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Global Vigilance, Reach and Power Across the Spectrum of Conflict

Global Vigilance, Reach and Power Across the Spectrum of Conflict

Remarks to the Air Force Association 17th Annual Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, Florida, February 15, 2001 by General Michael E. Ryan, Air Force chief of staff.

It is great to be here in Florida with you. (Retired) Gen. (John A.) Shaud (executive director, AFA) has introduced me several times over the years. He makes a few hints about his responsibility for my leaving Misawa (Air Base, Japan). I want to tell you the real story.

I had orders in hand, going to be the PACAF/IG (Pacific Air Forces inspector general). Jane had flown down to the Philippines and bought the Lanai set. We had the kids registered in school — the last two that were home. We had all the dimensions of the house in Honolulu perfectly laid out, and we knew where all the furniture was going to go. Then I get this call from Washington, D.C., that says, "Get your butt to Washington. In 10 days you are going to be the exec to the chief." The guy who did that was General Shaud. I am some day going to get even.

Global vigilance, reach and power are the overarching themes for this particular AFA symposium. I think that is very much a focus that we have today and very much one that will carry through well into the future for the U.S. Air Force.

I’d like to talk a little bit about global vigilance, reach and power in a way that looks backward and then forward for our Air Force. If you look backward at what we’ve done over the past 10 years in leading to the 21st century, to try and do innovative things with Cold War capabilities and turn those into hot war capabilities, you see that across the spectrum of conflict we have executed missions that we never thought we would do, had very little warning that we would go, and in many cases did not expect to be there as long as we stayed. It is not just that it was across the spectrum of conflict, but that it happened simultaneously.

If you go back to mid-1999, you’ll find that during that time, in April, we were doing Shining Hope, an operation that cared for so many of the Albanian refugees streaming out of Kosovo. At the same time, we were doing counter-narcotics operations. Operations Northern and Southern Watch continued unabated. In fact, combat continued in both of those particular areas over Iraq. We had a major theater war in the air war over Serbia and we continued and even reinforced in Korea during that time frame.

The ebb and flow of our capabilities over that past decade give us some measure of the kinds of things that we’ll be called upon to do in the future, and the successes of each one of those continue to build on the successes that we had in the past. In fact, there is almost a reliance on the capability of aerospace power to move forward and be the first in, normally to kick down the door, and often to provide the needed humanitarian supplies to those in need. I think that template we accomplished all the way from the 1989 time frame as we went into Desert Storm and the run-up to Desert Storm until the aftermath of Kosovo and Serbia are the kinds of challenges we’ll have for the future and we must be prepared for them.

As we look back at what we did over this time frame, we found that the spikes that occurred to us over this timeframe for the different operations, such as Bosnia and Kosovo, taxed the force in many, many ways. So we came up with a concept called the Expeditionary Aerospace Force. As part of that, we built 10 force packages — two online at any one time — to take care of the problems that we saw as a continued drain on the resources while we were still trying to reconstitute from major operations previously. What we is organizationally transform ourselves into a sustainable and responsible force, one that gave some predictability to the lives of our folks while at the same time giving the kinds of capabilities to the commanders in chief that they needed to prosecute the kinds of operations that were required of our nation.

We packaged something like this in each one of these AEFs with a capability not only for humanitarian operations, but also for peace enforcement, for combat if necessary, and reinforcement as necessary, and packaged the Air Force into packages that were semi-whole, the kind of measure of our force for the future. In fact, what we want to do for the future is measure ourselves in terms of AEFs. We are a 10-AEF deployable Air Force with lots of reach-back for things like space, training, intelligence — those kinds of capabilities that we don’t want to bring forward with us that are so critical to the kinds of things that we do in our deployed state.

As we look from what happened to us in Allied Force, where we had a huge force deployed to 21 locations across Europe and indeed prosecuting operations from the territory of the United States itself, we were able to recover out of that back down to a fairly even tempo over this past year, the first respite we’ve had since that last decade. With our two AEFs online and ready to go, some deployed forward, some ready to deploy to reinforce, we don’t know what the future will bring.

