Heritage Flight Conference

As sequestration forces the Pentagon to consider truly transformative cuts to the U.S. military, the knives are coming out even more readily than usual in a town known for fierce infighting. Today’s budget environment has created an open season on traditional concepts of roles and missions. Service leaders have become far more vocal in warning about the potential of a 1970s-style hollowed out force, or the potential need to shed certain capabilities in order to protect core functions.

In part, the services are working in a vacuum created by the lack of strategic direction coming from the White House. The January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance was not strategic and failed to provide any practical guidance for responding to the key challenges facing U.S. core interests. As a result, a growing sense of ‘anything goes’ is pervading an increasingly hyperbolic defense discussion.

An extreme example of that is a piece by Robert Farley, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. Entitling his piece “America Does Not Need the Air Force,” Farley asserts that the U.S. Air Force was unnecessarily separated from the Army in 1947, that its core functions can be handled by both the Navy and the Army, and that its existence is an example of the worst form of redundancy in U.S. defense organization. Instead, it should be disbanded and rolled back into the ground forces, while letting the Navy keep its air arm.

This belief leads Farley to fundamentally misstate the core role of the Air Force. Farley sees it solely as a support force, providing reconnaissance, transport, and direct attack against enemy forces. He largely dismisses the role of strategic bombing, as well, which he believes the Air Force used to protect its bureaucratic existence in the 1950s and 1960s. Nor does Farley talk about the space, missile or ISR roles the Air Force plays. Yet it is in these realms that the Air Force provides indispensable capabilities that neither the Army nor the Navy can or will replicate, given their more limited core missions.

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To dismiss the particular demands of fighting in a new dimension (the sky and space) makes as little sense as to deny the importance of land and sea forces. Military innovation has always been about expanding capabilities. To argue that Army and Navy air arms performed well in World War II, and thus there is no need today for an independent Air Force is to ignore the vastly expanded global missions the U.S. military currently takes on. Indeed, only the Air Force provides a unique global capability for both steady-state and surge environments that makes possible the joint operations on which the Pentagon has become dependent.

Which other service could or would embrace two-thirds of the nuclear mission (bombers and missiles), or operate the satellites that provide the intelligence and communications ability and the airlift assets upon which all elements of the U.S. Government depend? Moreover, for even ‘traditional’ missions, it is inconceivable that the Army would develop and maintain a conventional bomber force that would be used when ground forces were not deployed, since it would not see such a capability as part of its core roles. Nor would the Navy field a significant amount of close air support planes to protect ground troops, when its primary mission for naval air has been the protection of the fleet and initial strikes at enemy beachheads. It is only the Air Force that can, and does, exploit the full range of possibilities of operating from the aerial realm to ensure the fulfillment of defense objectives. Splitting up that capability will not make the U.S. military more effective, but rather less so.

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Farley argues that the airpower “works best in conjunction with the application of land or sea force.” Indeed it does, but that is descriptive, not prescriptive, and certainly not an argument that a dedicated, globally spanning air arm is unneeded. As he notes, both the Army and Navy have become more integrated over time, yet still distinct. Same with the Air Force, which, when properly used, can deliver strategic and operational effects across the spectrum of enemy capabilities, not to mention provide public goods to the other services that they would not have the ability to invest in, such as global mobility or space.

Yet most importantly, Farley misses the two central reasons why the U.S. Air Force is not only needed, but is indispensable to American strength. The first is the precisely the idea of being a global power. The nature of ground forces means that they cannot act with speed, especially in the beginning stages of a conflict. Building up sufficient forces to undertake military operations can take months. Nor can the Navy have a ship in more than one place at one time. The Air Force is the only service that is globally positioned with a complete range of capabilities that can reach anywhere on earth in a matter of hours, with a mission set separate from mere support activities. Moreover, it can reach areas far inland where the Navy cannot go, and overseas in a way the Army is unable to. The Air Force has perfected the ability to bring relief supplies, peer into enemy territory, strike at key infrastructure, or control the skies anywhere in the world on command – all of which makes America the type of truly global power it is.

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Second, Farley misses the operational reality of today’s politics. The President’s Defense Strategic Guidance was a giant green light for increased airpower to uphold America’s global commitments and project power. Not for the foreseeable future will our country commit to sending tens of thousands of troops for extended land-based operations. The full range of airpower will increasingly be employed to shape the international environment, defuse crisis, and cap conflict. That cannot be done piecemeal; it can, however, be done flexibly and with the least loss of American life by the Air Force, in conjunction with the Navy and the support of the Army. Farley is right that it makes no sense simply to divide up the defense budget pie equally between the three main services. A better proportion would in fact give more money to the Air Force to expand its capabilities that underpin the operation of the joint force.

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The other services may indeed use their air arms to support their missions, but fulfilling the strategic objectives of the United States will depend ever more heavily on an independent Air Force that is able to exploit every advantage from the air domain, just as the Navy exploits every advantage from the sea. To expect global airpower without the Air Force is a fantasy, especially in today’s budget environment. If Mr. Farley wanted to be truly radical, he would have called for abolishing the Army and Navy’s air wings and folding them into the only airpower service that can make the full use of their ability.

Michael Auslin is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @michaelauslin.

 

Comments

  • PuzzlePalace

    “Nor would the Navy field a significant amount of close air support planes to protect ground troops, when its primary mission for naval air has been the protection of the fleet and initial strikes at enemy beachheads.”

    So when is the Air Force recapitalizing the A-10?

    • AF Vet

      PuzzlePalace, It’s happening now. The new F-35 has multiple roles, including among the, ground attack.

      • 2IDSGT

        In terms of real CAS capability, the only thing F-35 lacks is loiter-time. I’d prefer that at least some A-10s were replaced with a dedicated COIN platform.

