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Online Defense and Acquisition Journal Home » Air » U.S. Air Dominance Eroding U.S. Air Dominance Eroding By Greg Grant Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 2:39 pm Posted in Air, Intelligence, International, Policy The U.S. military’s historic dominance of the skies, unchallenged since around spring 1943, is increasingly at risk because of the proliferation of advanced technologies and a buildup of potential adversary arsenals, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the service’s chief for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Speaking today at the Air Force’s annual convention in the Washington area today, he provided a wide ranging assessment of what the QDR team is calling “high-end, asymmetric threats.” Emphasizing the increasing capabilities of “anti-access weapons,” such as long range precision missiles, Deptula said pilots in future wars will not operate in the “permissive” threat environments of current wars inIraq and Afghanistan.Deptula, best known for crafting the Desert Storm air campaign, said potential opponents have learned from U.S. operations and will use precision arsenals to stop a buildup of U.S. airpower near their borders before a war even begins. Without functioning ground bases, aircraft cannot operate; the Air Force is investing heavily in shorter ranged tactical aircraft, such as the F-22 and F-35, along with a host of older F-15 and F-16. Overseas bases from which these aircraft operate are now threatened by increasingly accurate ballistic missiles in Chinese, Russian, Iranian and North Korean arsenals, Deptula said. The newest models are road mobile and exceedingly difficult to locate. Enemies will use cyber attacks to target U.S. command and control networks and satellite relays, the smooth functioning of which the military is now completely dependant. “Space is no longer a sanctuary and our satellites are at risk… for five decades the U.S. has led the world in space,” he said, now, “the space domain is perhaps the most likely arena for threats to achieve leveraged effects,” against U.S. operations. The Chinese are developing anti-satellite weapons, as are the Russians, and the number of countries that can launch sensor-loaded satellites into space is increasing. Because of improvements in over the horizon and passive radars, U.S. aircraft will be detected long before they reach their targets. “The area that we operate in free from detection is rapidly shrinking,” Deptula said, “our adversaries are going to have capabilities that we’ve never operated against.” The newest generation surface-to-air missiles, such as the Russian SA-21, have ranges exceeding 300 miles and the ability to target low flying aircraft, and will likely be exported. Speaking to the more traditional realm of air-to-air combat, so dear to his audience’s heart, Deptula contends that the U.S. technological edge there is eroding. While “fourth generation” fighters are no match for the most advanced U.S. fighters, Deptula reminded the audience of the Russian export success with the MIG-21, some 12,000 of which were built, and operated by over 50 countries. Russia and China are both developing “fifth generation” fighters that will be widely exported at prices that will undercut the F-35 price tag. Both nations will thus acquire “near F-22 performance… while attempting to proliferate the [aircraft] to perhaps near F-35 like quantities,” he said. “We may be facing a fighter threat capability in quantities we’ve never experienced before.” Its not just in the technology realm that America’s enemies are seeking advantage. Unable to counter the U.S. dominance in long-range strike, enemies in wars among the people use information operations to influence perceptions about civilian casualties and deny the U.S. ability to leverage its asymmetric advantages. Deptula said media savvy opponents who skillfully manipulate global public perception are an example of successful “Effects Based Operations,” a doctrinal term that has recently fallen into disfavor, except among air power advocates. Email this • Digg This! (2 Diggs) • Share on Facebook • Save to (4 saves) • AddThis! • Subscribe to the DoD Buzz Newsletter • Subscribe to this feed Join the Conversation G-Town Student September 15th, 2009 at 3:18 pm All of this explains why a COIN aircraft is extremely vital, right? Daniel September 15th, 2009 at 4:17 pm yes it does, so we don’t burn up the flight hours of the aircraft we need doing missions they are over kill for. Charles D Phillips, LtCol, USAF (Ret) September 15th, 2009 at 4:19 pm To be expected from the Generals – the audience loves to hear that we are facing new, enormous threats and therefore must spend freely. Still the headline could have easily been “US Air Dominance May Erode One Of These Days” to put the remarks into perspective. You don’t want to underestimate your future opponents – and invite a new Pearl Harbor attack – but we do need to apply some common sense here. The “success” of the MiG 21 really just provided us and our allies such as Israel with lots of