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29 Sep 22. Republicans push Biden to use $2.1bn Ukraine aid set to expire. The Senate on Thursday passed an additional $12.35bn Ukraine aid package as part of its stopgap government funding bill needed to avoid a shutdown, as Republicans pushed the White House on using outstanding funds before they expire on Friday.
President Joe Biden still has not used the remaining $2.1bn in presidential drawdown authority to transfer weapons to Kyiv that Congress already approved in the Ukraine aid bill it passed in May. The authorization has an expiration date of Sept. 30.
The Republican portrayal of that money as unused aid gone to waste is in dispute, though, as White House officials argue the new funding request builds on the old batch.
In addition to the $12.3bn in extra Ukraine aid, the continuing resolution that the Senate passed by a vote of 72-25 on Thursday also authorizes a separate $3.7bn in presidential drawdown authority. This authority allows the White House to send security aid to Ukraine from existing U.S. stockpiles. Biden has used his presidential drawdown authority at least 20 times since August 2021 to provide approximately $12.5bn in U.S. military equipment to Ukraine.
Republicans so far have unsuccessfully pressed the Biden administration to use the leftover $2.1bn in Ukraine military aid in time. The moves correspond with another Republican push to provide Ukraine with the long-range Army Tactical Missile System that Kyiv has asked for despite the Biden administration’s reluctance.
The top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, argued earlier this month that the White House’s latest Ukraine aid request was too low and that Biden should use the remaining amount of presidential drawdown authority before it expires.
“This confirms that the administration’s plan is not to give the Ukrainian Armed Forces what they need to win,” Inhofe told Defense News in a statement this week, after it became apparent that the White House might let the funding lapse.
A National Security Council spokesperson told Defense News that the $3.7bn in drawdown authority the White House requested in the latest Ukraine aid package includes the unused $2.1bn in question, per the advice of congressional appropriators. That means the White House had requested – and received – a total of $1.6bn in additional drawdown authority for Ukraine in the latest aid package.
But Inhofe and his Republican allies would prefer that the Biden administration transfer at least $5.8bn in weapons via drawdown authority to Ukraine – that is, the unused amount set to expire plus the new amount Congress is authorizing in its government funding bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said earlier this month that the Biden administration should use presidential drawdown authority to provide Ukraine with the long-range ATACMS.
“Ukraine needs more tanks, fighting vehicles, longer-range rockets, artillery and air defense systems, more HIMARS, more drones and preparatory training in western fighter aircraft,” McConnell said Thursday on the Senate floor. “Now is not the time for hesitating, hand-wringing or self-deterring from the administration.”
The long-range ATACMS, which are fired from the HIMARS that the United States has sent Kyiv, can fly as far as 186 miles. This is a considerably further than the 50-mile Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System that the White House has sent Ukraine for its HIMARS so far.
“The decision of what weapons systems we provide Ukraine are driven by Ukrainian needs on the battlefield as well as what’s available,” the National Security Council spokesperson told Defense News. “Additionally, we take into account escalation risks.”
The Biden administration remains wary that the Ukrainians could use the ATACMS to attack Russian territory, potentially sparking a broader conflict between Moscow and NATO. President Vladimir Putin last week threatened to use nuclear weapons if Russian territory, even lands annexed in a sham referendum, comes under attack.
The Pentagon has not ruled out sending ATACMS to Ukraine if the situation on the ground changes, but for now it views the 50-mile GMLARS as sufficient to ward off Russian forces given the Ukrainians’ rapid offensive this month in the country’s east.
The White House has backtracked on its reluctance to send Ukraine other systems before. For instance, the Biden administration had initially hesitated to send Ukraine HIMARS when the war broke out, only to change its mind in June and send them to Kyiv via drawdown authority.
The Defense Department on Wednesday announced and additional $1.1bn in aid from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. That includes 18 additional HIMARS. But unlike presidential drawdown authority from existing U.S. stocks, aid from the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative takes several months or years to reach Kyiv because defense manufacturers must build the equipment.