      • TheMightyQ

        The F-35 is not a CAS aircraft. The A-10 is. This is just another example of the Air Force abandoning one of the few things it should really be dedicated to doing.

    • 2IDSGT

      Probably ~2030… if not later.

    • M&S

      >>
      So when is the Air Force recapitalizing the A-10?
      >>

      It actually began doing so over two decades ago, starting with the DS era LASTE effort which should have been the point which the airframe was introduced to service with.

      This was continued later in the 90s last with night vision improvements to the cockpit in support of Deny Flight over the Balkans as well as the various Hog Up structural refurbishment equivalents to the Falcon Up/CUPID efforts which basically led to a mix and match of airframe components, zero lifing of half the fleet in trade for retiring the other 50%.

      As maintainer organizations shifted through 2-3 companies (last I heard was Lockheed Owego but this was more than five years ago), each was contracted to ‘crack’ the airframe once to insert further survivability or maintainability improvements as the A-10 rescue effort more or less continued to parallel the F-16 CCIP program through the A-10A+ PE/IFFC programs.

      These integrated first the AAQ-28 LITENING and then the AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods, feeding brand new color MFDs and a UFC with a digital stores management and datalink system all being brought together in the primitive steamgauge cockpit. To provide intelligent datafeed to the four inboard pylons which became 1760B compatible with J-Weapons and the TF34 being recored to a flat-rate standard of approximately 8,900lbst.

      Somewhere in there, the ROVER visual datalink was added as the ATHS++ we had been hoping for since the late 1980s.

      Finally, (and again, my data is old) the fleet integrated the ALQ-213 Terma EWMS which supposedly includes a MAWS and various updates to the RWR to provide intelligent management of both the onboard EXCM and the new ‘Comet Pod’ which is likely the source of the MAWS/MLDS as well as Chemring cloud IRCM.

      I believe now the Next Big Deal is the APKWS rocket which will likely supplant the gun in all but the lowest of threat environments, simply because you get 1m rockets from longer slants with less DU into the MOUT environment.

      The resulting aircraft is a far cry from the aircraft which was invented solely to deny funding to the AAFSS of the 1970-75 period. But it is still archaic with limited endurance (no combat tanks) and very poor at-altitude performance (thick wings ride the stall margin and thrust loading provides less than 1,000fpm climb rates, it can literally take five minutes to climb out of a gun pass to reperch and as a FAC-A, the jet also lacks the radar to rapidly sort and manage aircraft coming into the target area.).

      That said, in AfG, the preferred CAS providers are still the Marines because their system works better in terms of:

      ……………………….Jet1…..

      ………..Jet2…………Enemy…………Jet 3

      …………..Friendly….Big Rock…….FAC-A F-18D

      …………………………..Jet 4…..

      Putting fast movers at the cardinal point four corners of offset orbits (at the edges of visual range) and letting the Friendly say we are 1,200m from The Big Rock on this bearing, relative to Bulls Eye to make the FSCL happen while the FAC puts everything ahead of the them into targetable lanes which can have jet after jet rolled in on it with smart or dumb ordnance, under designation mark from air or ground.

      No CFIT, no frat, no Fox Four. _Very Short_ target service intervals. Really rocks the enemy’s world in comparison to the much slower ‘overhead’ approach to the A-10 game.

      Now, how can you make this better?

      Efficiency, Cheapness, Legs.

      The preferred agency for CAS is the Marines. They take a lot of pride in that mission and they are constantly reviewing every lesson they learn to get it right/er. But the preferred platform is still the Predator/Reaper because it doesn’t go away 40 minutes later.

      Indeed, it can be there anything up to 24hrs earlier, looking for the ridge runner burning holes in the pavement or setting up an ambush. And it does all this on 1,000lbs for the MQ-1 and 4,000 for the MQ-9 (the A-10 runs about 10,500 internal).

      Drones are also the way you integrate el-cheapo ATGW as Hellfire/Griffin/GBU-12/38/49/54, multishot, weapons options which means that it can hit any target out there with high accuracy, in winds. Where the first round that arrives out of the blue tends to end the fight as the bad guys scatter like cockroaches under a flashlight.

      Still, it is very nice to have the rinse:repeat option and it is here that the MQ-9 in particular is competitive with any fixed wing platform out there in it’s ability to put numbered counts of guided rounds onto target from any heading offset point around it (AGM-114N/P have LOAL autopilots and can literally turn a circle to put the seeker on target).

      It A-UAVs have a single failing it is that they are so popular that they get called everywhere and it often takes them an 2-3hrs to get there. Add to this the lack of rough field as weather capability (we were replacing Predator ventral tails 2-3 times a month at one point in Iraq, trying to run them in gusty weather) which means that they cannot, by design, be deployed on Carriers and you have a real problem with First Responder capabilities unless the CIA is already in the region with prebuilt basing capabilities. A condition which is also becoming increasingly true if our actions in and around Mauretania etc. are anythign to go ‘buy’.

      The other thing to consider and it is the one thing which beanie proppers and tub jet communities have always got CAS-correct is this: One pair of eyes in cockpit. One pair out. At all times. It has worked since the days of the Laredo/Wolf and Owl FACs of SEA. And it continues to be the way forward in a radio+LDP intensive environment today, just ask any Night Attack D-Hornet Pilot/FAC team.

      Single-stick CAS is for idiots, no matter how much automation you have. Which should tell you a lot about the F-35.

      If we could get the Marines to admit they don’t need a 400nm, M=1.25 stealth strike fighter so much as a 2hr @ 150nm, 350 knot, CAS/Escort machine, we could bring into service an ESTOL asset which work off a 500ft PSP FOL runway within 5 minutes flying time of any needs-it-yesterday outpost, carrying the same Hellfire/APKWS/Griffin options todays A-UAVs use to really stack firing passes like a Skyraider.

