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Building the Air Force of the Future

Building the Air Force of the Future

Remarks to the Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, Fla., February 14, 2003, by Dr. James G. Roche, Secretary of the Air Force.

This is quite a morning for AFA, two naval persons in a row. At least you'll stay awake. Thank you, Don (Donald L. Peterson, AFA executive director), for that generous introduction. It is a pleasure to be here at Orlando and have the opportunity to share my perspectives on air and space power in this era. The Air Force Association continues to demonstrate great wisdom by holding this annual winter meeting in the warmth of Florida. For those of us who have escaped the depth of winter in Washington, D.C., we are all quite thankful.

Speaking of escape, some of you know that I was scheduled to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, when our boss (Secretary of Defense) Don Rumsfeld supplanted me and the other service secretaries. So, I have the chance to remain in the relative warmth of Florida at Corona. This is a great reason to escape because my colleagues and I have worked very hard this week to address the challenges we face and the measures we will take to adapt our Air Force to meet the needs of this new era.

This is testimony season and I look forward to the opportunity to join my partner (Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.) John Jumper in telling our Air Force story to members of Congress. It enables us to make the case for the tools and the investment we need to remain the dominant air and space force we are today. Since I've been known to make a forceful argument from time to time, I relish the chance to address Congress on those issues about which we feel so passionately.

It was not always so. Those of you from the defense industry will recall John's point made yesterday, and he properly characterized me as shy, retiring, soft-spoken and modest. To help me, he has been offering Jumper Assertiveness Training for the past year and a half. In my first outing, when something went wrong, I said, "Stand from under you arrogant dogs or I'll pick your teeth with a belaying pin." John said, "No, no, no, no." More recently when I said, "FOD one more F/A-22 and I'll rip your heart out." He went, "That's it! Better, better, better!" So, little by little, I am getting there, if only the foreign object damage people will get there.

Please know that Congress has been extremely supportive of our goals and has been similarly supportive of the work our men and women are doing around the world. General Jumper and I do look forward to going before Congress in the next couple of weeks to share our views on how to sustain and modernize our air and space force.

Some of you may wonder what really goes on behind closed doors in the Pentagon, when John and I uncover instances of buffoonery in one of our programs or when we learn that someone is working against what we believe is the best course for our Air Force and our armed services. Let me tell you that John can grunt, mumble, rave and rant better than just about anyone I know, except me, of course. In fact, after one recent experience where I witnessed a particularly effective harangue of barely understandable words and inaudible phrases ending with, "It makes me crazy. It makes me crazy," I told John I thought he was ready for a guest appearance on the Osborne's.

I poke a little fun at John. He does (the same) at me. Neither of us takes ourselves too seriously. Our responsibilities are serious, and our commitment and love of our airmen is serious, but we should not take ourselves seriously.

Next to Ellen Jumper, three lovely daughters and his mother, I am John's biggest fan. If you witnessed his presentation yesterday, you know why. As we all observed, Gen. John Jumper has an exciting vision of the future and I think you'll agree with me when I say that his inspired leadership of our Air Force is as historically significant as that of any chief of staff in the history of the U.S. Air Force. I submit to you that in the tradition of great military statesmen, in the history of our nation, John Jumper stands among the very best. He is a wartime member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and some of you will recall that his first full week on the job as the chief was the week of Sept. 11, 2001. He didn't miss a beat and he has continued to help lead our Air Force and our nation to the demands of the global war on terrorism. He leads with passion and clarity of purpose and understands that the way to achieve our vision of a 21st century air and space force is to educate, train and inspire our colleagues. He is tireless in his pursuit of excellence. As I joked a moment ago, he will not hesitate to get excited when necessary, when appropriate.

John, you rock star you, the 700,000 airmen of our total force team, me included, are honored. Even more, we are truly privileged to have you serving at this time in our history. For this, we are very grateful. Thank you for what you do for our airmen and for America, John.

Now that John has helped me with assertiveness, let me make a point to demonstrate how much I agree with him. There are two things that are not. One, there is no such thing as an informal war plan briefing, no matter what you might read. It doesn't exist. The second thing that is not, is there is no such thing as an anonymous Air Force officer. If the individual is an Air Force officer, he or she should have the guts to go to the chain of command to make their points known. If they can't and they have to work from the darkness of the corners, and use members of the press as their spokespersons, then they are not living up to the standards of our Air Force. And that is the way it is. We have a wonderful American press. They should not be used as conduits, conduits for things an officer should have the guts to say to his superiors. Now, back to the shy, retiring Jim.

