Sunday, April 04, 2010

Testing High

I think the Air Force needs to migrate to space, in part, for new missions, as the Army takes over with drones many of the roles it used to rely on the Air Force to provide.

The Air Force is aiming high with this project:

After a decade of development, the Air Force this month plans to launch a robotic spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle to conduct technology tests in orbit and then glide home to a California runway.

The ultimate purpose of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and details about the craft, which has been passed between several government agencies, however, remain a mystery as it is prepared for launch April 19 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"As long as you're confused you're in good shape," said defense analyst John Pike, director of "I looked into this a couple of years ago — the entire sort of hypersonic, suborbital, scramjet nest of programs — of which there are upwards of a dozen. The more I studied it the less I understood it."

The project may be a mystery. But the ultimate goal should be simple: just get into space, Air Force. That's the new high ground you need to dominate.

UPDATE: Strategypage writes about the Army's developing air force--and the Air Force's resistance:

The air force has accepted, for the moment, that unmanned aircraft are not the sole preserve of the air force, and the army is taking that and building a new air force for itself.

The air force is not happy about the army having a large force of armed UAVs. Many air force generals believe the army should not have the MQ-1C, or at least not use them with weapons. That has already caused some spats in the Pentagon over the issue, but a recent purge and reshuffle of the senior air force leadership, by the Secretary of Defense, makes it appear that the army will be left alone to build its new robotic air force. At least for the moment.

The Air Force is nuts to fight for a shrinking market share. Why resist a very natural development in putting strike and recon assets into Army units' hands? The Air Force should focus on new missions that are part of their basic mission to control what's above the land that the Army fights on. Those are missions that the Army can't handle.