Upholding the legacy: a tribute to the 387th and 397th bomb groups.
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Airmen, good evening.
It is a tremendous honor to stand here tonight representing the United States Air Force, because you ... you are our greatest generation of aviators. The U.S. Air Force in which I serve is the most remarkable military institution that history has ever seen; it is the world's first and only air and space force of global reach; it is the basis of America's power as a superpower. And in many ways, we owe all this to the young aviators of the Army Air Corps, who kicked off the revolution in modern airpower with a mix of courage, dedication and sacrifice that has never been matched since. Your pioneering efforts proved that it was necessary for the nation to have a powerful, independent air service, and gave us momentum for six decades of incredible technological innovation, organizational expansion, and advancement in strategic thought, making the USAF what it is today.
In the Air Force's office of strategic plans and programs, we are supposed to help the chief of staff build the right Air Force for the next two or three decades from now. I think you, as a group, have a unique perspective on the challenge this poses, because our situation today is somewhat analogous to what Hap Arnold faced in the gathering storm before World War II. Think of General Arnold in 1938, the year he became chief of the Army Air Corps. General Arnold was a true visionary: in 1938, he approved the first order of B-17s, and he was pushing the development of radar and the Norden bombsight. But how could he have foreseen that....
* In three years, we would be embroiled in a world war that would end up consuming 50 million lives. Atomic bombs would destroy two entire cities in 1945--and we would drop them.
* We would build nearly 300,000 piston engine aircraft (versus the 20,000-aircraft Franklin Delano Roosevelt envisioned for a "vastly expanded" Air Corps in 1938) to win this war.... and then promptly scrap nearly the entire inventory soon after in favor of the jet.
* In 10 years, the Army Air Corps would become the U.S. Air Force.
* In 31 years, we would put a man on the moon
So this idea of "transformation" is something you all have witnessed and lived through. The challenge for Air Force leaders today is, the cycles, driven by technological advances, have been getting faster and faster with each passing decade. We have to constantly adapt our culture and operating concepts to the fast pace of change, and for strategic planners, this is particularly hard, because looking out 20 years for us is the equivalent of a Caesar or Alexander having had to look out 200 years, or even 500 years.
Look at the way new technologies have reshaped our military and our society in just the decade and a half since the first Gulf War:
* The Internet, which is not just a global marketplace but has proven to be a major front in the global war on terrorism and extremism.
* Ever-smaller but more powerful computers--think of the pocket-sized iPod packing a 20-GB hard drive.
* Global wireless networks, satellite communications and satellite-based navigation, which produce capabilities like the Combined Air and Space Operations Center--the heart of the command and control network with which we prosecute air and space power.
* Satellite-guided munitions.
* Widespread use of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), including armed UAVs
* Widespread use of stealth since we introduced very low radar-cross-section technology in the first Gulf War.
* Directed energy weapons.
And yet, though we depend utterly on technologies that no one even imagined in 1940, we're still very much on a continuum as Airmen, as professionals, as warriors--from the Lafayette Escadrille, to the B-26 raids against Mayen and Prum in 1944, to the crews flying over Iraq and Afghanistan today. At his assumption-of-command ceremony 10 days ago, General Buzz Moseley, our new chief, cited the "proud, rich heritage" behind us that provides the foundation for and vaults us toward the limitless horizons that lie in front of us. So the future may be uncertain, but we always know where we've been and where we're coming from, and have that sense of a connection to the past to help guide us.
Let me use "Long Range Strike," which is what we now call the bomber mission, as an example.
And I'll tell you what: the idea of a modern "bomber" today is closer to a B-26 than to a B-17 or B-29, even though the latter were the direct forebears of the B-52 and B-1 and their intended use as strategic platforms. History has circled back, and we're using the B-1 and B-52 in a role that's the 21st century's version of the Marauder's--as flexible attack aircraft that can strike deep against strategic centers of gravity (like the 387th/397th's early strikes on V-2 sites and German airfields and aircraft industry), or that can provide more direct support to a joint campaign (like the bombardment groups' interdiction missions against German troops, transportation hubs and communications centers during the Allied drive in Normandy).
In fact, we've taken it a step further; we're using bombers in an actual close air support role, a tactical role that no one envisioned even 10 years ago: dropping bombs at danger close ranges in support of ground forces on the move and in contact with the enemy. And how we do this captures in microcosm all the vectors we're moving along as a service--in technology, in concepts of operation, in organization--to be the most capable and relevant air force of the future.
How do we do it? We employ long-range strike using a network of command and control and intelligence. It's the only way that a 50-year-old B-52, built to penetrate Soviet air defenses with a couple of B53 nuclear gravity bombs, could, in Afghanistan in 2001, provide immediate firepower to a special forces trooper charging an enemy position on horseback, Light Brigade-style. The B-52 by itself is not long-range strike. The B-52 is the pointy end of a system-of-systems that is long-range strike. I'm talking about a network of platforms and sensors and communications links and weapons that extends from air to space to the ground itself.
Let me illustrate this with a story from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In October 2001, an Air Force combat controller, Tech. Sgt. Calvin Markham, was with the first team of American special forces to infiltrate Afghanistan. Armed with a satellite radio, a laser target designator (similar to the little gizmo you cheat with on the golf course), a Global Positioning System receiver, and night-vision equipment, he was the first node of the strike network to be put in place. Within 30 hours of arriving, Sergeant Markham introduced himself to his new Northern Alliance hosts by engaging entrenched enemy forces on an opposing ridgeline. He took a laser sighting of their position, then, via satellite, he uplinked the coordinates to a B-52 orbiting about six miles overhead--invisible to anyone on the ground. Moments later, the bomber crew released a string of 2,000-lb. bombs, which immediately acquired a signal from the GPS satellite network.