It is a privilege to address this symposium and the dedicated citizens who remain so staunchly supportive of our Air Force. You recognized the great contributions of our men and women and realize the nobility of working for our service from without, even as our airmen do their utmost from within. The Air Force derives much from the Air Force Association's support. Thank you for being there at every turn and fighting to support our airmen, many of who right now are deployed or deploying in the service to our country.

General Jumper and I are extremely proud of the achievements and the service of our airmen this past year, from combat operations and homeland defense to their admirable daily efforts that guarantee the readiness, health, security and morale of our fighting force. In our travels around the world to visit them, in all of their occupations, we have been continuously impressed and humbled by their creativity, commitment, and willingness to serve.

In defense of the homeland, we have flown more than 25,000 Operation Noble Eagle fighter, tanker, airlift and airborne early warning sorties of the United States. You should know that the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve have executed more than 75 percent of the total Noble Eagle missions. They have been spectacular. They deserve your support, your thanks and your congratulations.

We also benefited in 2002 from months of service by NATO AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft flying between New York and Washington, helping us to carry out Operation Noble Eagle. Today, and every day, more than 200 military aircraft at over 20 air bases are dedicated to providing continuous combat air patrols or on-call support to sensitive and high-risk areas across the United States at a direct cost of more than $250 million a year.

Meanwhile, in Operation Enduring Freedom , in Afghanistan, our aircraft and crews flew more than 40,000 sorties in 2002, more than 70 percent of all coalition sorties. More than 8,000 refueling missions made continuing joint operations in a distant, land-locked nation possible. As General Jumper pointed out yesterday, 55 percent of our tankings were for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and that is absolutely appropriate in the era of joint warfare.

We continued our decade-long commitment to contain Iraq and to protect our friends and allies in the Middle East and in Southwest Asia. A sustained presence of about 8,000 airmen enabled us to call Operation Northern Watch and Operation Southern Watch a success for yet another year, but at a direct cost of about a billion dollars a year.

In space, we continued our professional operation of a wide variety of Earth-orbiting satellite constellations delivering essential capability to war-fighters and civil consumers. Last year, we launched 18 missions with a 100 percent success ratio including the first space launches using evolved expendable launch vehicles. Thank you, Undersecretary Pete Teets, Gen. Lance Lord (commander, Air Force Space Command) and your team. You have just been wonderful. In doing so, we have strengthened America's assured access to space and guaranteed vigorous global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, missile warning, precision navigation and global communications.

We sustained a forward presence around the globe, protecting our interests and our allies with over 30,000 deployed airmen serving at some 50 expeditionary bases in more than 35 countries, plus another 20,000 airmen permanently assigned overseas.

In the course of time, our efforts to improve readiness have borne fruit. Sixteen of 20 weapon systems improved mission capable rates last year. These are the best mission-capable rates we've experienced in five years and the most dramatic improvement we've achieved since the mid-1980s. To (retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen.) Mike Ryan, thank you very much for starting the process of demanding that spare parts be given to our maintainers so they could finally get these airplanes the way they ought to be. John and I are both proud to walk in your tradition.

For example, the reduction and consolidation of our B-1 fleet has had a positive effect. Its mission capable rate was up 10 percent last year and is now more than 71 percent, the highest in the history of the program. It is going to be a spectacular plane with standoff weapons that will serve our country for years and years. The C-5B achieved its highest mission-capable rates since 1994: 73 percent. It did so while flying the highest sortie rate since the Gulf War.

In addition to improved readiness in our fleet, our industrial suppliers continue to deliver critical capabilities we need to sustain our nation's air and space dominance. We've taken delivery of 25 C-17s since Sept. 11, 2001, increasing our airlift and power projection capabilities. It was this aircraft that made possible the largest humanitarian air drop in the history of the world. And we've signed a contract for 60 more of these aircraft.

We've expanded our Joint STARS (Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System) fleet to 14 aircraft, receiving our 10th consecutive aircraft ahead of schedule. Congratulations, Joint STARS team. With the stand-up of our first blended wing of Air National Guard and active-duty personnel flying the Joint STARS at Robins Air Force Base, (Ga.) we took another step toward enhancing operational capability and transforming our total force. It will be a spectacular success I have no doubt. And it will be a wonderful way of blending our Guard and our active forces just as the associate wings between our Reserve and active forces has been a success.

The Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, production rate increased almost three-fold over last year and will reach 2,800 per month by June of this year. And yes, the press accounts are correct: When in the Pentagon, I carry each and every day a card giving me the daily inventory count of precision weapons.

We've shortened the acquisition process to field armed and ISR-capable Predators. We are blessed to have an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Dr. Marv Sambur, who is just spectacular. Quiet, dedicated, forceful and so wonderfully focused, he is spectacular and I hope all of you who deal with him feel the same way as I do. When our reconnaissance squadrons employed Predators in the harsh conditions of Afghanistan, we confirmed there is a role for remotely piloted aircraft in warfighting. By 2010, we'll have 27 systems, which equates to about 125 air vehicles, with improved sensor and communications capabilities and we have added Hellfire missile capability to all new Predator aircraft.

We've also had some significant operational success with the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle , giving us 24-hour persistence over the battlespace, further expanding the way we view intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for the future, 24/7/365, good weather, bad weather, focused surveillance is now something that is a reality.

Our F/A-22 program is progressing and the aircraft is currently meeting or exceeding all key performance requirements. We've recently delivered our first aircraft to Nellis (Air Force Base, Nev.) so we can start training the initial cadre of operators and maintainers. John and I visited Nellis last week and saw that one, lonely Raptor sitting there all by itself on the ramp. I have to tell you, while we were pleased to see the first operational Raptor in the field, we will not be satisfied until we see hundreds of Raptors fielded throughout our combat Air Force.

I want all of you to understand that our redesignation of this aircraft wasn't to sell something to Congress or any place else, and it certainly wasn't because of my naval background, two of the more nutty theories that have been expounded. We redesignated the Raptor as the F/A-22 because of the fundamental changes we've made to this aircraft, plus the designation better reflects how we see the system being employed. It will be the world's most advanced stealthy air dominance jet, outfitted with super cruise, precision attack and unparalleled electronic capabilities. In addition to its ability to counter and defeat enemy fighters and the next generation of surface-to-air missiles, it will also, for the first time, give us a major capability to threaten mobile ground targets deep within enemy territory and give our nation an unmatched ability to defeat cruise missiles, including stealthy ones. It will bring stealth into the daylight, enable a panoply of inter-service operations and will serve a critical joint war fighting mission.

As we continue to transition the F/A-22 from development into production, we are experiencing the same facts of life that apply to all major aircraft acquisition programs, no matter how many times we seem to have learned the lessons. Historically, major, complex weapon systems experience integration challenges in the transition to production phase. The F/A-22 is no exception, nor will the F-35 be any different. Any one who doesn't think so has never built a modern airplane.

Hindsight is clear that the Air Force did not budget adequately for these predictable challenges and the risks associated with this stage of development, the final integration and tests. Lockheed Martin did not pay the attention it should have to classic transition-to-production issues. Will there be templates, guys? Will there be templates? Hello? Hello? I had to learn it at Northrop and you all have to learn where you are. Our suppliers and we still have a lot of work cut out for us. However, once we move into a dedicated test and get some stability in the production program, I believe that the Raptor will prove itself to the war-fighter and sell itself to the American public. I am confident our joint community will grow to covet it as much as General Patton's flying columns craved the air forces and naval forces to break out of Normandy and win the race against [German-occupied] France in 1944.

Because it will alter how we fight war and force opponents to alter how they think about war, General Jumper and I are dedicated to bringing this system online. If we cannot, we will be the first to recommend to Secretary Rumsfeld that this program be terminated. We don't need someone to tell us; we'll make the decision.

Operationally, I am very proud of the way our Air Force has continued to adapt to the demands of our current environment. Prior to 9/11, our nation's radars looked outward from the borders and only radars in our periphery were linked. Today, with the integration of Federal Aviation Administration and NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) systems, we have a fully networked radar picture providing air surveillance to the entire United States, allowing us to respond to an FAA "track of interest" when called upon.

In combat operations, our special operations teams and terminal attack controllers developed new ways to bring air and space power to bear in a variety of ground engagements. In Afghanistan, our combat controllers integrated new technologies and precision weapons to do close air support on the battlefield from 39,000 feet, allowing us to employ the venerable B-52 bomber in this role. In fact, at Barksdale (La.) and Minot (N.D.) Air Force bases, our B-52 bomber crews not only incorporate close air support tasks in over three-quarters of the training missions they fly each month, our B-1 fleet is conducting similar training. Think about it. If that ain't real transformation, I just don't know what is.