      This would also have the _enormous_ benefit of compacting the Skid and Harrier forces into one platform force on gator freighters whose jets could then fly above the trashfire as deep as an MV-22 force needed to go STOMing with.

      On the other hand, if you want to do 15hr CAS _as a preemptive measure_ (watch the nasty boys pull up and setup the ambush, only to die tired when they are done) on the no-nearby-field end of a 750nm radius, then an A-47C is your next Predator.

      Just try convincing anyone in the USAF that either one of those two mission platforms is what an A-10 followon should look like however. Be prepared for spittle and belly laughs.

  • PolicyWonk

    Moreover, for even ‘traditional’ missions, it is inconceivable that the Army would develop and maintain a conventional bomber force that would be used when ground forces were not deployed, since it would not see such a capability as part of its core roles. Nor would the Navy field a significant amount of close air support planes to protect ground troops

    =============================
    It is “inconceivable” that the army would develop and maintain a bomber force? Inconceivable to who, exactly? It is the “Chair Force” and its “fighter mafia” that has been trying to rid itself of the A-10 – arguably the finest attack and ground support aircraft in history since before Gulf War I. And the navy is heavily integrated with the marines – who fly their own ground support planes because they never really trusted the “chair force” to do the job.

    Claiming the USAF is indispensable by insinuating the other service branches are blatantly incompetent isn’t very convincing. Rather these arguments are demonstrating a deep lack of respect, if not outright arrogance. And since when did the USAF ever proclaim their deep abiding love for the transport and logistical support role?

    The “chair force” has repeatedly demonstrated their displeasure with anything that isn’t sexy and fast – despite astonishing success.

    The severe gaps proclaimed by the author are all problems that are solvable, in absence of a dedicated Air Force. I would recommend this author find some better arguments.

    • Carney3

      We do need the USAF, but you’re right that we need the A-10 too, and we should let the Army have it and fly fixed wing aircraft if necessary.

    • M&S

      PW,

      >>
      It is “inconceivable” that the army would develop and maintain a bomber force? Inconceivable to who, exactly?
      >>

      I admit I kind’ve spewed peas from the nose when I read that one. A look through the 8th AF and General Curtis E. ‘Bomb Them Back To The Stone Age!’ Lemay’s WWII exploits over Japan rather argues against this, ahem, lack of historical understanding.

      As does the quiet reality that the per-round costs of ballistic and cruise missiles are vastly exceeded by the total-hours training requirements for maintaining currency in the manned airframe communities.

      >>
      It is the “Chair Force” and its “fighter mafia” that has been trying to rid itself of the A-10 – arguably the finest attack and ground support aircraft in history since before Gulf War I. And the navy is heavily integrated with the marines – who fly their own ground support planes because they never really trusted the “chair force” to do the job.
      >>

      This I disagree with. The A-10 was outdated when it was an AX glint in the eye of AMC at Wright Patterson as a means to mess with the Army’s AH-56 AAFSS program while staying within ‘the letter of the law’ on Key West. SA-7s over the HCMT basically proved this, back in 1969-70.

      Lacking Hellfire (though it was cleared along with the early four-rack launcher) or a decent all-weather/night Maverick (C was cancelled though it worked, D went back into R&D until 1986 when the window of vulnerability had long since slammed closed under the weight of Pershing II and Gryphon) the A-10 has always been a gun platform in a MANPADS world dominated by ever more capable SA-14/16 weapons systems which would have effectively denied it the lolo environment, no matter how many flares it popped.

      When it came to Bentwaters it had no INS, no Autopilot, no night-lighting, no TISL, no weapons delivery computer and no weather penetrating letdown or TFR (the A-7D had all of these plus another 100 knots on the clock as a BAI-or-CAS optioned provider). This in an environment where the AGM-65B often had such short lockon ranges, thanks to the murky humid air, that they overlapped the gun RMax at about 4,000ft.

      That gun has and continues to dominate the airplane’s design, despite it’s utter uselessness as purveyor of Depleted Uranium in the MOUT environment and fact that it is _still_ out ranged by the Chinese and Egyptian clones of the SA-18, complete with booster motors on the back.

      As of the middle 90s, it had most of the avionics it needed but still could not deliver precision ordnance while even today, with the PE program, it typically has 2+2 (Maverick as GBU-12) while the lowly Reaper can deliver anything up to 8 Hellfire or 4 Hellfire and two GBU-12/49 from twice the effective standoff without having to bring the nose under the horizon to put rounds on target.

      The A-10 is also a single stick cockpit which means that it needs a lot of expertise to be survivable and effective in FAC-A environment where it’s lack of radar and slow climbout makes it a tough platform to use in coordination with fast movers coming in from all altitudes as IPs.

      >>
      Claiming the USAF is indispensable by insinuating the other service branches are blatantly incompetent isn’t very convincing.
      >>

      I would suggest the opposite. The USN has dropped the better part of 200 billion (ATA/AX/AFX/FA-18EF/JSF) on failed replacements for the A-6 and the F-35C is just the latest jet to fail to match, let alone exceed, the Intruder’s rather simplistic bomb truck abilities in an environment where the next step is clearly a UCAV, because as the bombs get smaller and more precise, so does the need to loiter to find targets for them all tend to lean heavily on a tanker to provide continuing presence as JP-8.

      The Marines didn’t need STOVL when they had the Intruder, Hotrod and Rhino (no, not that one, the original Double Ugly) and often gave sterling support from PSP FOLs with nothing more than RATO packs. The F-35B is directly responsible for ruining the JSF program and nothing will make it able to ‘Jointly’ compete in a world of 1,000nm SOIs because SDLF fan plenum effectively removes half it’s range. Where a Tarawa looks just like a Ford to the average DF-21D, this is not an acceptable solution.

