Air Force positioning itself to be more irrelevant

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posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 04:19 AM
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I originally posted this as a reply to one of my other threads, but I feel that it deserves its own thread.

The Air Force is positioning itself to become more irrelevant. Three decisions, all made this year, have begun the process of gutting the UAS fleet that the Air Force built up under Gates.

Decision one, was the cut to the Global Hawk fleet. The Air Force announced that they would be putting the Global Hawk Block 30 into the boneyard, including several that would fly there straight from the factory. When the program was declared "essential to National Security" under Nunn-McCurdy, the Air Force changed the requirements of the program. The Global Hawk would have saved $220 million over the U-2 program, and the requirements were for a surveillance orbit of 1200 nautical miles. To protect the U-2, and to show that they were right to cut it, they changed the requirements to a surveillance orbit of 400 nautical miles. The original requirements favored the Global Hawk, while the revised requirements favored the U-2. Global Hawk was also supposed to be the lead in for three more large UAVs, the MQ-La, MQ-Lb, and MQ-Lc, none of which have even begun the process of development.

Decision two, was the cancellation of the MQ-X program. The MQ-X was supposed to be a modular design that would allow UAVs to take on a variety of missions that to date had been performed by manned aircraft. These would include Interdiction, Electronic Attack, and SEAD. So far, development of the MQ-X consists of one Predator. The Air Force has said that they would watch the Navy's UCLASS program for development of the MQ-X, but the flaw with that thinking is that the Navy is the farthest behind of all the services, and UCLASS won't deliver any results for at least a decade. They won't even release the RFP for the UCLASS until at least 2013. The official reason the Air Force gave was that they "don't see a need at this time" for the MQ-X

Decision three is the cutting of MQ-9 Reaper production. The Air Force was to receive 48 MQ-9s a year from 2013-2017. Two days after announcing the MQ-X decision, they announced the cut to the MQ-9 fleet.

The Air Force should be accelerating production of their UAV fleet, not cutting programs. They have also announced that they will almost certainly be going with a manned bomber, instead of the optionally manned bomber that Gates required, claiming that "cost considerations are going to make it difficult to afford an unmanned solution".

Under the "Strategic Plan 2012: Securing the High Ground", the Air Force has reaffirmed its commitment to buying the F-35, and says that the development of a next generation fighter and bomber is a "must". It makes no mention of unmanned aircraft anywhere.

The Air Force has developed a mentality that is making it impossible to change, and more and more irrelevant. During the F-22 procurement, to pay for more unmanned aircraft, and not lose any of their precious F-22s, General Moseley, the Chief of Staff at the time, cut 40,000 airmen out of the service. After Gates made his plane clear, Moseley continued to lobby Congress for more F-22 funds. This played a role in the decision later made to fire him.

The Air Force is the worst of the services when it comes to tradition. Tradition demands that there are manned aircraft, especially fighters, and By God they are going to stick to that come hell or high water. The problem is that every time a new generation of commanders comes up through the ranks, this mentality gets entrenched into them by the older generation over them. Then when they take over, they have the same thinking.

This follows on the heels of General Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, saying that the current fleet of UAVs is irrelevant in the Pacific Theater, because they are too slow, and not stealthy enough. He said that there are countries out there that would be able to deny the current 24/7 coverage we currently have over Afghanistan, with the current fleet.

Without a major paradigm shift in thinking at high levels, the Air Force is going to manned aircraft itself to death. To date they have allowed the current fleet to age to the point that some of them are barely flyable, to ensure that they could have their F-22, and F-35. The F-22 has yet to fly a single mission, and has a dreadful record to date. To contrast, the MQ-1 has flown over a million combat hours since its entry into service, and the MQ-9 has been adding hours at a frenzied pace.


This year, the Air Force has announced three major decisions that eviscerate its “Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight Plan 2009-2047,” a roadmap that provided for an increasingly unmanned force.

First, in January, the service terminated procurement of the Block 30 RQ-4 Global Hawk. It also revealed plans to ground and mothball its young Block 30 fleet, 18 aircraft with an average age of just two years. Remarkably, several birds currently in production will roll directly off the assembly line into storage.

Yet in June 2011, a month before Gates left office, the defense undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics had certified the Global Hawk Block 30 as “essential to national security” per the Nunn-McCurdy Act. The certification also asserted that the plan to replace the aging manned U-2 aircraft with Global Hawks would save $220 million per year.

To justify its abrupt reversal on the respective merits of the Block 30 and the U-2, the Air Force changed the basis of comparison. The service reduced the range of its surveillance orbit requirement from 1,200 nautical miles, which favored the Global Hawk, to 400 nautical miles, which favored the U-2. Northrop Grumman, the Global Hawk’s manufacturer, called the Air Force’s justification and analysis “flawed.”

The Global Hawk was also supposed to pave the way for three more large unmanned aircraft: the MQ-La, MQ-Lb, and MQ-Lc. The Air Force has yet to take any steps to develop those aircraft.