Congress’ latest Ukraine aid package includes another $3bn in funds for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative as well as $2.8bn to bolster U.S. forces stationed in the European theater. It also appropriates $1.5bn in funding to backfill U.S. stockpiles of weapons already sent to Ukraine, an amount that includes $540m for critical munitions replenishment. Finally, it allocates another $4.5bn in economic support for Kyiv.
Congress in March approved its first $13.6bn Ukraine supplemental aid package. Lawmakers tripled that funding in May with a $40bn package of military, economic and food aid for Ukraine and U.S. allies, which the White House says was designed to last through September. This third supplemental package will bring the total amount of aid to Ukraine that Congress has allocated so far this year to more than $65bn.
Biden is expected to sign the continuing resolution, including the $12.35bn in Ukraine aid, into law on Friday after the House votes to pass it. (Source: Defense News)
29 Sep 22. U.S. Seeks to Build Network of Like-Minded Nations in Indo-Pacific. Contrary to Chinese claims, there is no U.S. effort to establish a “NATO-like” organization in the Indo-Pacific.
This is not to say the United States does not have allies, partners and friends in the region. And this is not to say that the United States is not working to strengthen those ties and build a network in the region.
Ultimately, the United States and its allies are defending the international rules-based order that has served the region and globe so well. That order has fostered unprecedented economic growth in the region. This includes China – which, paradoxically, is the country trying hardest to overturn this order to its own benefit.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is in Hawaii this week to meet with regional allies to strengthen the bonds among them. He is meeting with defense leaders from the Philippines, Japan and Australia.
“The regional architecture in the Indo-Pacific is a constellation of a variety of mechanisms and institutions,” said a senior defense official speaking on background. “There’s no singular organization or organizing principle that governs the entire region.”
At its heart, meetings like this look to develop a network among like-minded nations in the region.
The United States has bilateral relations with many countries in the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. also has treaty allies – Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and Thailand. The U.S. works with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – which includes 10 nations. There are trilateral groupings, quadrilateral groupings and more. “These are all additive and complementary to each other,” the official said.
Building a network in the region does not mean building a singular organization, it means working together with more countries on that shared vision, the official said. This, by itself, makes it more likely to build stability and prosperity for the region.
Coming together has happened before, obviously. “The Quad that meets today really was born out of the Indian Ocean tsunami when a bunch of nations came together and asked, ‘How do we respond to this together?'” the official said.
Indo-Pacific nations often work together without the United States. Japan and Australia have a strong bilateral relationship, for example.
“What we are trying to do when we talk about building a network, is to strengthen the institutional capacity of each of those nations so that if there is a crisis, it’s not the first time ever trying to do anything together,” the official said. “You have habits of cooperation, as well as increase the ties between those networks, sometimes not even involving us.” (Source: US DoD)
28 Sep 22. The United States and Tunisia Sign the 35th Annual Joint Military Commission. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Dr. Celeste Wallander and Tunisian Minister of National Defense Imed Memmiche, co-chaired the 35th U.S.-Tunisia Joint Military Commission September 27-28, 2022 at U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
The Joint Military Commission reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Tunisia bilateral defense and security partnership. Participants from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Tunisian Ministry of Defense discussed security cooperation, institutional capacity building, and Tunisia’s role as a regional security leader. Discussions also reflected on the success of recent joint military exercises in Tunisia such as Phoenix Express and African Lion, methods of strengthening border security and countering terrorist threats, and international challenges of mutual concern including the global consequences of Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine.
Highlighting the successful completion of the Joint Military Commission, Dr. Wallander said, “our enduring relationship with Tunisia dates back to the 1797 Treaty of Peace and Friendship. I am pleased to note that the U.S.-Tunisian security partnership is strong, strategic, and moving forward through our Roadmap for Defense Cooperation.”
The United States and Tunisia agreed to continue to work closely together to strengthen their bilateral strategic partnership and achieve mutual strategic interests in accordance with goals of the U.S-Tunisian Roadmap for Defense Cooperation. (Source: US DoD)
27 Sep 22. USAF eyes NGAD deliveries by 2030. Can it be done? The U.S. Air Force’s secretive, next-generation fighter platform is still in the design process and has not formally entered its engineering, manufacturing and development stage, the service’s secretary said this month.
