Download: “Re-Norming” Air Operations

This book examines how to re-build U.S. air power. U.S. air power is at a crucial turning point.  With significant budget reductions, and the USAF at a low point in terms of its percentage of the Defense budget, the crucial requirement is to invest in the future not the past.  President Obama is calling for a Sputnik moment in the investment in future technologies.  There is little reason to exclude the Department of Defense from such an effort.

Yet this is exactly what is happening.  After cancelling the F-22 without ever understanding what the F-22 brings to the joint warfighter, the Administration is slowing its investment in the F-35 and investing in legacy aircraft.

The new aircraft represent a sea change with significant savings in terms of fleet costs and overall capability at the same time.  But this will not happen unless policy makers understand that the transition is not simply from 4th generation to 5th generation aircraft.

It is a transition from a legacy approach to warfighting to distributed operations.  The shift is from linear to sequential operations; it is a shift from fighters needing reach back to large aircraft command and control and ISR platforms to 360 dominance by deployed decision makers operating not in a network but a honeycomb.

The term “fifth generation aircraft” is also part of the problem facing the future of airpower.  The term suggests a linear relationship to preceding aircraft, so that one can argue that F-18s and F-16s can be upgraded and become 4.8-generation aircraft.

This is simply not the case.  The fifth generation aircraft are a benchmark for a new approach to airpower, which is why we call this book the “re-norming” of air operations.

The fifth generation aircraft are at the heart of a potential new air combat system enterprise.  The F-22s have been the harbinger, but for full participation the F-22 needs to be modernized with some of the essential air combat systems present on the F-35.

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