targets. When we respect their capabilities, that type of aircraft just gives our future aces some more kills. What I would take out of this speech is that we need to design a new, capable, fighter that we are able to afford! And also a new heavy bomber so we can finally retire the B-52 before too many people fly the same aircraft as their great-grandfather. Solomon September 15th, 2009 at 5:48 pm I’ve heard the F-22 and F-35 called many things but shorter ranged has never been one of them. The Ohio class subs were to be armed with conventional ballistic missiles but the idea was canned because of the risk. Now our enemies are obtaining them. Amusing. A threat F-22 at F-35 numbers???? I just don’t believe it. If this threat is real then is it being made visible at the SecDef level?? I wonder how good the intelligence is on this. elgatoso September 15th, 2009 at 6:20 pm Should be interesting to read all the speech to take conclusions.The big enemy from peers is missiles,not aircraft.(Chinese ASBM, Russian S500) roland September 15th, 2009 at 6:31 pm Speaking of defending the country (USA) and air dominance, I think the answer to that are multiple long range ICBM’s that can travel anywhere around the earth if needed and a number underground launching pad station around United States. jim September 15th, 2009 at 6:58 pm Reduced American dominance is exactly what the traitor Obama wanted. Big surprise, elect an anti-American scumbag President and we find American power waning. Who could have predicted that? dow September 15th, 2009 at 7:21 pm Barry Osbama is the combination of Hate America J Wright and Bill Ayers – America is too powerful and that is the problem in the world. So Barry guts power projection just as he be learned…. Weaponhead September 15th, 2009 at 7:23 pm Boy that sure explains why we terminated NGB and F-22. The WSJ had an article on China’s new 5th gen fighter. Based on the article they are planning on using F-22 as the chinning bar. So Lt. Gen. Deptula raises the concern and says nothing about how we are countering the problem. To quote a great Dilbert line, ” Don’t step in the Leadership”. Zach September 15th, 2009 at 8:06 pm Funny how this comes out AFTER the F-22 was canceled. Someone was muzzled. But whats new, that’s politics. Both Republicans and Democrats do it. Stephen September 15th, 2009 at 8:34 pm Doesn’t it say way up there that dominance is being eroded by ‘… the proliferation of advanced technologies and a buildup of potential adversary arsenals.’ Further, “Without functioning ground bases, aircraft cannot operate.” All the F-22’s in anyone’s desires can’t overcome ALL the challenges out there.xxxx The general ” says nothing about how we are countering the problem.” I expect they wanna keep some stuff secret. Total September 15th, 2009 at 8:37 pm “unchallenged since 1943?” For God’s sake, what are you talking about? There was this little thing called “The Cold War” during which the Soviet Union did everything it could to challenge American air dominance. Jesus H. Christ. Drake1 September 15th, 2009 at 8:40 pm The AF leadership has been using this argument to push for more F-22s for a while. The only thing David Deptula isn’t “explicitly” saying is that we need more (320) F-22s, but read between the lines and you know what he is getting at. Daniel Russ September 15th, 2009 at 8:48 pm @Col. Phillips, “What I would take out of this speech is that we need to design a new, capable, fighter that we are able to afford! And also a new heavy bomber so we can finally retire the B-52 before too many people fly the same aircraft as their great-grandfather.” Dead on. Daniel Russ Chockblock September 15th, 2009 at 9:51 pm And we need the F-15 silent eagle/F-16 block 60 why? Either way newer stealthy aircraft are needed. More, younger tankers, a bigger air force so we can fire the KBR parasites. COIN air craft belong to the Army and Marines. The Air Force needs to focus on air supremacy. elgatoso September 15th, 2009 at 10:56 pm COIN for Army and MArines and the Air force air supremacy and SAC.But focus in new technologies(Ramjet,pulse detonation engine,CHAMP) ReconTeam September 15th, 2009 at 11:23 pm Hmm… If only we had a production line ready to produce an advanced, long range, 5th generation air-superiority fighter… TB September 15th, 2009 at 11:51 pm Recon, the F-22 isn’t a long range fighter, the General just said so… Byron Skinner September 16th, 2009 at 12:12 am Good Evening Folks, Lt. General Deptula is disconnected form reality. Russia nor China will build a fifth Generation fighter in this century. The SA-21 SAM on the S-300 Radar system has been defeated in combat by what general Schwartz calls a “cyber weapon”. As for unchallenged since 1943, how about Korea and Vietnam where the commies in the early stages of these wars gave kicked USAF butts. Is this the quality of intellectual fire power the AF has, please Sec. Gates do some long over due house cleaning. All General Deptula is doing is interviewing for a post retirement job, seven figures, with a defense contractor with sill dumb a** statements like this. Note to defense