The acknowledgment marks a step back from June, when Frank Kendall publicly said the highly classified Next Generation Air Dominance program had already hit the key milestone. “We have now started on the EMD program to do the development aircraft that we’re going to take into production,” he said during a Heritage Foundation event at the time.
It also has some experts wondering if the service can meet its goal of delivering the first iterations of the sixth-generation fighter by the end of this decade.
Kendall offered the fullest update so far on the status of NGAD during a Sept. 19 roundtable with reporters at the Air and Space Forces Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference.
The service is still designing NGAD, Kendall said, and the program has not yet gone through the Milestone B review process. That milestone marks the completion of a program’s technology maturation phase and the formal start of an acquisition program, when the service takes its preliminary design and focuses on system integration, manufacturing processes and other details ahead of production.
Kendall’s June comments, in which he also said the Air Force would deliver some NGAD capabilities by the end of the decade, surprised some in the aviation world and suggested the program was further along in the process than initially thought. Several defense publications, including Defense News, reported on his comments at the time as indicating NGAD had formally entered the EMD phase.
Asked about his June comments during the Defense News Conference on Sept. 7, Kendall suggested he hadn’t meant the implication.
“I’m an old-school guy,” Kendall said. “I’ve been around doing this stuff for a long time, and I still think of engineering and manufacturing development as a phase in which you are working on the new design.”
Asked again about the program at the Air, Space and Cyber conference, Kendall clarified that the service is still working on NGAD’s design and that he used the term EMD in “my colloquial sense.” He said the Milestone B decision, which occurs after the preliminary design review and is a prerequisite for entering the EMD phase, has not taken place.
Kendall also said the Air Force is still aiming for production of NGAD around the end of the decade.
Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter said this month that the end of this decade is the service’s goal for “fielding the manned platform” component of NGAD. Its drone wingmen, which the Air Force now refers to as collaborative combat aircraft, are expected to arrive sooner, he added.
Kendall’s acknowledgment that NGAD has not entered the EMD phase, much less finished the design process, raises the possibility the program might not reach initial operating capability by the end of the decade, Heritage Foundation think tank fellow and former Air Force fighter pilot John Venable told Defense News.
“It could happen [by 2030], but the odds are against it happening” by then, he said.
Heather Penney, a former F-16 pilot and senior resident fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, is also wary the Air Force can achieve its goal by the end of the decade.
“I have serious skepticism that NGAD will reach a meaningful full-rate production Milestone C decision by the end of the decade,” Penney said. “It would be realistic to expect that full-rate production will not occur until sometime into the 2030s. I would love for the Air Force to prove this wrong.”
During his June comments, Kendall said the average Air Force acquisition program takes a little less than seven years to move from starting the EMD phase to initial operating capability. Later, at the Air, Space and Cyber conference, he suggested NGAD might be able to compress that timeline. “I’m not sure NGAD will be an average program,” he told reporters.
Kendall has said he is pushing Air Force acquisition officials to get new capabilities, such as NGAD’s autonomous drone wingmen, into the field faster than the process normally allows. For example, Kendall said he isn’t interested in conducting demonstrations or experiments unless absolutely necessary.
“If we don’t need it to reduce risk, we should go right to development for production and get there as quickly as we can,” he said in June. “If the risk is high, and we need to do some things just to be prudent, to address that risk first, we should do that in a focused, efficient way. I have a sense of urgency about getting new capabilities [and] I’m willing to take some risk there.”
While Venable and Penney cautioned there’s a lack of public information on NGAD, they said the program still has multiple headwinds.
The Air Force wants it to have an autonomous drone wingman capability, include sixth-generation technology and exist as a “family of systems” rather than just a single manned aircraft. It will also be expensive, costing hundreds of millions of dollars apiece, Kendall told lawmakers earlier this year.
Because the program hasn’t entered the EMD phase, passed the Milestone B review or finished its design, Venable said the Air Force will have to significantly compress its seven-year timeline to meet the 2030 goal.
“You could call me a skeptic, [but] there is no track record that says they can do that,” Venable said. “If you’re going to buy all commercial off-the-shelf stuff, [that can be done]. This is one where it’s leading-edge technology.”