      The point being that none of the Airpower Services have any reason to exist separately from each other because ALL of them have gotten away from the missions that they need to do and into Tacair as a Keeping Up With Jones’ social statement on the budgetary funding block.

      The USAF is the logical answer to funding _the logistics_ of an air-as-environment force, simply because that leaves the Marines to run the Army lean and the Navy with sufficient funds to stop buying oversized yachts and get back into the business of keeping real hulls in the water and out of the repair dock.

      The key is to make the services realize that the next step down is to a 500-700 aircraft force where, if a carrier goes empty because there are only 300 CVTOL capable jets in the tacair community, then the USN is gonna fight one deck short.

      Once you make them understand that ‘joint means common’ you will start to see real improvements in the spec’ing of capabilities as to what that means.

      >>
      Rather these arguments are demonstrating a deep lack of respect, if not outright arrogance. And since when did the USAF ever proclaim their deep abiding love for the transport and logistical support role?
      >>

      They bear the weight. Grudgingly perhaps but well.
      Which is to say that the USAF has always had a big boy attitude towards funding projects, long term, that result in relatively clean balances between accounts receivable and accounts payable for the kinds of capabilities they need, in a rotating funding structure. This makes a lot of simple sense when you think about it because the USAF is paying pennies on the dollar for milcon as base maintenance compared to what the USN and USMC _must do_ with their other-mission conflicting requirements to keep their floating bases from rusting and the Marines able to go ashore.

      USAF is the Air Centric because that is virtually all that they do. And for those elitists who are attracted to that kind of Aim High environment, there is a streamlining effect that says: “This and only this is what we do.”

      The fact that they accommodate a range of C-A-F-B missions shows that they have a good handle on their budgeting compared to the other services.

      >>
      The “chair force” has repeatedly demonstrated their displeasure with anything that isn’t sexy and fast – despite astonishing success.
      >>

      The Chair Force are the drone operators out at Creech and Holloman. There are a lot of Marines and Grunts who would willingly walk into the Officers Club at Fallon or Twenty Nine Palms and offer to buy any ‘real pilot’ a round, if only he would hold up his donut box.

      This is because blowtorch CAS is basically a fast ambulance once the lead starts flying. Even a missile like Spike is just another area fire if the threat is unobserved. But to a man or woman sitting in a booth back in Vegas who spends 12 hours watching goats copulate for the ONE CHANCE that a bunch of Very Bad Men might try and walk up on a sleeping patrol in the field it is the chance to play night watchman and ring that bell while the enemy are still far enough out to be proactive.
      And soldiers respect that enough that their first call in the LRRP is for drones overhead. First. Foremost. Always.

      Most infantry don’t like to think of themselves as having no alternative but to be dependent on airpower. They can handle most fights with organic fires. But what they need is leverage to get the enemy in their sights, preemptively, so that it doesn’t become desultory, random, attrition by hail of bullets.

      We need to remember that in a world where fast jets cost 30,000 dollars per flying hour and we simply can’t afford to keep a couple dozen CAS stacks in constant orbit at various points around the country like we can A-UAVs.

      >>
      The severe gaps proclaimed by the author are all problems that are solvable, in absence of a dedicated Air Force. I would recommend this author find some better arguments.
      >>

      My prescription: keep two, lose two.

      F-22/F-15/F-16/A-10.

      The Falcon can do part of the F-15 mission, better (more survivably, with HARM and HTS) than the Eagle can, covering for what the Raptor cannot. The F-16 can also do the A-10 mission, though not as well, almost as well, now that APKWS is here. The F-16 line is also still hot, at least through TUSAS, to keep supplying late-block models to lower the fleet lives.
      F-22 and F-16 it is.

      Trident/Minuteman/B-2/B-1B/B-52.

      Here you might consider dropping half each of the missile forces as ‘one’ and keeping one of three bombers. The B-2 is a figurehead force but it does work for FNOW in a limited sortie generation sense and it’s single-wing maintenance is no higher than it’s manning ratio for once a month training. The B-1B is a Redball Express maintenance nightmare and the B-52 is a dinosaur whose sole qualification appears to be the HSABs as Cruise Carrier and it’s ability to keep the entire depot at Tinker in work for PDM. So.
      1,000 AGM-158B for the Batwing and 150 Minutemen plus 5 Tridents. The rest go. I’d also like to see a successor to the SRAM as front-end techbase transition to a RATTLRS or ARRMD for naval VLS but that’s just me.

      F/A-18E/F/Harrier/Hornet/FA-XX/F-35/A-47 UCLASS/CAS Restart

      If the Marines love STOVL so much, they should prove it by ditching the Hornet altogether. Since the USMC is also the USN RAG, that means that the USMC needs to cut it’s squadron count in half and send those aviators to the Squids.
      The F/A-XX has to cost less than 70 million for less than 200 airframes as a door kicker similar to the F/A-22 (10 jets per boat) and the F-35 can be either a C or a B but not both. F/A-XX or F-35, not both.
      A-47 is a wet noodle the USN is using it solely to flog the USAF into being second chair on F/A-XX so that they can have their own wonder jet ATF, twenty years later. IMO, it’s not doable, fiscally and it will not matter as the USAF will tell them to get stuffed because there will never be another 1,000+, three air, service expression of tactical airpower.
      The costs keep going up, the threat keeps going up and the targets keep getting deeper. The next step for regional airpower is hypersonics and the USAF knows it.
      The CAS Rethink is the Harrier Replacement if the USMC is actually that stupid (because the AV-8B is becoming unmaintainable as well as lethal to pilots).
      The F/A-18E/F is the generic bomb truck with an up-to-date AESA and wired cockpits. You will still need to invest another 10-20 billion in it as advanced munitions to keep the Hornet viable against other 4Gen fighters (T3, GBU-53/B, boosted and/or JAGM at a minimum).