contractors, this general is just to da** dumb to hire. ALLONS, Byron Skinner bobbymike September 16th, 2009 at 12:18 am Now that the Senate voted to defund those ACORN scumbags there is $8 billion of stimulas money that can go to buy more F-22s!! elgatoso September 16th, 2009 at 1:31 am The problem are not the 5 gen fighter but missiles like the Chinese ASBM and the future s-500,we need to begin to think to renew our strategic force.Speak softly and carry a big stick. al manning September 16th, 2009 at 8:03 am Technology always leap by leap an bound..but how once again how someone take the time to bash the president never seem to amazes me.I ask did you vote???Then vote again when his term come up an leave the forum to what is being discussed. marinepapa September 16th, 2009 at 8:18 am Unless OIL goes back to $150/barrell (and stays there), Russia will never be able to build enough 5th Gen fighters to make a difference, and the Chinese still can’t figure out how to build a 4th Gen plane that is flyable in combat conditions. We’ve got 10 to 15 years to come up with our next air superiority weapon, and hopefully it will be small, affordable and unpiloted. SFC Michael A. Sampsell September 16th, 2009 at 8:19 am Nothing new. Generals close to retirement trying to secure their post service careers with defense contractors. The best way to do that is to make our nation fear and therefore spend trillions on systems that are clearly not needed. Amazing so many people don’t see this. Scrapping the F-22 was a wise decision. We don’t need it. To blame the President is just ignorant. HSLong (COL ret) September 16th, 2009 at 8:22 am Until the administration recognizes that there is no higher priority than having a effective and dominant national defense (long-range in both time and distance) coupled with the leadership to manage it, we will become an evermore attractive target. lordlochwood September 16th, 2009 at 8:27 am WTF…you all are talking to hear(read) yourself speak. Obama this, Obama that…heck, he hasn’t even warmed the chair in the WH yet…how is it that everything is his faujlt already? (Note: I didn’t vote for his sorry as* in the first place…) Fact, we have become so lazy/uncaring, we’re just making all the info anyone needs to design products to kick our own as*ses. ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’…ever heard that before? It meant something during WWII AND during the Cold War…Our media, whether in print or video, gives all the info anyone would need to build a better widget, or defeat us, and even worse, we open our borders to let anyone come study in our hallowed halls of learning, which they then take back to their homeland to design products to use against us…when are we all going to learn that we – as the strongest nation on earth – need to keep our intellectual property secret? Give them all the rifles and cannons they need, just don’t give them the ammo!!!! Let them beat each other to death using the rifle as a club… Tom September 16th, 2009 at 8:32 am OMG! You mean to say that one of these days the Air Force might actually have to fight. Well at least that will give them some better stories to tell while getting drunk at the club each evening before settling down on a comfortable bed in their air conditioned private rooms for a good night’s sleep. Tony Conner September 16th, 2009 at 8:44 am The General made the case for more aircraft carriers and a larger naval air force, no runways required. That’s why the US Navy took the Air Forces funds away in the last budget. TPCAT September 16th, 2009 at 8:44 am Now Jim, remarks like that about the CinC will get you kicked off here real fast. Air Dominance, or lack of, the President’s fault? It’s not something that happened since January this year .’s been happening for awhile under succeeding Administrations. But having read the article, it does appear the Air Force is making a play to get Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer to spend more of their hard earned cash on new toys for the boys . . . And this format is more crappy than the last one. And harder to post on. Do they really want us all to go away? Scott September 16th, 2009 at 8:55 am Another attempt to capture funding for AF programs. Technology development is a continual change and improvement, I agree with the statement that the AF may have to fight in the next conflict as opposed to the cake walk they have had recentely. We (USA) have only dominated recently when operating in the current environment of little or no resistance/opposition however the point of conflicts such as Korea, Viet Nam, and the cold war were not what I would consider a position of “dominance” for air power. General’s should never play into the politics game, they should stay in their own swim lanes, looking for improvements of course but not trying to mask a fishing trip for funding by the veil of intelligence information. TPCAT September 16th, 2009 at 8:56 am And Dow, if you’re not careful, you’ll be joining Jim in the wilderness where there will be “weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth . . .” If you can’t or won’t respect