He and Penney agreed the Air Force might not reach initial operating capability for NGAD until well into the 2030s.
“This is clearly going to be an advanced capability,” Penney said. “Because of the classification, there’s a lot that we don’t know about it — everything from design materials to production to capabilities.”
It’s also uncertain how the different capabilities comprising the “family of systems” will combine to make up the NGAD platform, Penney said — and this will require considerable testing.
“It’s probably not just one airplane; it’s probably several,” Penney said. “And we’ll need to prove that NGAD can connect and communicate with other capabilities, whether or not those are within other domains, or whether or not it’s within its own formation.”
With the Air Force moving to retire older airframes, such as noncombat-capable F-22 jets, and shift some of the savings to NGAD, Venable is worried the service may be making a risky bet that NGAD arrives by the end of the decade.
“If it does not happen, and this slides into the next decade — which is more likely than not — it would be a fool’s errand to actually cash in viable combat platforms now on the bet that no Las Vegas gambler would take,” Venable said.
Although Kendall would not discuss NGAD’s capabilities, he remains adamant the program is vital for the Air Force to keep up with advanced competitors, particularly China.
Asked at the Defense News Conference if the nation can afford an air platform costing multiple hundreds of millions of dollars apiece — several times the price tag of an F-35 fighter — Kendall responded: “Can the nation afford not to have air superiority? We have to have air superiority.” (Source: Defense News)
27 Sep 22. General Says Air Force Modernization Is Priority. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. spoke today at the State of Defense conference on DefenseOne.com. Regarding hypersonic threats from adversaries, Brown said, “We want to make sure we have not only that capability, but the capacity. There’s a balance between having a hypersonic capability, but it’s all the other munitions that we would also have ensure our portfolio because what I want to make sure that we have is a full complement of capability to go against the threats that we know about today.”
As for recent Chinese activity in the Taiwan Strait, Brown said the U.S. will continue operating in international waters.
Speaking about nuclear threats Brown said: “We want to make sure we have a safe, secure, reliable nuclear deterrent.”
Brown also mentioned modernization of the B-52 bombers to the newer B-21s and the Minuteman 3 missiles.
“We are on a path to modernize the Air Force not only across the conventional air force, but also nuclear force, as well,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
26 Sep 22. China ‘on track’ for 6th-gen fighter, US Air Force needs to get there first: ACC chief. America’s Chinese “frenemies” are “not having a debate over the relevance of six-gen air dominance. And I can also tell you they’re on track,” said Air Combat Command head Gen. Mark Kelly.
With China “on track” to develop a sixth-generation fighter, the US Air Force needs to ensure it fields its own next-generation fighter first, the head of Air Combat Command said recently.
“I cannot tell you today what’s going on in China except they’re planning for their 20th National Party Congress [in October]. But I can tell you what’s not happening. They’re not having a debate over the relevance of six-gen air dominance. And I can also tell you they’re on track,” ACC commander Gen. Mark Kelly said during a roundtable with reporters at the Air and Space Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber conference last week.
The US Air Force needs to “make sure we get to six-gen air dominance at least a month prior to our competitors,” Kelly said.
While most nations — including the United States — have divulged little information about their sixth generation fighter programs, China has been even more secretive about its efforts.
During a 2019 interview, Wang Haifeng, chief designer for the Chengdu Aerospace Corporation, stated that China was conducting pre-research on a next-generation fighter, with an eye to having a new capability ready to “protect the sea and sky” by 2035.
While Wang said little about China’s design, he pointed to several elements that he believed would characterize future US fighter capability, such as being able to team with drones, the use of artificial intelligence, improvements in stealth and omnidirectional sensors. Designs could also feature “less certain” disruptive technologies, such as drone swarms, lasers and adaptive engines, he said.
Currently, the US Air Force is on track to become the first six-gen fighter user, provided it can begin fielding its Next Generation Air Dominance family of systems on time — “by the end of the decade,” according to Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall. The service first flew a manned NGAD prototype in 2020, and Kendall has said the service could pick a manufacturer for the program in the near future.