      Since the USN and USMC effectively signed their own death warrants as independent services when they screwed the USAF in their shotgun wedding TAMP (which, even back in 2001, was showing half the promised JSF purchases and so left the Blue Suiters holding the check for a jet that was less than the F-22 they gave up to get it), they should be allowed to wrangle this too-many-solutions-for-the-question mess out on their own.
      My only real advice here is that minidecks are as inadequate for the longrange STOM missions as they are for projecting power overland. Such was proven off of 2001 Afghanistan when they swing-roled the Battle Cat into use as a SOCOM platform because it could bring a C-130 aboard to drop off and pick up troops.
      Nothing has changed since then and it is better to have a working carrier force than a bunch of half baked gator freighter wannabes as ‘thru deck cruisers’. This is not the Falklands and the Chinese are not Argentinians.

      I expect it may come down to the USMC manning up and losing STOVL as service independence with fighters in trade for a souped up CAS machine, later on. This will kill the F-35 outright and leave the USN to choose between more Super Hornets with a new engine. Or a silver bullet force of F/A-XX.
      As the USAF flies on by at 200K and Mach 10 with hypersonics out of Midway.

      CONCLUSION:
      Do as I have said here and elsewhere and the USAF will be the exclusive -providers- (logistically by program account) for airpower, delivering mission vehicles designed by an outside agency as trained aviator pipes able to use them in a contractor-provided manner to the user forces which revert to their own force specialties.
      Fail to force the neck-down as environment-not-mission division of funding and watch the little children slice each other’s ACLs to protect their pet missions so that nobody gets a decent force capability in the longer term and the U.S. loses status to 2nd rate wannabe in a very dangerous world, run by Chinese merchants.

      • TheMightyQ

        M&S, your arguments seem sound, but I can’t read them through the acronyms. Please spell them out.

      • Raebirth

        Jargon much?

    • Jeff

      It’s funny that the Army loves the A-10 so much, the Army wanted to kill the A-10 during development so the they could get a weird helo called the AH-56.

  • Guest

    The Air Force worked to undermine Robert Gates push towards UAVs back in 2008. The U.S. AIr Force had to be pushed by Eisenhower to develop ICBMs. The US Air Force then did its best to undermine US Army nuclear weapons development ["Which other service could or would embrace two-thirds of the nuclear mission (bombers and missiles)" clearly the Army would have, and the Air Force certainly didn't want to until budgets became an issue].

    Even today, the U.S. Air Force is getting rid of the A-10 a wonderful weapon system that will be replaced by the much less able (when if comes to ground support) F-35.

    Perhaps there is a need for the Air Force. However, the over-the-top cheer leading in this article doesn’t inspire much confidence.

    • Carney3

      You’re right that we need to keep the A-10. If the pointy-nosed, cool looking aircraft lovers at the USAF don’t want it, give it to the Army and repeal the Army’s ban on using fixed-wing aircraft. That’ll teach ‘em.

      That said, we do need an Air Force. We need strategic bombers and ICBMs as part of our strategic triad, and the article had other good points too.

  • johnwerneken

    If our people won’t support and our government won’t send boots on the ground, nothing air power can do will make much difference. See Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, and two world wars. Of course air power is crucial, and yes it does involve major missions that are NOT in support of troops or ships.

    But troops and ships are in support of national policy, need air power in support, and there is no logical reason, particularly as most uses of air and space power ARE support missions, not to let the army and navy handle the air.

    The LOGICAL reasons for multiple services are two: (1) deter coup d’état and (2) provide competition in military thinking and practice.

    The solidity of the American regime is a major component of American military power and military leaders know it. The coup protection really comes from the loyalty of the non-commissioned officers to the populace from which they come: certainly something that may comfort Black Americans concerned about outbursts of racism.

    As to competition, in theory this makes sense, and also in most fields in practice. But I do not support the concept of inter-service rivalry obstructing national command authority decisions or endangering the success and safety of our military personnel.

    BTW Dad was a decorated B-17 pilot in WWII; I have nothing against airmen, quite the opposite in fact!

    • M&S

      >>
      If our people won’t support and our government won’t send boots on the ground, nothing air power can do will make much difference.
      >>

      I agree, in principle, that we should be as leery of ‘safe’ wars as those which we are not willing to bleed over, as we are of economic bryar patches where we jump in to save the world from itself and come away scratched and without oil.

      >>
      See Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea, and two world wars. Of course air power is crucial, and yes it does involve major missions that are NOT in support of troops or ships.
      >>

