Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Final Frontier

The Air Force is looking warily at China as it plans to defend space assets and American use of space. Make the Air Force the Aerospace Force, I say, and let the Army take care of its own close air support the way Marines provide their own air support.

The Air Force has to aim even higher:

The United States Air Force is accelerating investment in space as Chinese advancements threaten to penetrate American systems in the previously uncontested domain, top service officials said during a congressional hearing Tuesday.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Air Force secretary Heather Wilson and chief of staff General David Goldfein both identified China's space innovation and "rapid growth" in military capabilities among their top concerns facing the service in the coming years.

The military is doing better at integrating space assets into warfare rather than tacking it on to pre-space processes, as the recent strike on Syrian WMD demonstrated:

“For something of this scale, this is one of—if not the—first time we have had space guys directly involved in the planning, influencing that mission, and developing effects specifically designed to support its execution,” says [Col. Dewitt Morgan, the director of spaces forces at U.S. Air Force Central Command]. “I’ve been involved in the Air Force for 24 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

My view is that the Air Force should aim high and become the Aerospace Force to fight for the continuum of space/air control.

We can discuss a Space Navy/Space Force carved out of the Navy and/or Aerospace Force when we move beyond the Earth-Moon system, okay?

Strike missions are still in the Aerospace Force lane even with the service encompassing space, as the Syria example shows.

But with the low-flying A-10 on the way out and the incoming F-35 unsuitable for flying low, can close air support to help American troops in contact with the enemy be provided from altitudes high enough to avoid ground-based air defenses?

Because the "brown" skies above our troops are under threat from low-cost and cheap drones. And expensive American fighter planes aren't coming in low enough or quickly enough to defend against that kind of threat.

The Army should be able to provide fire support with artillery systems and any low flying aircraft it wants, and not just helicopters.

And use any of those systems for air defense without worrying about deconflicting with incoming Air Force assets.

I wonder if the Army would invest so much in armed helicopters if they weren't the only manned combat aircraft they could fly.

If the Army provided close air support over the battlefield, leaving deeper strikes to the Aerospace Force, the Army could invest in planes, helicopters, and drones, as needed by threats and capabilities and not by agreements with the Air Force.

UPDATE: The Air Force is quietly strangling the A-10 (tip to Instapundit):

The $103 million Congress appropriated for the A-10 re-winging project will only produce four new pairs of wings and it will likely take six years before new wings are installed on any operational A-10s. These funds will mainly be used to start up an entirely new production line.

The Air Force claims it needs all this money and time to get competitive bids to start up the new wing production line. All the while, the men and women serving in combat for the next six years badly need to be able to count on an A-10 force that is not shrinking rapidly due to a failure to replace worn out wings.

The Air Force, if it believes that close air support should be provided from high altitude by the F-35, should transfer the A-10s, personnel, and money to operate them to the Army and see if the Army love of the plane is true rather than just wanting the Air Force to carry out the role with their money.

Mind you, that role is part of what the Air Force is for. But let the Army take care of battlefield close air support and see what the Army puts the money toward--the A-10, armed helicopters, armed drones, or whatever--perhaps even longer range missiles.