From combat controllers and pararescuemen to Predator crews to RED HORSE (rapid engineer deployable heavy operational repair squadron-engineer) units to base support to my beloved maintainers, our airmen on the ground are as impressive as our airmen in the air. They are spectacular.

Our approach to treating the combined and joint air operations centers as a weapon system is having extensive and positive effects on warfighting. We have fused air, ground, space and all-source intelligence into a common operational picture, shortening the sensor-to-shooter kill chain from hours to minutes and enabling us to deliver more precise effects faster than ever before.

In Operation Enduring Freedom, this increased our ability to control operations and allowed us to integrate allied and coalition aircraft more effectively, including British Airborne Warning and Control Systems and French attack aircraft.

Finally, we are doing better at mastering how to target and engage time-critical and moving targets. We've begun to link sensors, weapons and people in new and innovative ways, creating asymmetric advantages for our joint forces.

These operational accomplishments were possible because of the marvelous men and women who serve in our Air Force. Our continued investment in developing this fighting force is critical to sustain our nation's dominance in air and space.

We have made progress in enhancing educational opportunities and strengthening the technical foundation of our force. We have expanded the educational and development opportunities for all our officers and enlisted personnel. We are increasing the number of officers attending graduate school at challenging and worthwhile institutions. We have changed the U.S. Air Force Academy curriculum to place a greater emphasis on science, technology, and languages, and we are adding a systems engineering degree to the curriculum. We are creating an Air Force Systems Engineering Institute at the Air Force Institute of Technology (at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio) that will offer master of science degree and certificate-awarding courses. We have formed an alliance with the Navy for post-graduate studies and are taking advantage of the institutional strength of both AFIT and the Naval Postgraduate School (in Monterrey, Calif.) to enhance educational opportunities for both of our services' personnel. In short course, the Air Force will have the deputy position at Monterrey and the Navy will hold the deputy position at AFIT. Finally, we've opened AFIT to our enlisted men and women for the first time to allow them to pursue advanced technical degrees. We have eight senior non-commissioned officers in the inaugural class along with six enlisted Marines. Gen. Don Cook (commander, Air Education and Training Command), I am especially thankful of your leadership in this whole educational area. You have been spectacular, sir. Thank you. If (Lt. Gen. Richard E.) Tex Brown is here from Personnel, he deserves equal thanks because it was some of his vision that we've been able to incorporate. Tex, wherever you are, God love you.

Air Force rated officer retention is improving. Pilot retention is the highest in four years and we have completed one of our best recruiting years ever, exceeding the enlisted accessions goal of 37,000 by almost 700 young Americans. Our airmen increasingly deploy overseas and, as they do so, they understand well my oft-repeated sentiment, "sailors go to sea and airmen accept the expeditionary environment as our normal state of operations." I very much agree with Gen. Hal M. Hornburg (commander, Air Combat Command) that in time this should go away because it becomes natural, absolutely natural to our airmen.

We are raising a generation of warriors, men and women who collectively have done the heavy lifting for our nation in a time of great danger and even greater need. They deserve our support and they deserve our prayers. They have done their jobs magnificently this past year and we are very proud of their accomplishments. We are confident in how they will perform this year. For those of my colleagues in uniform who are here today, I salute you and I thank you.

Our airmen are answering the call to duty, but we must ensure that our men and women have the tools they need to fight and win our nation's wars, now and in a generation to come. While we are making progress and adapting the force to the new era, I remain concerned that we are not leveraging our nation's prosperity, our intellectual capital or our industrial base sufficiently to deliver the capability we need to sustain our dominance.

Moore's Law rings as true today as it did when Gordon Moore postulated it in 1965. His hypothesis was that in 18 months, data density in a microchip would double. Others noted that prices would decrease by half in the same period. For the past four decades, his theory has been proven in the real world and in the market place. It looks like it will continue to do so. As we think about equipping our force, we must address this reality.

We must remember that the United States does not have a patent on progress. Progress and technology belong to those who act, not those who study, but to those who act. And advantage in warfighting goes to the nation, or in the case of the current world environment, to a rogue group that figures out how to use that technology best to advance their cause. Let's not forget --let's never forget -- that Hitler was the first to field the jet-engine fighter, and his scientists were working on fission weapons when the Allies prevailed. Imagine the world today if his regime had won the technology race and his hideous views were empowered by nuclear weapons. Without a zealous commitment to remaining in the lead, we risk losing it as quickly as Gordon Moore predicted technology would change.