      Iraq failed because we turned over the control of the government to a bunch of ethno terrorists with major genocidal axes to grind out of sheer embarrassment at not find WMD.
      Had we gone in with the explicit understanding that no terrorist was going to keep us from getting our man as Saddam Hussein and _stayed_ to pay the war debt with a permanent presence on the OPEC pricing committee, courtesy of Iraq’s 120 billion barrel reserves, things would have been much different.
      Not least because Shinseki’s advice about going in max-man power and holding the enemy in lockdown condition would have been taken seriously. And we would have developed the A-45 instead of the MQ-1 as a fast-loitering asset to cover much greater areas of terrain with the same persistent optical presence effect. The F-35 having been the sacrificial goat instead.
      North Vietnam had a series of coffer type dams above her rice fields that, if blown, as SAC was turned loose over Hanoi and the USN mined Haiphong walkable at the same time we let ARVN off the leash and over the DMZ, would have ended the war in 1968. Tet was a great chance to prove Kronkite wrong. That we essentially fought and defeated the VPAF, three times, shows you how wrong our tactics were when we had a ready-made nationalist force set to go and just had to bomb the targets they found for us.
      Korea was another era with tactical air forces just learning about all weather radar night attack and you know what? We did pretty damn good for an adhoc expeditionary Air Power whose B-29s were short parts with half trained crews and whose tacair community had little or no knowledge of flying in CAS in Arctic Conditions. Again, we won that war. Only to refight it, with the Chinese. I think we could have won it again if we had not been more worried about Russian A-Bombs and the need to generate B-29 sorties for that mission than we were about frontal support to drive the Chinese from the hills.
      WWII is a case of deliberate mistargeting. Had we struck German electrical generation/transformation facilities with 10-20 ton brass winding turbogenerators, The Reich would have gone dark in six weeks and the war been over in six months. The same can be said about oil and transport. What’s more, you can do it with light and medium bombers using skipbomb and parafrag as lolo laydown tactics which are SURE to hit the target with the first or second as opposed to 800th and 1,299th weapons.
      Look at the idiocy of Torch vs. Zitadelle. Hitler had to bloody the Russian’s noses somewhere, just to stabilize his front. I’ll be switched if I know why we needed Africa. Especially when it’s going to end in a mountain campaign up the spine of Italy and a BIGGER Mountain Range called The Alps. Given we knew the OOB for Kursk before we left for Morocco, given that the Germans had nothing on the the ‘Atlantik Wall’ and photorecce proved it. Why didn’t we divide the 8th up into BAI four ship cells and start bombing from 10-12K where the Norden worked in support of an invasion? We could have had half of France back before the Germans could get a single panzer division on-rail and headed back West.
      Or take it farther back. The British sank 10% of the invasion fleet of /barges/ at the cost of 30% of their Bomber Command to flak and fighters Hampdens, Hendon, Wellingtons and Blenheims _do not_ a strategic bombardment capability make. Unless they trade up for enemy bombers of like value.
      No air superiority over Britain = No invasion. Lost Air Superiority = certain invasion. No matter how many matchstick landing craft you blow up, they are coming.
      We lost 15,000 men in the PI (and 60,000 by war’s end to maltreatment and in-rescue) because we refused to see that, in a world where islands were transport node hubs, the lanes inbetween were rife for bombing, mining and torpedoing threats we didn’t have to hold land bases to reach.
      And ‘nothing airpower can do’ is a bad faith representation of what a B-2 with B83s can do to keep Pyongyang honest while the ROKs kick the snot out of them outside Seoul. With tacair.
      Airpower can win wars if you let it. Because it can make it impossible for the enemy to continue an advance or to resupply what they hold.
      Anyone who thinks that we needed an entire Armored Corps to recapture the majority of Iraq’s troops in 1991 or 2003 wasn’t seeing the same bedraggled souls I was. Air did that. Not Abrams.

      • TheMightyQ

        Sorry, I don’t buy your argument that airpower could have won previous wars if only we hit better targets. It is another poor promise of air power advocates as far back as Douhet, and it has been wrong the entire time. Read, among other things, Fehrenback – This Kind of War. That is not to say that air power couldn’t have been used more effectively, but there is no conflict that air power alone can decide. And if you want to use Operation Allied Force as an example, I would counter that Milosevic only conceded after Russia withdrew its support, which was more diplomatic wrangling than anything.

        Secondly, if the atomic bombs didn’t cause Japan to surrender,(http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/05/29/the_bomb_didnt_beat_japan_nuclear_world_war_ii) I doubt they would have much of an effect on Pyongyang’s leadership.

  • TheMightyQ

    “…the Air Force, which, when properly used, can deliver strategic and
    operational effects across the spectrum of enemy capabilities.” This is the same tripe the Air Force has been spewing for its entire history, and it has been wrong the entire time. There is no such thing as strategic bombing. The mission the Air Force should really focus on, close air support, it eschews. At no point in this article does the author actually back up any of his assertions with fact or historical example. He needs to pull his head out of the clouds, come back to earth and deal with the reality that the Air Force provides nothing that couldn’t be taken over by another service.

    • chimmy on down nah

      Capabilities by other armed forces are reduced for a reason, just as the AF has its own limitations. Pick up a history book and do a little research.

  • Sam

    Lots of ignorance in these comments, but I’ll start with policywonk: do you find it hypocritical that you accuse the USAF of disrespecting other services while simultaneously calling it the “chair force?”

    For those arguing the USAF is only a support function, what about GPS constellation maintenance? What about all the national level strategic decisions made utilizing ISR from U-2s? What about the humanitarian support missions capable using our massive fleet of C-17s? Don’t forget the indispensable data provided by WC-130 storm chasers prior to any domestic hurricane. For that matter, what about the reserve and guard C-130s doing domestic fire fighting missions? Do you think AFSOC would be,successful if it were part of the army? What about when those specialized assets are needed to support users other than army? That’s a short list off the top of my head; bottom line is the USAF is a critical service that does a lot more than simply support the army with CAS.

    air/space, sea and land are three separate spheres and we need a military capable of specialized operations in each theater. The AF originally split from the army because the ground centric army priorities weren’t optimizing air assets to the detriment of the mission. What has changed lately to alter that original logic? Why not be honest with your opinions and advocate for one singular giant DoD force? After all, the navy just supports the army, right?

    • M&S

      The USAF was created in the cold hard light of an atomic dawn that said that WMD were the only real war winners and we could not count on the USN or USAr to get to a region and invest billions in base buildup before a nuclear resolution to the local or strateigic conflict made it all pointless.

      Read _Fifteen Minutes_, it goes into the start truths about generating a warfighter from a 48hr to a 6hr to a 2hr to a 20 minute force and it was not pretty. Nor was the reaction to SEA and the Russian SLBMs which forced the shift to 5 minute ICBMs.

