Air Force Leaders Say Strategy Calls for F‑22, F‑35 Capabilities

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2012 — Fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­er air­craft are key to Amer­i­ca main­tain­ing domain dom­i­nance in the years ahead, Air Force offi­cials said here today.

File pho­to of two U.S. Air Force F‑22 Rap­tors as they fly over the Neva­da Test and Train­ing Range, Nev., March 3, 2011. The F‑22 pilots are assigned to the 49th Fight­er Wing. U.S. Air Force pho­to by Air­man 1st Class George Goslin
Click to enlarge

Lt. Gen. Christo­pher D. Miller, deputy chief of staff for strate­gic plans and pro­grams, and Maj. Gen. Noel T. “Tom” Jones, the service’s direc­tor for oper­a­tion capa­bil­i­ty require­ments, said the tech­nol­o­gy – exem­pli­fied in the F‑22 and F‑35 – assumes greater impor­tance in com­bat­ing grow­ing anti-access, area-denial capa­bil­i­ties. The gen­er­als spoke dur­ing a media round­table in the Pentagon. 

Fifth-gen­er­a­tion air­craft are par­tic­u­lar­ly valu­able as part of the new defense strat­e­gy guid­ance that Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma unveiled here ear­li­er this month, they said. That strat­e­gy explic­it­ly affirms that the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary must be able to defeat ant-access, area-denial threats. 

“This is not a new thing,” Miller said. “Mil­i­taries have oper­at­ed in ant-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.” 

There is a con­tin­u­ing com­pe­ti­tion between nations devel­op­ing anti-access capa­bil­i­ties and oth­ers devis­ing ways to defeat that, the gen­er­al said. “Fifth-gen­er­a­tion air­craft are a key abil­i­ty that the Air Force is bring­ing to the nation’s abil­i­ty to oper­ate in those envi­ron­ments,” he added. 

The Air Force has flown against anti-access envi­ron­ments since it was found­ed. Amer­i­can fight­ers coun­tered this capa­bil­i­ty in the skies over Korea and Viet­nam. Air­men faced off against sur­face-to-air mis­siles ring­ing Hanoi. In the Per­sian Gulf War, air­men defeat­ed the ground-to-air threat over Iraq, and most recent­ly, they knocked out the anti-access capa­bil­i­ties around Tripoli. 

But mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy has become more com­plex and more dif­fi­cult to counter. Com­mand-and-con­trol capa­bil­i­ties have grown. This will require a new set of capa­bil­i­ties fly­ing against them, Jones told reporters. “The fifth-gen­er­a­tion capa­bil­i­ties that the F‑22 and F‑35 pos­sess will allow us to deal with that envi­ron­ment,” he said. 

F‑22s and F‑35s bring maneu­ver­abil­i­ty, sur­viv­abil­i­ty, advanced avion­ics and stealth tech­nol­o­gy to the fight. Both planes are mul­ti-role capa­ble, able to fight air-to-air and air-to-ground. 

“These capa­bil­i­ties give our lead­ers the abil­i­ty to hold any tar­get at risk, any­where in the globe, at any time,” Jones said. “I think it is impor­tant for any adver­sary to under­stand we pos­sess those capa­bil­i­ties and intend to con­tin­ue the development.” 

Anoth­er aspect of the strat­e­gy includes the abil­i­ty to oper­ate against adver­saries across the spec­trum of con­flict. F‑22s and F‑35s are par­tic­u­lar­ly rel­e­vant at the top of the spec­trum, “where we can’t always set the con­di­tions for our oper­a­tions as eas­i­ly as we have in the last cou­ple of decades of mil­i­tary con­flict,” Miller said. 

This is an extreme­ly valu­able capa­bil­i­ty that must be nur­tured, the gen­er­als said. 

Amer­i­cans have become used to hav­ing domain dom­i­nance, Miller said, expect­ing U.S. ser­vice mem­bers to be able to oper­ate on land, at sea, in the air with a fair degree of auton­o­my as they pur­sue nation­al objectives. 

“This is not a birthright,” Miller said. “That is some­thing we have had to work very hard in the past to gain, … and we can’t take for grant­ed that we are going to be able to sup­port the joint team in future envi­ron­ments unless we main­tain a high-end capa­bil­i­ty to tar­get an adversary’s air forces, their sur­face-to-air forces and basi­cal­ly be able to seize con­trol of parts of the air space and oth­er domains the joint com­man­der needs. 

“It’s an Air Force capa­bil­i­ty,” he added, “but it’s a key Air Force con­tri­bu­tion to the joint warfight­ing capa­bil­i­ty of the nation.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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