On many fronts, to include most of our weapons platforms, it seems as if we've been standing still. Too many are content to rely on yesterday's technology and the majority of the aircraft of which we fight the nation's battles. Our preeminent position is further threatened by nations who have the capacity to develop advanced military capability and who are willing to sell those capabilities to any nation that can pay the price. Unfortunately, this includes some of our friends selling items to some of our potential enemies. We do not have proprietary control over advanced technology. Nor is the mantle of the world's most advanced Air Force ours by birthright. We must earn it, year by year by year.

The increased proliferation of advanced surface-to-air missile systems threatens our ability to gain and maintain air superiority, a critical precondition for successful joint operations. Manned, portable surface-to-air missiles have proliferated extensively, tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missile technology is spreading to our potential enemies. An advanced fighter has already been produced, specifically the Russian SU-37 that is superior to our best fighters if you discount the advantage provided by our extraordinary pilots.

Our reliance on and the threats to our information, communications and computing systems are increasing and the trend shows no sign of reversing. The proverbial first shot of space warfare has been fired, as General Lord mentioned, with the introduction of Global Positioning System jammers, a capability specifically designed in an attempt to neutralize our precision-strike systems. As we grow increasingly dependent on space, we can expect a comparable increase in counter-space threats.

We are now confronting a fact of life. Other nations are purchasing military technologies from American aerospace companies and fielding capabilities that are more advanced than our comparable systems in the field today.

Consider the recently announced decision of the Republic of Korea to purchase the F-15K multi-role fighter. After a competition to choose a replacement for Korea's F-4s and F-5s, the Korean Air Force decided to purchase 40 F-15K's over Dassault's Rafael, Russia's SU-35, and the Euro-fighter 2000. There is no doubt in my mind that the best choice prevailed.

The Korean F-15K produced by Boeing for the Republic of Korea air force, has incorporated technologies that are absent in our most advanced multi-role fighter, the F-15E. The advances include an improved engine -- the F110-GE-129 -- the AIM-9X high off bore-sight short-range missile capability, anti-jam GPS capability, and an infrared search and targeting system. Until the F/A-22 is operational, they will have the best two-engine fighter/attack aircraft in the world -- made in the USA.

We face a similar dilemma with regard to air battle management platforms. Since 1998, one of our closest allies has operated essentially the same airborne battle control radar system used by U.S. airmen, but they've employed it on new Boeing 767 aircraft. This combination results in a more reliable and capable airframe than the 23-year-old 707 platforms we use for our AWACS fleet. Superior crew stations and system cooling give Japan's air battle managers better facilities from which to direct an air war than we provide to American airmen. Having spent time aboard the new Japanese AWACS with Gen. William J. Begert (commander, Pacific Air Forces), I think we can both say that we were envious. We simply were envious.

This is not a question of utility. We know how indispensable our AWACS fleet is to conducting complex air operations and we know all too well the limitations imposed by not having airplanes that are ready to fly. Neither is it a question of an ally tweaking U.S. systems to make it better. The core of the system is exactly the same as the domestic version we use. They just housed it better. It is made in the USA. Soon we may say the same about tankers. Better than those we fly, but built in the USA.

One of the most dramatic examples of other nation's purchasing and employing superior American aerospace technology is the export of new Lockheed Martin F-16s to Greece, Israel, Poland, Chile, Oman, and Singapore and all with fire control systems more advanced than those on U.S. F-16s. Further, the 80 F-16s we'll deliver to the United Arab Emirates starting in 2004 go well beyond this and will be the most advanced single-engine aircraft in the world. It will have conformal fuel tanks to give a range comparable to an F-15E. They will use an F110-GE-132 engine that provides 32,000 pounds of thrust. They will have an active, electronically scanned array radar system capable of extraordinary air-to-air and air-to-ground employment, and advanced infrared targeting and navigation system and advanced electronic warfare system all built in the USA.

Our F-16 pilots do not have all of these advances, yet we still expect them to be the best in the world... and they are. How long must we rely on our training and our thoroughly professional airmen, crews, maintainers and support teams to overcome equipment shortfalls? How long will it be before we lose our advantage? We need to get our new technology into the hands of our airmen in a deliberate but efficient manner and we can no longer go through procurement holidays.