If the past is any harbinger of the future, there will be great uncertainties about the kinds of missions that we’ll be called upon to prosecute and the kinds and places that we’ll need to go to bring some form of relief, either in terms of combat power or in terms of humanitarian responses. Our force structuring mechanism today is moving toward what we call the AEF force structuring mechanism, describing ourselves in war plans and other documents as AEFs.

I have to tell you that while all that was going on, we had a huge challenge in readiness and still do. That has not changed. Back in the 1996-97 timeframe, the combat units we have in the Air Force started a decline in readiness due to aging aircraft, due to the loss of personnel, due to the lack of spares in some cases. So that as we did all those operations we talked about before and as our manpower and our budgets came down during the mid-term of the past decade, our readiness also fell. We want to be at about a 92 percent readiness rate. That allows us to respond rapidly to any major theater war or any of those kinds of operations you saw in the past chart. It is imperative that we are here because we don’t have time to train to task when we are called upon. We are a responsive force in hours and days, not months.

If you look at the combination of the requirements on the force, 92 percent of the force is used in the first 30 days of either or both of the major regional conflicts. In this area is where we had Allied Force. Allied Force drained the force somewhat. They did a marvelous job in deploying and redeploying, but it took its toll.

We’ve been able — through some very tough decisions on what we do about modernization and what we do about infrastructure — to put more resources into spare parts to take care of these aging aircraft. There have been some very, very tough decisions putting us on a path of a 250-year replacement rate for our infrastructure. Indeed, readiness has somewhat leveled out over the past year, year and a half. That is partially due to not stressing the force and partially due to the kinds of funds we put against our readiness and spares and the emphasis we put on our people.

The last few years, we’ve been able to do some things that I think are terribly important for our people. We made sure that we paid them more than we had in the past, and that we are on some kind of slope back up to comparability [with private sector wages]. We redid the pay table in a way that was more just. We were able to change around and change back to a much needed retirement system that half the force had and half the force did not. We were able to increase the amount of money against housing allowances. To try and shore up our medical system, not only for our active-duty but for our retirees.

We put a lot of emphasis into the people side of the equation. We will continue to do that to try to level off the demand that we’ve had on the outside for our folks and indeed shore up the readiness internal to the Air Force.

One of the things we have fought hard is the decline in our mission capability rates of our fleet. Over the past 10 years or so, we have dropped by 10 percent the mission capability rate across the Air Force, across all of our aircraft. In the first quarter of this year, we had our first up-tick in the past 10 years. But meanwhile, flying about the same number of flying hours every year, the cost of flying those older aircraft has gone up 41 percent, further draining our capability to pay for those kinds of operations.

Primarily that is due to the fact that the force is aging out. Today, the force is 22 years of age — the total force (active, Guard, Reserve). As we go out into the future, if we stay on the same quantities of buys that we have in the budgets today and the projections out of the last administration, we will end up with a force that is almost 30 years old by the end of the next decade. If we want to turn this around, quite honestly, we would have to buy aircraft at about a rate of 170 a year. We are only buying them today at about 100 a year, and half of those are relatively inexpensive trainers. Meanwhile, the workload goes up, and the mission capability of the aircraft goes down. This is a critical issue for the U.S. Air Force for the future.

What we’ve tried to do operationally is take our legacy systems, the ones that came out of the Cold War, and bring them forward into our Expeditionary Aerospace Force concept in vigilance, reach and power and eventually get us to where we have a rapid aerospace dominant force, one that can go rapidly anywhere in the world and dominate. But it is an integrated force. Air and space together, getting the synergism out of that which we desperately need.

Just take a couple of the programs that we will categorize under global vigilance where we try to anticipate and deter threats. Our overhead systems — we’ll talk about them in a minute — and the need for their revitalization. Combined with some new technology in our Global Hawk — which we’ll bring on by the middle of this decade — to combine with our U-2 force and our other capable systems that must be pushed up close to give us the information that is terribly necessary to apply the force in the right way. We must continue in the vigilance side to enable us to have decision dominance.