      Indeed, part of the reason the article photo is indeed a description of block obsolescence is that none of those jets can land on a carrier. Which invites the very systems which obsolesced bomber airpower (ballistic missiles) in the late 50s to also remove access to regions by tactical airframes, _in non nuclear warfare conditions_ by preventing base-in to limited runways.

      I am one of those who sees the USAF as indeed being largely an administrative and logistics agency for airpower with the scalar eficiencies to do the airpower job very well. I have _no problem_ with that approach as it institutionalizes a lot of lessons-learned capabilities as well as the money to keep them fresh without replication elsewhere. But also an agency which has repeatedly attacked UCAVs as the one way to generate affordable airpower, solely to sustain their ‘core force’ of aviators as a manned force labor union.

      Comparatively, I look at the USN and I see the repeated failures of the A-6F/G, A-12, F-14D, AX and A/FX, F/A-18E/F and now the F-35C as driving them towards UCAVs along a path of ‘making the right choice after failing every other’. In the process, their budgetary waste has doomed the other services existing (ATF and Harrier/Hornet Remans) and future (CALF/MRF and ASTOVL) efforts to being conjoined with their own, persistent, need for an A-6 followon.

      Leaving us with the bloated zombie that is ‘none of the above’ yet remains unkillable as the JSF.

      I look askance at the Marines as a service trying to ‘buy in’ to airpower to ensure their own largely amphibious groundforce capabilities are not budgetarily obsolesced by bouncing up and down like little kids screaming ‘They’re an Air Force too!’

      A STOVL one.

      When, without a shadow of a doubt, the STOVL requirement is what has ruined the F-35 and also rendered the entire USMC mini-deck effort to compete with Navy big decks worthless for the simple reason that 400nm SOIs don’t equate to 1,000nm ones.

      Just as they did not in The Falklands where STOVL restrictions made ‘beachhead’ air superiority or CAS utterly laughable in both munitions carried and loiter time on station compared to the terrific danger of Exocet firing SUE shooting at Carriers brought inshore because the SHARs incredibly short legs.

      And the do not today when the missile is a 1,500nm DF-21 ASBM targeted by OTH-B radar and satellites.

      And it’s just going to get worse.

      The question then becomes whether -any service- in the Department Of Defense can be entrusted to more than day to day management of their expressed capabilities sets because they have clearly suffered institutional parochialism which has hardened the arteries of innovation.

      I would offer an alternative similar to the TsAGI approach or that of the British Defense Council wherein you set each branch to controlling for all assets under a dedicated environment as much as mission set, to include training and logistics. But retain fundamental force structure design and capabilities management outside The Five Wall Asylum. Using a system of ex-military SMEs to integrate total force modalities in an expressed mix of missile/air/land capabilities relevant to a spread of missions that include a lot of OOTW conditioned (low cost) capabilities.

      If this nation can only afford 500-700 total tacair airframes, it had better make sure that EVERY JET IS A PLAYER. Whether facing a land or seabased mission set. And if that means keeping one squadron carqualled then you do it. If it means that that carqual is robotic via JPALS then you do that too.

      Which is where airpower niches in as block deployment capability (Pallets for Type A/B/C mission days) to Naval hull designs. As Marine close-CAS and airmobile escorts.

      So that nobody gets shortchanged a mission that they need. But someone _other than another service_ (as JCS backroom bargaining) sets how much capability that platform as mission has to include.

      When you have so many spoiled children who refuse to make sensible, easy, airpower choices, it’s the only way forward.

      If there is one thing we need to be wary of, it is this- DEWS are coming folks.
      In another 20 years, if you don’t have deflector shields, you’re not gonna wanna be flying higher than the horizon line of your own airspace. Because it’s gonna be a crap shoot as to whether someone sees you and bounces a laser through a series of reflectors with enough intensity as accuracy to turn you into flaming torch flying formation with the pieces of your airplane.

    • PolicyWonk

      Ok – I’ll admit I shouldn’t have traded obvious insults from the author with another – however – the article itself all but called the other service branches incompetent.
      The USAF has never gone to the trouble to hide its contempt for logistical support (transport) and ground support missions (missions the army would no doubt be happy to take on), yet refused to allow the army to own fixed wing aircraft until larger UAVs such as the Reaper and Predator became available.
      The USAF didn’t care about them, until these UAVs became so popular and effective with the other service branches, that then they soon tried to take
      complete control over all of them (which failed miserably). As I pointed out previously – the USAF has never gone to much trouble to hide its lack of respect for anything that isn’t fast and sexy.
      I also make the point that the other service functions (GPS maintenance, ISR, etc.), that the air force covers are not unsolvable problems (i.e. they can be moved elsewhere), and you’re apparently assuming no one else is capable in support of the authors opinion (and I think you’re both wrong).
      But the supposition on your part w/r/t that all we should have is one service branch is taking things to yet another extreme – and that’s your assumption perhaps – but not mine.
      If the USAF is to survive, it should be dissected and/or have its charter changed to move ground support and air transport missions moved back to the army (as a start). Whether the other missions its supposed to fill remain with them or are moved to another branch or other part of the government is a different discussion altogether.

  • Sam

    Final comment: if you want to argue against government waste and redundancy, lets disband the marines. Is there anything unique they bring to the fight that couldn’t be absorbed by another service?

    To themightyQ: here are some real world examples of USAF relevancy– Haiti, Japan, Mozambique, Pakistan, Iran, turkey and the entire Indian Ocean rim post tsunami, all disasters the US was able to instantly respond to using USAF. the entire Libyan air strike campaign, OSW, ONW post gulf war, worldwide monitoring of atmospheric particles and nuclear watch, satellite launch support and C2… Speaking of support did you know the entire scientific mission in the South Pole is supported by the USAF? Get a clue man. Gulf war 1 ground war was so short for the army because the USAF had been destroying the enemy for months.