We are going to need to learn to live with the fact that the best single-engine fighter, the best twin-engine fighter, the best tanker, and the best air battle management system will have been delivered by American aerospace companies and put into operation, except none of those aircraft will have an American flag on its tail. This disturbs me and it should disturb anyone who cares about giving the best our nation has to offer to the men and women of our armed forces.

You may ask, "Why don't we simply buy numbers of these foreign-financed, made-in-the-USA aircraft?" First of all, we don't play to tie, ladies and gentlemen. We intend to win with advanced systems that will keep us well ahead of the rest of the world and anything we buy today needs to last for the next 20 or 30 years and be ahead and stay ahead over that period of time. Hence, we want the F/A-22 for its ability to change the face of war for years to come as well as we want the qualities we hope to see in the F-35. The combination of emerging, threatening, foreign-built systems and the resulting challenges to our nation, plus superlative American technology delivered to our allied airmen, makes me passionate about fielding our U.S.-developed, our U.S.-advanced strike systems, as well as our advanced ground moving target indicator and airborne moving target indicator systems and the new smart tanker and other follow-on capabilities.

I am delighted there are allies and friends who so highly value U.S. technology and our systems integration capabilities. John Jumper and I simply value our airmen more.

While other nations are modernizing, we continue to employ aging systems that are becoming more difficult to operate and more expensive to maintain. The average age of the current Air Force operational fleet, the numbers will differ slightly from General Jumper's -- I've taken out trainers and things like that -- is more than 26 years. Eleven aircraft types average 30 years of age. The KC-135 and B-52 fleets average more than 40 years old. Even with planned aircraft procurements, the fleet's average age is expected to increase to 29 years by 2015. That is assuming our programs stay on track.

While average age communicates an aggregate picture, in some major design systems, such as the KC-135, we have operational aircraft continuing to operate after almost 50 years of life. Of these aged aircraft, the B-52, because we fly it so differently than it was intended and because it was built so ruggedly, is the only one that we can really expect to have good operational use of over the next 20 years, flying it the way we do now, as compared to how it was intended.

The tyranny of age has birthed the long-promised "modernization death spiral." We are now migrating dollars from procurement to operations and maintenance to sustain our aging fleets. In 1997, the direct cost of corrosion maintenance for our Air Force aircraft was $795 million. Today, we estimate it will cost more than one billion dollars a year, despite a 5 percent reduction in the aircraft inventory over the same time period.

The KC-135 fleet is one of our more serious concerns. In the last 10 years, mission-capable rates have headed down 16 percent. Programmed depot maintenance costs tripled. Depot work packages doubled and depot flow days more than doubled, primarily due to the challenges posed by corrosion, most of it catalytic corrosion. Among those of us who spent our time at sea, when we see catalytic corrosion, we refer to the object, not as a ship or an airplane, but as a battery and, unfortunately, some of our planes have parts in them that are looking like batteries. Major structural repairs have increased from one in every four aircraft, to two per aircraft.

Other systems face significant challenges as well, particularly our F-15 fleet of fighters. Our F-15Cs have suffered catastrophic failures of vertical stabilators, forcing us to further limit the operational flight envelope for our front-line air superiority fighter. Two-thirds of our entire F-15C fleet, 219 of 332, now average over 21 years in operation and the stresses on the airframe will only increase. Some of our oldest F-15s are now experiencing major cracks in the wing struts, due primarily to corrosion.

Let's not forget, our "brand new" F-117 is now approaching 20 years. Meanwhile, we are now the world's experts in flying Huey helicopters, the Army has stopped. We have MH-53s, as Lt. Gen. Paul Hester (commander, Air Force Special Operations Command) pointed out earlier. Ladies and gentlemen, these planes were in Vietnam when I was in the Tonkin Gulf. I am old. They are old. That we have maintainers who keep these going is spectacular, but how much should we expect of them? When does it get to the point where it is no longer fair?

Our maintainers are doing fantastic work keeping the fleets flying. We have made a significant investment in spare parts, in depots, repair procedures and system modifications. All of this involves time, energy and funds we should be investing in our future, not our past. That is why we are looking for new, innovative ways of modernizing our force.

Our plan to retire 68 KC-135E's and our proposal to lease 100 new 767 tankers are examples of this innovation, at least as I see it. The marginal capability contributed by the E-model tankers is becoming too expensive to justify. The E-models off-load capabilities is only 84 percent of the R model, and they spend almost twice as much time in depot compared to the R model. Retiring 68 of these aged aircraft allows us to avoid costly repairs and allows us to reinvest the savings in the remaining tanker fleet.

