A new Air Force strategy document says the service must control not only the skies, but space and cyberspace too, or risk U.S. security and the failure of future military operations.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley laid out his service's strategy for the next two decades and the "urgent actions required to cope with today's and tomorrow's challenges" in a Dec. 29, 2007, white paper released earlier this month. "No future war will be won without air, space and cyberspace superiority," he said.
The Air Force must achieve and maintain "cross-domain dominance," Moseley said, to be able to carry out strikes at will and prevent any attacks on U.S. interests from the skies, space or the electromagnetic spectrum. Only Air Force dominance across those realms, will enable the other services -- the Army and Navy - to conduct operations ranging from humanitarian relief to full-blown war.
Future wars are unlikely to resemble current fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the United States must be prepared to win large-scale wars, Moseley said. In the strategy paper he emphasized the importance of maintaining a modern Air Force as a deterrent against any potential enemy. "Deterrence is a function of capability, will and credibility and, thus, exists in the eye of the beholder," he said. The Air Force must be able to see and destroy any potential target anywhere in the world.
According to Moseley, the hub of innovation in science and engineering has shifted from the United States and Europe to Asia. "We cannot assume that the next military revolution will originate in the West," he said.
Moseley also listed a number of technologies where potential enemies could make breakthroughs: cybernetics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, electromagnetic spectrum physics, robotics and advanced propulsion. Threats to Air Force dominance include: Generation 4-plus aircraft; sophisticated air defense systems; ballistic missiles armed with conventional warheads or weapons of mass destruction; commercially available satellite imagery, and cyberspace attacks.
The Air Force strategy paper highlighted the threat to surveillance, communications and navigation satellite constellations posed by China's destruction of an orbiting satellite by a missile early last year. Moseley said the Air Force must develop "high-altitude, high-speed, air-breathing" surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, as backups to newly vulnerable satellites.
Although Moseley did not specifically reference any Air Force weapons or aircraft programs, he said the Air Force's inventory of aircraft was the oldest in history, "battered by 17 years of continuous combat." That figure included the decade that Air Force jets spent patrolling Iraq's no-fly zones.
Moseley highlighted the future capabilities the Air Force requires, including advanced unmanned aircraft; directed energy weapons; a new combat search-and-rescue aircraft; standoff weapons; and notably, penetrating manned aircraft, a bomber able to penetrate next generation enemy air defenses. There had been speculation that future Air Force bombers would be unmanned.
The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review called for the Air Force to build a long-range stealth bomber by 2018, in addition to the service's plans to field a new bomber by 2035. At an October 2007 Government Executive event, Moseley said the 2018 bomber was a top priority. But the Air Force's fiscal 2009 budget request does not include any money for a new bomber.