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Global Strike: 8th Air Force legacy continues.

For nearly 6 decades Eighth Air Force has been world renowned as the United States Air Force's bomber command. The Mighty Eighth's" bombing legacy began in the European Theater during World War II with its B-17 and B-24 strategic missions against Germany. That legacy has continued for almost 60 years as the Eighth provided a worldwide bomber strike capability throughout the Cold War, DESERT SHIELD/STORM, and most recently for ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan.

The result of this legacy is a vast capability to strike targets around the world with nuclear and conventional munitions ... from cruise missiles to a vast array of dumb and smart iron bombs. That capability has been broadened further by the bomber's ability to loiter in the target area and strike multiple targets with extraordinary accuracy.

This significant capability resulted in the Eighth's bombers being involved in virtually every contingency operation in modern memory. There is an indisputable requirement for manned bombers in future military operations, but it is doubtful, especially with recent changes across our Air Force, that the "Mighty Eighth's" "Bomber Command" moniker will survive.

In his farewell comments to their Intelligence Agency, the commander, then Maj Gen Bruce Wright, shared his thoughts with AIA's men and women about the Global Strike Task Force (GSTF) the kick-the-door-down force the Air Force has adopted as the road ahead for the future.

Wright discussed the predictability of response during the Cold War era, when we had the luxury of time to assess and develop long-term solutions to Soviet military challenges. But the days of the "dueling" superpowers are gone. Taking the Soviets place are threatening alliances of the lawless and dictatorships that are extremely dangerous "... so dangerous in fact that we have had to develop fast reaction plans to employ our military capabilities to protect our allies and our nation," according to Gen Wright.

Wright explained that the "kickdown-the-door' force is not solely a kinetic force-on-force proposition. It is rather a combination of Information Operations (10) capabilities coupled with stealthy and non-stealthy aircraft to take out an adversary's air defense infrastructure and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). 10 can provide insight to an adversary's capabilities and transform intelligence for the Preparation of Battlespace (PBS) into Predictive Battlespace Awareness (PBA).

PBA, through integrated 10 efforts, can provide information on the enemy's air defense systems, command and control networks, and the locations of critical WMD targets. The collaborative effects of integrating 10 for Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace and the use of kinetic systems to destroy selected targets, in Wright's view, forms an aerospace campaign that can deliver the desired GSTF effect of stealth, speed, and precision.

Since the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen John Jumper's introduction of the GSTF concept, 8 AF has taken the concept to the next level of transformation. He envisions a rapid reaction force employed within the Air Expeditionary Force construct that integrates stealth, precision strike, standoff capabilities with Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. Integrating these functional specialties allows the Air Force to rapidly establish air dominance and guarantees that joint land, sea, and air and space forces will be free to operate within the area.

Eighth Air Force is one of the critical components needed to bring Gen Jumper's GSTF vision into focus. Since Oct. 1, 2002, Eighth Air Force has assumed the responsibility of presenting the preponderance of the Air Force's long-range strike and C2ISR air breathing assets. From the most senior of our weapons systems the B-52H to the newest system, the Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the Eighth Air Force commander is focused on integrating these capabilities into a synergistic module for the Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFC). This will enable the JFC to tap into the Air Force's "Kill Chain" module ... Find, Fix, Target, Track, Employ, and Assess (F2T2EA) to achieve a stated objective.

In October 2002, Lt Gen Bruce Carlson, the Eighth Air Force Commander, amassed his assets to conduct a Global Strike demonstration. His objective was to present Eighth Air Force assets to the Strategic Command (STRATCOM) Commander in his new Global Strike role to F2T2EA, a designated target set in a very short span of time.

The mission scenario began with an execution order (EXORD) to the Eighth's Combined Air and Space Operations Center for Training (CAOC-T) at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., for a short-notice priority strike mission. The EXORD tasked personnel at the CAOC-T to plan the mission, beginning with IPB from AWACS, Rivet Joint, and Joint STARS aircraft. The plan then tasked B-52Hs, loaded Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles, and the COMPASS CALL EC-130Hs to suppress the "enemy's" Integrated Air Defense System. After the preparation phase, a B-2 struck the target with a single weapon. A U-2 conducted the post-strike damage assessment.

There were significant lessons learned from the exercise. First, Eighth Air Force demonstrated an initial operating capability of blending IO capabilities with kinetic strike assets in less than 30 days after taking operational control of the C2ISR wings.

Second, the exercise identified many limiting factors in the areas of personnel, communications, and training.

Thirdly, the test demonstrated the end-to-end "Kill Chain" in a small but comprehensive and effective presentation.

However, despite the many lessons from the successful Global Strike Demo, we can't sit back and bask in our success. So what lies ahead on the road for the Eighth?

Eighth Air Force will continue to refine and demonstrate an integrated presentation of forces to further develop the GSTF concept. The numbered air force will focus on AOC training to blend vertical and horizontal battlestaff coordination, and it will work on new warfighting concepts by integrating kinetic and non-kinetic attack capabilities for presentation to the JFC. And the ultimate benefit of our road ahead is the ability to test, train, exercise, and demonstrate new tactics, techniques and procedures, train personnel in their use, and integrate new equipment.

The complexion of Eighth Air Force today is markedly different than its birth in the B-17 and B-24 era of World War II. Although the Eighth will retain most of America's bomber force for the foreseeable future, it will also evolve into an organization with a full spectrum warfighting capability.

Joint Force Commanders will look to Lt Gen Carlson and the men and women of the "Mighty Eighth" for capabilities that span the spectrum of warfighting options ... from the conventional to nuclear and the precision kinetic to precise non-kinetic weapons. Eighth Air Force will be the "prism" the JFC will look into ... the result will be a broad spectrum of capability to meet the objectives and obtain the desired effects. And the "Mighty Eighth's" renowned legacy will continue.
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Author:Col McLean, John
Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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