Our tanker lease proposal is currently under review by the secretary of defense. If the lease is approved, it will further mitigate these retirements and deliver essential capability sooner than a traditional aircraft buy. The proposal secures 100 new FAA-certified commercial air refueling aircraft through over-lapping leases. If the secretary of defense agrees that our initiative makes sense operationally for the American taxpayer, we will submit the program to the Office of Management and Budget and Congress. If Secretary Rumsfeld feels this does not make sense, then we will fall back on our basic plan, which is to buy new tankers, but unfortunately, not start until later in the decade.

We've already seen how much cheaper it is to operate the C-17 over the C-141 and C-5. The F/A-22 promises to be 25 to 30 percent less expensive to operate than the F-15 right from the start. We must retire some of our aging aircraft and we must deliver new systems. The longer we wait, the greater the challenge.

As General Jumper noted yesterday, we are going to implement an Air Worthiness Board. We have now a fleet of aircraft that is so old, we must take a best practice from the Navy, the Board of Inspection and Survey. We need to have a senior level, dedicated set of professionals who will develop objective criteria for retiring aircraft from the operational fleet. We can no longer just turn to our young maintainers and say, "just keep fixing it kids, just keep fixing it." It is no longer fair.

Separately, these are daunting challenges. Collectively, they represent a mounting risk to American air and space dominance. That is why General Jumper and I remain firmly committed to modernizing our force, investing in the competencies that are at the center of our ability to deliver air and space power.

Our core competencies--developing airmen, technology to war-fighting, integrating operations -- in the truest sense of the concept of core competencies -- are what form the foundation upon which we organize, train and equip and are the cornerstones of our enduring strength as a military service. As we build the Air Force of the 21st century, our professional development of airmen, our pursuit of inventions and new technologies that enable us to better fight and win in conflict, our continued development of concepts of operation that bring together manned, unmanned, space and joint operations. Our continued focus on and nurturing of these competencies will enable us to remain the world's greatest air and space force, with your help.

This is not an academic exercise. We are intensely focused on warfighting and delivering the capabilities that will enable us to remain expeditionary and responsive to the needs of our nation. The combatant commanders and the American people rely on us to provide global strike, global response, global mobility, global special operations, battle awareness and control, all while providing an umbrella of homeland security and nuclear deterrence for our nation. They rely on us to get it right and to get it right the first time. These core competencies are what drove our evolution and success for decades. By using them to guide our continued development, we can sustain the triumphs we airmen have enjoyed throughout our history.

That is why General Jumper and I are so passionate about maintaining a principled approach to adaptation and modernization. We must and will meet Secretary Rumsfeld's charter to build a force for the future, one that will meet a variety of current and future threats, an Air Force that gives the asymmetric advantage and superior modern technology to our airmen, one that is built on our core competencies and a force that possesses the decisive power we need to fight and win the wars of the future.

In building this force of the future, we require a mixture of capabilities consistent with pre-defined operational concepts and effects-driven methodology. Future programs must be conceived with this in mind. Arguments for a system or capability that fails to take into consideration the emerging joint character of all of our aspects of warfare or the asymmetric nature of warfare, appropriately find themselves in the category of obsolescence and irrelevancy, and rightfully make themselves vulnerable to elimination.

Air and space power employed in the Persian Gulf War over a decade ago was appropriately judged as a huge leap ahead from previous eras. The Air Force today is similarly more advanced and the Air Force of tomorrow, as you will briefly glimpse this week (and if we can pull off what we are trying to pull off) will take yet another leap ahead. Today we are planting the seed corn in transformation, leveraging the brilliance and innovation of our people, using concepts of operations, mastering technology and integrating people, systems and information in new ways.

In the future, we will employ multi-mission stealthy aircraft systems, with multi-spectral fused sensors and robust all-weather weapons delivery, with increased standoff capability. We will deploy with less people and get greater capability. We will attack with vastly improved range payloads, speed, maneuverability and precision. We will fight with manned, unmanned and remotely piloted aircraft. We will launch a new generation of satellites in orbit with more operationally responsive launch systems. Our vision is one of a fully integrated force of manned, unmanned and space assets that communicate at the machine to machine level and deliver a capability to conduct near-instantaneous global attack against a range of threats and targets.