However, the program is very complex — with a family of systems that includes a manned fighter, new weapons and likely several varieties of drones — and will be hugely expensive, with the manned NGAD fighter costing “hundreds of millions” per unit, according to Kendall. All of that could drive potential schedule delays, closing the gap between the US and Chinese timelines.
During the roundtable, Kelly said that China’s conception of a sixth-generation fighter seem to mirror the United States’ own.
“By and large is they see it greatly the way we see it in terms of an exponential reduction in signature and exponential acceleration in processing power and sensing, and the ability to iterate in terms of open mission systems, to be able to essentially reprogram at the speed of relevance,” Kelly said. “The differences, I think, are a nuance.”
For instance, China tends to slowly iterate from one fighter variant into another, such as how China morphed Russia’s Su-27 and Su-30 into its domestically produced J-16, Kelly said. By contrast, American aircraft design is characterized by large jumps in capability.
“We as a nation, we tend to let go of the trapeze and kind of make a leap for the next rung. Our Chinese frenemies, they tend to iterate,” he said. “That makes a little bit easier for them to grab the rung when they go off-pitch.”
Although Kelly raised alarms that China could outpace the US when it comes to sixth-generation capabilities, Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach had a much more muted reaction when asked about China’s current fighter capabilities on Sept. 19.
China’s fifth-generation J-20 is “nothing that I would worry too much about,” Wilsbach told reporters. “It’s their most modern aircraft. We’ve had a limited opportunity to assess it. Seems okay. It seems okay. It’s not anything to lose a lot of sleep over, but they seem to be a building a lot of them.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
26 Sep 22. DOD Establishes Arctic Strategy and Global Resilience Office. The United States is an Arctic power, and the Defense Department has established an office to ensure U.S. strategy and policy protects U.S. interests in that crucial region.
Iris A. Ferguson is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Arctic and global resilience, a new position that signifies the importance U.S. leaders place on the region.
” is a critical region for power projection and also for homeland defense,” Ferguson said during a Zoom interview.
The importance of the region will only grow as the impacts of climate change accelerate. Ferguson noted that temperatures in the Arctic are rising at least three times faster than anywhere else in the world. “We’re seeing a lot of geophysical changes that have dramatic impact on our operations and our infrastructure,” she said.
A lot of military infrastructure in the region is built on permafrost foundations, which are melting. “We’re working to mitigate that,” she said. “There’s also coastal erosion that has the potential to impact our radar sites.”
The changes are also opening up the area to civilian endeavors — and to strategic competitors, Ferguson said. “We’re seeing increased geopolitical activity by Russia, as well as China, in the region,” she said.
Russia has the largest land mass in the Arctic, and Russian leaders think of the country as the region’s preeminent power, the deputy assistant secretary said. “They have been refurbishing a lot of their airfields and renewing much of their defense architecture across the Arctic region.”
There might not be conflict now — and there hopefully will never be conflict in the Arctic — but we need to be prepared to operate there.”
Russia is only 55 miles away from the United States at the Bering Strait. Russian officials maintain their bases and assets in the Arctic are defensive, yet they arm their icebreakers with Kalibr-K missiles, defense officials have said. “We’re increasingly watching the amount of activity that’s happening in the Arctic region from them,” she said.
China, the United States’ other strategic competitor, is thousands of miles from the Arctic. Yet, Chinese leaders have “been trying to insert themselves into the Arctic,” she said. “They have called themselves a near-Arctic nation, even though they aren’t even remotely near the Arctic.”
Chinese leaders are trying to adjust international norms and governance structures in their favor, and they are cognizant of their economic coercion globally and in the Arctic region, she said. “So, we’re being very mindful about their activity and in wanting to ensure that our interests are protected in the region,” she said.
The Arctic is often overlooked, “but it’s a place where we have immense territorial equity, actually, for our homeland defense needs, our ability to monitor and respond to threats, and our capacity to project power,” Ferguson said.
The Air Force has based its top-of-the-line aircraft in Alaska because they can be easily deployed to respond to crises throughout the Indo-Pacific. It’s also a key refueling stop for aircraft.?The Army has established the 11th Airborne Division in the region to develop expertise in Arctic mobility and extreme cold weather operations.