    These posts are just filled with uninformed opinions.

    • TheMightyQ

      Sam: The USMC provides a sea-borne infantry which provides operational mobility not achievable my any other mode. It also adds additional shock-troop value in places in which the US Army has stagnated (ex: Ramadi) If we wanted to get rid of the Marine Corps, we would just have to make one out of the Army, so getting rid of it is nonsensical.

      Secondly, in the vast majority of the HA/DR situations you listed, the Navy did the bulk of the heavy lifting. Go speak with a logistician regarding moving people/parts/gear/stuff by way of air or water. There is a reason that 90% of international trade travels by sea. (http://www.imo.org/KnowledgeCentre/ShipsAndShippingFactsAndFigures/TheRoleandImportanceofInternationalShipping/Documents/International%20Shipping%20-%20Facts%20and%20Figures.pdf)

      Thirdly, I don’t care about the scientific mission in the South Pole, I’m writing about military operations.

      Fourthly, the real missions the the Air Force should concentrate on, CAS, Air Mobility, and ISR, it does begrudgingly, because they’re not “sexy.”

      Finally, the point is that there is nothing that the Air Force achieves as an independent service that it couldn’t achieve after being folded back up into the Army, or at a bare minimum, the Dept of the Army. The entire raison d’etre of the Air Force is the concept of strategic effects being delivered solely by air, in particular the concept of strategic bombing. This concept is flawed, as warfare has proven over the past 60-odd years. As a result, the Air Force should be folded back up into the Army, as the Army Air Corps.

      • Okeydoker

        The problem with your suggestion is that the army is poorly led, incompetently managed and their education and IQ is consideably less across the board than the air force. So why would we put dumber, more inept, corrupt people in charge of an operation staffed by people brighter, more competent and with more integrity? What so we can wait and see how they ruin the better service?

  • jthedeuce

    Interesting article but I dare say some faulty conclusions. I don’t think it matters much if the Air Force can fly far inland (Which the Navy cannot…but what about the Marines? And with in flight refeuling, technically all planes with that capability can fly far inland.) Regardless, if the Air Force is going far inland to do ISR or bombing once it gets there, then I say all three Air Arms of the US Military can do that. The statement that the Air Force is the only service globally positioned with a “complete” range of capabilities is patently false and a misrepresentation of the ground capability the Air Force does have. In fact of all the Forces, the Air Force has the least amount of Range across the warfighting domains than all the others…example: All four have cyber capabilities, all four have access to space capabilities (I will submit to the idea that the airforce is the proverbial gardner of those capabilities), While all four can affect the land domain, it is only the Army and Marines truly operating there, Only the Navy and Marines truly operate in the Maritime domain, and finally all four operate in the Air domain. To say that the Air Force is globaly positioned and able to respond is like me saying I have cameras in my house and can call the cops to bust heads if someone breaks in. Finally, and this may be a bit below the belt but the author did say the AF is globally postured unlike any other servce and capable, why did they not fly off to Libya and do a Demonstration of Force mission? Right, NCA did not green light it…point there is, if there was no Air Force, the NCA would ensure those capabilities within the Air Force would be covered down upon, probably by the Army, by the other services…If there were no Air Force, it most likely would be in the Army’s core mission set to maintain Strategic Bombers.
    Having said all that, As a Marine, I am glad there is an Air Force, because I think the Army would have a huge stake in the budget pie and the Army probably would have achieved its dream of doing away with the Marine Corps.

    • Jeff

      I think the Author is refering to the Air Forces capability to launch a large strike from the US using the B-1,B-2, and B-52. If required these aircraft could launch a strike on a target anywhere in the world for bases in the US.

  • chimmy on down nah

    Farley….you sir, are an idiot.

  • Shainsaw

    Air Force handles Air/Space/Cyberwarfare

  • idahoguy101

    The creation of the Air Force as its own Service was smart. Creating a separate Dept of the Air Force with its own Secretary was a mistake. IMO the USAF should report to, and under the responsibility of, the Secretary of the Army.
    Why? For starters the USAF reported to the roles and missions” assignments are assigned haphazardly.
    The USAF has little desire for forward air control in support of ground troops. Assign the A-10 to the Army.
    In Theater and Regional air defense the Army has the Patriot missile system and the THAAD. While the USAF has the Fighters, the F-15, F-16, and F-22. Give those SAMs to the Air Force! Have the Army have its own shorter range SAMs and triple A guns.
    There are numerous roles that the Air Force excels in. Long range bombing, ICBMs, Global communications, Intel satellites, for examples.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    I also read Dr. Farley’s article and he demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the role of the military departments as a component of the Department of Defense. He appears to disregard that the services are responsible for planning, training and equipping forces that are provided to the Joint Force Commander under a combatant commander (CCDR). The AF, Army, Navy and Marine Corp do not fight wars, the combatant commands fight the wars. He appears to be stuck in a pre Nicoles-Goldwater mindset.There are certainly area’s where capabilities are duplicated and the DoD should take care to avoid those unless the overlaps are intentional

  • Okeydoker

    Farley is an idiot. Typical ivory tower moron. The air force far outperforms their mission than the bloated, poorly led, incompetently managed army. Plus, the average IQ and education of air force members far exceeds thE cannon fodder bodies in the army.

    Obviously farley was put up to this hatchetjob. He should be fired from his position sincehe obviously has poor judgement.

  • Okeydoker

    The general inclination when criminal misconduct or scandal occurs in the army or marines is to try to cover it up. The air force and the navy on the hhand relieve the commander and court martial the miscreants. The army is a morally bankrupt and leader corrupt organization.