operation capability requirements, told reporters that improving anti-aircraft missile systems require fifth-gen planes. The two senior Air Force leaders also referenced “anti-access” environments, a term which is closely associated with China and the AirSea Battle concept.
“Militaries have operated in anti-access environments probably since the beginning of time. But what is different, and why fifth-generation aircraft is relevant to that, is that operating in anti-access environments continues to become more complex and challenging,” Miller said. [Eds. note: all quotes are from an American Forces Press Service story about their remarks.]
Jones also noted that command-and-control systems have improved and require new countermeasures. “The fifth-generation capabilities that the F-22 and F-35 possess will allow us to deal with that environment,” he said.
Miller stressed the importance of the aircrafts’ importance to the “joint team,” a reminder that skies full of friendly aircraft are a key prerequisite for success on the ground and at sea.
Does all this mean that the Air Force is very worried the F-35 will face substantial cuts when Leon Panetta unveils the basic defense budget on Thursday? It’s hard to tell as the generals were largely repeating arguments already made by their superiors, Gen. Norton Schwartz, chief of staff, and Mike Donley, Secretary of the Air Force. But when generals make pitches like this to reporters, it’s usually for a reason.