We are developing the systems we need today to fulfill these objectives: The new F/A-22, the F-35 we hope to bring on the line, the Multi-mission Command and Control Constellation, the Smart Tanker, laser communications, the Space-Based Radar System, advanced remotely piloted attack aircraft, ISR UAVs, improved systems for our air commandos and advanced weapons of many types.

Let me assure you and all our critics that this is no snake oil banner of transformation cultivated in the abstract. We are using well thought-out operational concepts and the hard lessons of real warriors from real operations to guide our decisions. For example, we are learning from our employment of the Predator and Global Hawk in Operation Enduring Freedom. Joint war-fighters are thrilled with how we've learned to link systems and firepower. Predator, for example, is in great demand in every theater where we operate today. Last year, the system flew three times as much as we originally planned and it was deployed around the globe, providing invaluable real-time intelligence, target-designation, precision attack and battle damage assessment. Yet, I still have in my top desk drawer -- and I look at it now and then -- the memorandum from those who said it wasn't ready for production and too risky to employ. It didn't work and it was unsuitable for war, says the memo. It is fun to look at it, every now and then. This experience is guiding our efforts and it is enabling us to gain huge advantages for future systems now in development.

We have great respect for our past. We've understood what happened in the late 1930s, where the Army Air Corps picked up five of this, 10 of that, four of this and allowed our pilots and our officers to figure what would be best for the war to come. That is a philosophy, John Jumper and I, are dealing with in remotely piloted aircraft and UAVs. We want families out there. We don't want to have anyone think we are clairvoyant to know this is precisely the system. Those young captains, majors and lieutenants, they'll tell us. We just have to give them something to work with so that they can tell us.

You would have to see the look in the faces of the Predator system operators and pilots when General Jumper and I, separately and collectively, meet with them and we've been to every operational unit. When we tell them, "Look, you are pioneers, how should we do this? What is the best way of doing this? What should we change? What do we need?" At first, they are kind of going, "Why is he asking? Why is he asking me?" It takes us awhile to convince them that we trust their judgment. They are the ones with the experience. Their brains mean something. Their views mean something. You know what? They are giving us fabulous ideas.

Let me assure you that we don't envision ourselves as the first transformers of our military. Nor are we following the prescription of armchair strategists. More appropriately, we are using the operator scholars, these young officers and young enlisted men and women who long ago taught us the value of innovation, effects, jointness, precision, agility, stealth and speed. We are paying attention to the lessons of history, to those achievements of warriors whose actions and innovations continue to inspire and instruct. In particular, we are studying the great leaders like Patton and Arnold who built a spectacular air/ground team to lead the break-out of Normandy, a team that focused on the benefits that cooperation and teamwork could deliver in wartime, a team that knew what the vital importance air superiority meant to success in coalition and joint operations, and a team that recognized how critical trust was to success on the battlefield. We are paying attention to the ideas of those who understand our systems and envision the capabilities we can deliver in the future, and we debate face-to-face, not by messengers.

Finally, we are remembering the hard lessons learned in the years between World War I and World War II, when the career of a young infantry officer who wrote about the future of warfare was nearly ruined for his non-conformist views. Fortunately, for our nation, General Pershing's staff saved this young officer's career. Later, this same officer -- as a Supreme Allied Commander -- proved invaluable in building the air/ground teams that were the decisive turning point to victory in Europe. Our challenge today and in the future is to make sure we don't muffle future Dwight Eisenhowers and to capture the vision of our warfighters in our journey to the future.

As we look ahead, we are excited at the opportunities we have to serve our nation in meeting the challenges posed by our evolving security environment. As we do so, we never forget the words the Italian artillery officer, Giulio Douhet. He once noted,

"Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after they occur."

We are working hard to follow that prescription. It is our resolute belief that air and space power will continue to play a decisive role in protecting America, assuring our allies, defending our interests and will deliver the capability our joint team will need to fight and win our wars of the future. It is an exciting future and one we are looking forward to making a reality for airmen and for all Americans.

I continue to relish serving alongside my Air Force colleagues and I continue to accumulate even more friends with strange names that only the Air Force could give: Scam, Snake, Egg, Wardog, Two-lips, Two-dogs, Peach, Conan, Gonzo, Genghis, Woody, Buck, Buzz, Fig, Toons, Waldo and I could never forget Bam-Bam.

Thank you very much for inviting me today. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.


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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).

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