Increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the adoption of an Air Expeditionary Force Concept (AEFC) are among the priorities for the US Air Force for the millennium, according to Gen Ronald Fogelman, the United States Air Force Chief of Staff.
Speaking at the USAF's 50th anniversary celebrations in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the end of April, Fogelman said that, in addition to continuing development of reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering UAVs, "-the next area will be in the radio-relay business, with air-breathing UAVs over the battlefield with communications packages".
Fogelman confirms that the USAF is considering uncrewed versions of fighter attack aircraft, particularly the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
"JSF blocks ten to 40 will be manned, but by the time we get to the end of the block numbers with the JSF, I believe that we will be looking at the possibility of unmanned aircraft."
Referring to the emerging AEFC concept, he says: "We'd lost the bubble for a time because we'd begun to think in terms of deliberate war plans. So we asked that the AEFC be developed, and we think it's been quite successful."
The resulting change will make the USAF "-lighter, lethal and more agile. We are going to be an expeditionary air force and no longer a garrisoned, post-Cold War force. It will reduce the baggage train that goes with us, and will reduce the cost."
The move to adopt the AEFC could begin as early as July when the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board is scheduled to publish a blueprint for the change.
The USAF's bomber force will number 187 for the immediate future, says Fogelman. "The bomber force is just about right for the foreseeable future. This will consist of 21 Northrop Grumman B-2s, and 71 B-52s, moved up from 66 to 71 after review.
"The backbone of the force will be the Rockwell [Boeing North America] B-1B. We have 91 available at the moment and, to pay for upgrades, we took some of them and put them in attrition reserves. We're now beginning to take those back into the force," Fogelman says. The final B-1B force will be 95 aircraft.
Source: Flight International