The US Air Force plans to accelerate its wartime operational tempo to counter the increasing all-seeing surveillance of potential adversaries such as Russia or China.
General James Holmes, head of the USAF’s Air Combat Command, said that in a combat situation the service is unlikely to be able to hide from adversaries’ satellite sensors, airborne sensors, public information collection efforts and cyber surveillance.
“The problem will be operating with no hiding place, no sanctuary and no lines on the battlefield,” he said, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. “As we talk with our brothers and sisters in the [US Army] Training and Doctrine Command about how we will win in that fight, I think the answer is you have to operate at a tempo that drives the enemy to react.”
Increasing the operational tempo of the USAF is part of a larger plan unveiled this week by USAF Chief of Staff David Goldfein to move the service back to an expeditionary force structure. As part of that plan, the USAF believes it can nullify adversaries’ surveillance by rapidly establishing temporary airbases close to or within combat zones. Joint-service teams will defend the bases together, but also work together to quickly attack nearby enemy aircraft or ground positions.
“In the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, they are talking about dynamic force employment. Instead of doing predictable long deployments, how can you be more unpredictable? How can you exercise the mobility advantage the United States has to show up anywhere around the world?” says Holmes.
Some of the concepts for this new USAF expeditionary model are borrowed from the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), he added.
“There’s a lot in common with the ideas that the Marine Corps has espoused for a long time,” says Holmes. “AFSOC is pretty good about moving in and out in one period of darkness, and we want to get to that point.”