From a military standpoint, the region is a key defense node for the homeland, with missile defense facilities, radars, early warning sites and more throughout Alaska and Canada as part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.
The latest DOD strategy on the Arctic refers to the region as an avenue of approach to the homeland. “The priorities for that defense strategy are in protecting the homeland, ensuring that our national interests are safeguarded and protected, and working with nations on shared challenges,” Ferguson said. “The overarching goal is to ensure we maintain peace and stability in the region.”
The Arctic is a huge area with segments in three geographic combatant commands’ areas of responsibility: U.S. Northern Command; U.S. European Command; and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Ferguson’s office is a focal point for Arctic policy. Its initiatives include helping the services prioritize capabilities for the region, developing deeper partnerships with allies and partners, and enhancing Arctic education across the department through its oversight of the newly created Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies on Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska.
“It’s important to have an office like this now to try to start laying the groundwork for how we can best prepare ourselves and to know what the challenges of the future may be,” she said. “There might not be conflict now — and there hopefully will never be conflict in the Arctic — but we need to be prepared to operate there.”
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the creation of a new DOD position: deputy assistant secretary of defense for Arctic and global resilience. Part 2 involves adapting to modern problems faced by service members around the world. (Source: US DoD)
27 Sep 22. Joint Staff Hosts Security Interoperability in the Tactical Environment Summit. The Director of the Joint Staff J6, Lt. Gen. Mary O’Brien, USAF, provided opening remarks at the Joint Staff J6-sponsored Security Interoperability in the Tactical Environment (SITE) Summit on Sept. 14, 2022.
The two-day event hosted at the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Headquarters brought together stakeholders from across the Department of Defense (DoD), to include services, combatant commands, and agencies to identify opportunities and challenges to advance Zero Trust initiatives.
As part of the summit: the DoD Zero Trust Portfolio Management Office presented the Department’s Zero Trust Strategy and Roadmap; DoD CIO presented its Identity, Credential, and Access Management (ICAM) understanding and governance; and DISA and the National Security Agency shared their efforts and perspectives on Zero Trust and ICAM.
Using the Department-wide DoD Zero Trust Strategy as it’s foundation, the SITE Summit concentrated on identifying essential requirements for security interoperability at the tactical level. The Deputy Director of the Joint Staff J6 and Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) Cross Functional Team (CFT) Chair, Rear Adm. Susan BryerJoyner, stewarded discussions between Subject Matter Experts (SME) and senior leaders aimed at creating a shared understanding of the tactical environment and identifying a common set of technical requirements for access management.
A key effort to implement JADC2 is the development of a data-centric warfighting environment that facilitates secure information sharing and interoperability across systems, domains, services, and mission partners. Applying Zero Trust principles is necessary to protect data against unauthorized access and actions. Additionally, SMEs and senior leaders discussed the need to evaluate and revise DoD instructions, guidance, and policies to successfully implement Zero Trust at the tactical level.
The summit allowed representatives at every level, from the Joint Staff to combatant commands and services to share ideas, synchronize efforts, and establish a united way forward that centers on advancing Zero Trust and ICAM capabilities for the joint warfighter.
The Joint Staff J6, in conjunction with stakeholders, will continue to capitalize on forums like the SITE Summit to drive collaboration and advance a secure and reliable data-centric environment, enabled by interoperable systems across all domains, to enhance the joint force commander’s ability to command and control assigned forces. (Source: US DoD)
23 Sep 22. Fighter fleet is strained — and bill is coming due, ACC chief says. The Air Force’s array of 48 fighter squadrons and nine attack squadrons are today being asked to do the work of 60 squadrons, the head of Air Combat Command said Wednesday.
This is stretching the fighter fleet thin, ACC head Gen. Mark Kelly said in a keynote address at the Air Force Association’s Air Space Cyber conference here — and, in a major war, will become unsustainable.
“It’s like a bill that comes to your house … for 60 multirole fighter squadrons,” Kelly told reporters in a roundtable later that day. “I’m trying to pay that bill with 48 fighter squadrons and nine attack squadrons [consisting of A-10 Thunderbolt II planes].”