the man, respect the office. TPCAT September 16th, 2009 at 8:58 am I take it back about the format . . .once I sussed it out, it’s not too bad. TPCAT September 16th, 2009 at 9:02 am If we’re going to retain air dominance, then the article makes clear we’re going to have to spend a lot more money on research and development and production of new aircraft. All that takes time, it can’t just happen over night. But, the Airforce might want to seriously forget about development and just take a good look at the new Euro Fighter. It’s up and running and no doubt could be supplied in any number they wanted. All they’d have to do is place an order. aaronl1369 September 16th, 2009 at 9:08 am Didn’t we sell/give away the technologies for this weaponry to “unfriendly” or questionable nations? We did this to ourselves… wait, they (Politicians) did this to us……wait, wait, we voted them into office, so….Yes, we did this to ourselves! jake September 16th, 2009 at 9:10 am all of the democrats in the government dont help our situation Freddie September 16th, 2009 at 9:13 am If something, kicks off. The Navy will have no fith generatin aircraft. Navy piolot sees just as much fighting as the ASAF. TPCAT September 16th, 2009 at 9:15 am And anyway, what’s wrong with the Warthog? It may be ugly, but it’ll get the job done. And apart from that, how many fighter jets and other airforce aircraft are sitting out in the Arizona desert in mothballs? Surely if we’re running short, the Air Force could think about bringing some of those back into service. Out of date they may be, but I’d think that as far as Afghanistan goes, they’d get the job done. mike p September 16th, 2009 at 9:17 am If the u.s senate will wake up and get some of the old folks out of there they will see that there is a much needed production for more f-22 with china and russia and india with sukhoi new generation were need to anty up the f-35 cannot go one on one with a sukhoi fighter or a f-18 will suffer the same fate too we need more f-22s or new build silent eagles with canrds and thrust vectoring or f-16 with the same build type or russia china or india will come out the leader one day pennst98 September 16th, 2009 at 9:19 am ugh…… (shakes head in disgust) I love the faceless, nameless, (and often non-existent)THEY that are challenging our “air dominance.” It’s time for me to leave my job where I actually do work and start doing “analysis” for the Air Force. All I’ll need are DVD’s of STEALH and FIREFOX, a box of crayons and some Denny’s placemats…. (BOOM, ZOOOOOoooom, AK “>AK AK AK AK AK…) While I’m unloading on this disgrace to the Uniform, ACCURATE and IRANIAN/N.KOREAN should never go into the same sentence. Chinese and Russian weapon are barely better, and never forget their effectivness varies HIGHLY depending upon maintenance and training…. I’m sorry….I meant to say…WE’RE DEFENSELESS, THE SKY IS FALLING! QUICK, SEND BILLIONS WITH NO ACCOUNTABILITY! (to the guys and gals who can’t manage nukes and whose new and innovative solution to a CSAR-X was a frieght helo built in 1962. Go ahead and give these clown shoes more money and they make the mismanagement of the KC-130 replacement look like Harvard Business Case… Mark September 16th, 2009 at 9:35 am What comes to mind when reading about the space scenario, that was left out, is that we do have the ability to directly go into space and disable whatever we have to should the need arise. TPCAT September 16th, 2009 at 9:44 am Calling the President an “anti-American Scumbag” doesn’t count as disrespect to the Commander in Chief? Well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs, who would have thought it? And don’t see how you can blame any one party for this. And in aircraft like everything else, you get what you pay for. The question has to be asked, are there not enough planes out there to defend the United States, and fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? If the answer to that is “yes” well, why do we need more? And if we do need more, why pay development costs? Why not just buy them in. The Euro Fighter is available, and I’m sure the Chinese would sell us some of their aircraft as well if we asked them nicely. So, what’s the problem? old corps September 16th, 2009 at 10:04 am sooner or later some arab will reinvent the flying carpet, and a genie with a Tesla Death Ray Bamboo booby traps eventually wore out Billion Dollar Arsenals old corps September 16th, 2009 at 10:06 am If the United States is so smart, Why do we need Indian Poor People to Solve Our Computer Problems ? arista September 16th, 2009 at 10:08 am US airpower will be further eroded by the application of disproportionate response. The use of US assets against terrorists or smaller opponents may well open US to International Criminal Court jurisdiction and prosecution. There has been a move to “level the field” in effect disallow the US from using its advantages and fighting by strict rules of engagement against a foe with no rules. The UNs Goldstone report will set a precedence to be used against the US and NATO.


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