On the global reach side, EELV (evolved expendable launch vehicle) — to get us more cheaply and rapidly into space — is a maturing system that will come online in the next few years. We are continuing to buy our C-17. We are looking to see where we can go next in buys on the C-17 beyond the 134 that we currently have on hand. Our reach-back capability, both in terms of intelligence and operational matters in space, is an important segment of our modernization program where we can not take as many people and as much equipment forward and reach back for that through very robust communications. Some of our aging aircraft, we have revitalized over the past few years to bring the KC-135s up from the E-model to the R-model. Again, looking at our capability to rapidly deploy around the world, the C-5 will continue to be an integral part of our Air Force. Right now, the C-5's capability and mission capability rates are as low as they’ve ever been. That is because that weapon system is also aging out.

We look on the power side — to prevail in these conflicts and to win the wars when required. We have some futuristic systems that will help us do that with things like investments in space-based laser. We are looking at improving the capability of our B-2 fleet to do the conventional bombing mission by putting smaller munitions on them, 500-pounders, where they can carry 80-plus bombs on a single sortie. Making sure that we upgrade our F-15E's to put them into the fight where they are linked, and making sure the Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 come on line to replace this aging fleet that we have.

If you look at the tumble-down of what we are doing in recapitalizing on our space side, these are the kinds of systems we have today and are replacing other systems within launch and communications, early warning and weather and navigation and force application — looking at space-based laser. We have those programs fairly well funded in the next years. Our space programs are fairly solid in their funding over the next five or six years. We have some challenges beyond the Fiscal Year Defense Program on things we would like to do more robustly as we go out into the future in space and transfer some missions from the air side to the space side where it makes sense and where it works better.

On the air side, we have done and are continuing to do the modernization of the C-141 fleet. We are doing some modernization with C-130J's to upgrade the capabilities of our C-130 fleet. As we go down the list of requirements and phase them in, the next is to replace the F-15, the number one front-line fighter we have so it is capable well into the next century, and so on down into programs where we will need to replace our tankers and our bomber force out there in about a decade and a half.

If you look at where we are going with the F-22, I think it is important that everyone realize that this aircraft is absolutely critical to operations that we’ll do in the future. (Gen.) John Jumper (Air Combat Command commander) will talk about a new concept we have on how to employ this aircraft along with other stealthy assets to come out of our AEF structure as lead elements in the tough jobs. But today, if you look at our F-15 versus modern fighters that are in production out there, both in the gray world and then what I would call the "red world," we have a tough time with the F-15 in fighting that force, just from an air-to-air side.

In the future, the F-22 would give us that dominance that we need against almost any adversary. That is because we can take the conventional fighter signature and reduce it as we have on airplanes like the F-16, but reduce it even further to almost a bug splat on this chart. What that gives us is an aircraft that has both air-to-air and air-to-ground capability, a kick-down-the-door, first-in kind of capability, both from a defensive and an offensive air superiority role. That means it will do air defense of the ground and indeed sea forces. It will protect our high-value assets that I talked about before they must come up and get very close to the fight to feed us the information we need. It can do the combat air patrols to clear the skies for our bombers out in front. It can suppress the enemy air defenses and get into places that no other aircraft can get into and deal a lethal blow to surface-to-air systems. It can take our bombers and our fighters and make the battle space in which they operate much safer so we can have a force that continues to prosecute the war, almost a pile-on force that allows us to do the job we need to do and do it rapidly. It will give us freedom from attack, freedom to attack and freedom to maneuver, which is terribly important in the modernization of the force because it leverages our other capabilities.

What we are looking for is to be able to have a force that is protected and a force we can project. It is about being the most advanced and most capable air force in the world. It is about attracting people into this force of ours. It is about keeping those people. It is about fighting and winning America’s wars. That is what the U.S. Air Force does. It is the best damned air force in the world, and I am proud to be part of it. It is great being with you today. Thank you.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).