While those 57 combined fighter and attack squadrons are not far off from 60, Kelly said, the A-10 will not be survivable in a future war against a peer or near-peer adversary with advanced air defenses. The Air Force has also for years pushed to retire some or all of the A-10 fleet.
And if A-10 squadrons are retired or unable to engage in a high end fight, that would mean at least a dozen fighter squadrons would be needed to close that gap.
Kelly said the Air Force’s recent study of its tactical air requirements is classified and can’t be discussed publicly, but noted the service’s 2018 Air Force We Need study, which former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson unveiled four years earlier at the same conference, was accurate when it called for growing fighter squadrons to 62.
Wilson said at that time the Air Force needed to grow by 74 operational squadrons in all, to a total of 386 squadrons by 2030. This would allow the service to simultaneously defeat a major adversary such as China or Russia, defend the homeland, provide a nuclear deterrent, counter a medium-sized rogue nation such as North Korea and fight violent extremists such as the Islamic State.
That push, however, failed to generate the budgets necessary to grow the service by almost one-quarter and ultimately fizzled.
After the Air Force We Need proposal was released four years ago, some policy experts questioned whether the dramatic growth it called for was feasible, affordable — or even necessary.
And today, with budget concerns growing among many lawmakers, it’s not clear whether Pentagon leaders would want to push for massive growth in the fighter fleet.
Four key missions, not enough fighters
In his keynote address at AFA, Kelly sought to refocus on the needs of a fighter fleet now significantly smaller than the 134 fighter squadrons the Air Force had during the Gulf War — but juggling many complex and vital duties.
He said the Air Force needs 28 squadrons to project airpower in the Indo-Pacific region, Europe, and the Middle East, and another eight squadrons to respond to unfolding crises.
The Air Force also needs 16 squadrons to defend the homeland and support the president of the United States, Kelly said, and another eight for training and modernization efforts.
But without enough squadrons to fill all those roles, Kelly said — and with homeland defense and presidential support being must-fill areas — missions such as Pacific defense, crisis response, and modernization and training usually take the hits.
To fix this, Kelly said the Air Force needs to buy at least 72 new fighters each year to build a highly capable force that can carry out multiple missions. The Air Force is now in the process of buying fifth-generation F-35As as well as F-15EXs, a modernized version of the fourth-generation fighter with advanced avionics, electronic warfare systems, and other capabilities.
But the Air Force is far from buying 72 fighters per year. Its original budget request for fiscal 2023 calls for buying 57 new fighters, made up of 24 F-15EXs and 33 F-35As, although another seven F-35s could get added by Congress.
Kelly also said the Air Force has to speed up the process of adding autonomous drone wingmen known as collaborative combat aircraft to the force. In the years to come, he told reporters later, those CCAs will augment the Air Force’s capabilities. But it remains to be seen how much capability they will add and how many drones will be necessary, he told reporters at the roundtable.
Kelly stressed that the U.S. Air Force should work with allies and partners such as the United Kingdom and Australia and alliances like NATO to extend its reach in dangerous areas.
“When you’re operating in a tough neighborhood, travel with friends who know how to fight,” Kelly said. (Source: Defense News)
26 Sep 22. US Army Pacific activates third multi-domain task force. This is the second such specialty unit focused on the Indo-Pacific region. The US Army Pacific (USARPAC) has activated its third multi-domain task force (MDTF) at Fort Shafter in Hawaii, the second specialty unit to operate in the Indo-Pacific region.
The new task force joins other similar units to form the US Army Pacific.
At present, the USARPAC is assessing options to integrate the unit with Theatre Army drills, including Operation Pathways, and to work in coordination with allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
The MDTF is expected to reach full operational capability in fiscal year 2023.
With experience in the theatre, Colonel David Zinn, will serve as the unit’s first commander.
Zinn said: “Our activation in Hawaii reflects the Army’s commitment to this theatre as our nation’s priority.
“We bring increased capacity and complementary capability to the joint force in the Pacific. Our formation will provide capability to synchronise long-range precision effects, with long-range precision fires, providing increased freedom of action for the joint force.”
The task forces as theatre-specific units leverage long-range precision effects such as cyber, electronic warfare, intelligence, and long-range fires. (Source: army-technology.com)
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