Because they operate using a common reference grid, the bombs in essence "know" where they are and where the target is, regardless of weather. They use fins on the aft bomb body to steer themselves to the aim point--an incredibly small aim point.
With Sergeant Markham's warlord host looking on, a string of explosions walked their way across the crest--200 Taliban were wiped out in one pass. The warlord turned to Calvin and said, "I've been doing this for 15 years and I've never seen that many of my enemy die at one time."
That's what we call "mass precision," which is something that bomber veterans like you, especially, can appreciate.
To give you some perspective: A single Joint Direct Attack Munition, or "JDAM," dropped by a single B-2 can achieve what typically required 1,000 to 1,500 heavy bomber sorties in World War II--sorties from which sometimes 20 to 30 percent of the aircraft (along with thousands of Airmen) never returned. Today, a B-2 can drop 80 JDAMs per sortie. And, with the advent of even smaller precision weapons in the 250-lbs. class, we will be able to double or quadruple that.
And what you have with this mass precision is a great deal of flexibility in how you dial up mass or how you dial up precision. You could attack 80 strategic targets in an adversary's capital with near-simultaneity. Or, you could loiter for hours above a battlefield dropping munitions here and there as called for by a Battlefield Airmen advancing with Army or Marine forces--you've essentially replaced a battery of field artillery. You could even be over the open water, hitting a fleet of enemy vessels--we've actually demonstrated that kind of capability, using very fast updates to the bombs' coordinates so they can home in on a moving target.
What I'm trying to communicate is the idea that the Air Force can now bring simultaneous strategic, operational and tactical effects. And "effects" is the operative word. As we develop our strike capabilities for the future, we will focus on the effects we need to produce--responsiveness, precision, persistence--more than the individual platforms that produce them. And we will integrate this effects-based philosophy across all our core missions: not just strike, but in mobility and "C4ISR" (which stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) as well, because they all have to play together.
We will need this kind of flexibility to meet the challenges of the future, which will cross the spectrum from traditional, "near peer" state challengers to global terrorist groups to faceless insurgents within regions of concern. Air and space have made some huge contributions to what are called "irregular" operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that haven't received much publicity. For instance ...
* Everything that deployed into Afghanistan, a landlocked country, went in by airlift--every bean, every bullet, every helicopter, every Marine, every soldier. Taking Afghanistan and Iraq together, our strategic airlifters have moved about three million personnel and 1.5 tons of cargo. This ranks second to the Berlin Airlift as the biggest airlift operations in history.
* In Iraq today, our tactical airlifters are leapfrogging across the country to deliver tons of supplies that keep hundreds of convoys off the dangerous roads.
* The USAF also provides upwards of 70 percent of airborne theater-wide sensor coverage--watching supply routes, monitoring borders, providing responsive reconnaissance to ground forces and putting the cross hairs on high-value targets We have space and airborne systems, including UAVs, that can track individual targets on the move in complex terrain, like snipers lurking on rooftops or sappers trying to plant IEDs (improvised explosive devices) along convoy routes.
* Through weather forecasting, the Air Force provides the joint force with a key, but often overlooked, form of intelligence Veteran air warriors like you know lull well the value of this--bad weather could be as deadly as enemy defenses in your day.
All in all, you can be proud of your Air Force and what our Airmen are doing day in and day out.
Our concern in Plans and Programs is that the Air Force continues to perform as well in the future. This is a difficult planning period--we're looking at very constrained defense budgets, while air and space capabilities will continue to be in ever increasing demand.
Even with defense dollars scarce in the future, we don't want to cede any ground to our adversaries in the air, space, or cyberspace domains--controlling these "commons" is America's asymmetric advantage.
So over the past two years, we have put together a comprehensive long-term plan to maintain our position as the world's most capable air and space force. We will increase our overall capabilities by building a force that is 100 percent capable of employing precision-guided weapons, highly stealthy, and containing large numbers of unmanned systems, space systems, and powerful information networks. At the same time, we will be providing dividends to you, the taxpayers. We are planning on cutting our legacy fighter inventory by 25 percent; overall, our aircraft inventory will draw down by about 10 percent. To put this in context, that 25 percent is the equivalent of the Navy downsizing by three aircraft carriers.
And I want to end by emphasizing that, at the end of the day; it is our people who are key to the success of this plan. Technology is neat, but it's only effective when it's in the hands of great Airmen. These Airmen are the real stars of the show--they are the air crews flying long, dangerous missions every day; and they are the Battlefield Airmen eyeball-to-eyeball with the enemy on the roads and in the back alleys of Iraq; and they are civil engineers and security forces who go forward to open up bases; and they are pararescuemen working round the clock to pull hurricane victims from the floodwaters; and they are our unmatched technical wizards who keep the satellite constellations flying and the information networks working. These dedicated men and women are the real thread, the real continuity, from the past to the present of this organization, and you can be proud of the way they've upheld your legacy.
You great Airmen are the legacy upon which the Air Force of today is built; you are also the legacy upon which the Air Force of tomorrow will be built. It's not a legacy that our leadership summons now and then from the history books. It's living, vibrant. It's a huge influence on what we do every day. Especially today, as our new chief instills the warrior spirit in every Airmen, you are important, because you were the ultimate air warriors. You showed us the way--we've just advanced the ball down the field ... and will continue to excel in the limitless horizons that lie ahead.
Maj. Gen. Paul Fletcher, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, Headquarters U.S. Air Force
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|Publication:||Air Force Speeches|
|Date:||Sep 10, 2005|
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