Second, in February, the Air Force ended the MQ-X program. The linchpin of medium-size UAS development under the UAS Flight Plan, its modular design was to help unmanned aircraft take on a host of missions monopolized by manned aircraft, including air interdiction, electronic attack, suppression of enemy air defense and mobility. That vision is now dead. Medium-size UAS development appears to consist of little more than a couple of Predator C test aircraft.

www.armedforcesjournal.com...




posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 04:20 AM
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The US Air Force's current fleet of unmanned aircraft will be irrelevant in the Pacific theater, a top service official says.

Over the past 10 years, the US Air Force has built up a still growing fleet of slow moving but persistent General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft. While those aircraft provided US ground forces with unprecedented situational awareness, they are too vulnerable to be used in a high threat environment.

"We are now shifting to a theatre where there is an adversary out there who is going to have a vote on whether I have that staring eye over the battlefield 24[hours], seven [days a week], 365 [days a year], and pretty certain they are not going to allow that to happen," says Gen Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). "The fleet I've built up-and I'm still being prodded to build up too- is not relevant in that new theatre."

Hostage says that the USAF will have to adjust its force structure to meet the demands of the Pacific theatre. But, he emphasizes, the USAF has no intention of backing away from the capability unmanned aircraft bring and the "new style of warfare" that they enable. The USAF will have to adjust its perspective on "what's realistic in this new theatre," Hostage says.

www.flightglobal.com...

The question now becomes, can the Air Force change enough in the coming years, to place itself back into relevance, or is it going to become the anachronism of the defense world, because they insist on flying the manned mission, instead of relying on unmanned aircraft, which is the route that just about everyone else is going.



posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 06:44 AM
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Though I believe it crashed physically and was not hacked or hijacked, some on ATS will claim that the famed Beast of Kandahar and the USN operated drone which was recently captured represents a vulnerable flaw in the HAVe we currently operate. How likely is it that this mindset had factored into the changing plans?

Also, the UAV fleet would be much more efficient and effective used along side manned options in a full scale war, so saying that the drones would have no chance of gaining air superiority in the skies againust a country with a functioning air force is ludicrous. Having a few pilots holding station a hundred nm behind a UAV and lighting up and shooting down anyone who tries to launch at the UAV who is in turn playing the rabbit in a SEAD mission would be infinately valuable, though. Not only could a specially designed UAV jink a SAM easier by pulling as many Gs as the airframe can handle, there is of course no risking a pilot! Build a UAV with the cross section of a brick, attach 10 harms and you open up one hell of a corridor into hostile territory. Why this is not of interest to the Air Force is beyond me.
The only other question I have is whether or not there have been proposals for a new block of F-22's asked for or submitted? I am not talking about a straight bomber version, but something able to handle a Maverick or HARM or other air to ground munition would be useful. After all, the Eurofighter, designed as an Air Superiority fighter has never shot down a plane but finally saw action in a CAS role. Limiting it or any other plane seems beyond dumb in this era, and is why I will always view the Rafale as the superior plane against the Euro trash.
Are we likely to ever see a more versatile F-22 or is the USAF just so excited and confident in the F-35 that it will never happen?
edit on 7-12-2012 by steppenwolf86 because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 09:19 PM
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reply to post by steppenwolf86
 


The recent ScanEagle that was captured was not a US UAV, it most likely belonged to a Mid-East Ally.

This is sad to hear, as UAV is clearly the way to go.



posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 09:58 PM
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reply to post by steppenwolf86
 


The incremental upgrades for the F-22 will see an increase in capabilities as far as the EW role goes, but nothing earth shattering, like the Air Force promised Congress they would see.

Increment 3.1 was installed in April of this year, which gave them a jamming capability, a SAR capability to the APG-77, as well as a better ability to find enemy radars, and the ability to carry 8 SDBs that can be used in pairs against four targets.

In 2014, we'll see 3.2 come online. This will add the AIM-9X, AIM-120D, and the ability to target 8 targets with the SDB, as well as an automatic terrain avoidance system, and anti-jamming capability.

After 3.2 the AF hasn't said much about what's going to be installed on the aircraft. There are other non-combat upgrades going on, such as software updates to the radar, and the retrofit of F-35 RAM coatings onto Raptors, but nothing as far a Harm or other SEAD weapons goes.



posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 10:48 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


YAAAY! We're not producing mindless kill-drones so that clinically obese yet malnutritioned gamers can have combos and soda-pop while they murder civilians of another country under the blind pretense of "just following orders."

A true victory for mankind.

Also, the chair-force has historically been pretty useless.
edit on 7-12-2012 by HairlessApe because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 10:50 PM
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reply to post by HairlessApe
 


No, they're going to do it the old fashioned way, and have a man in the cockpit. Either way the bombs will reach the target.



posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 11:12 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


I'd rather someone have to think about the unjust cause they're murdering for and perhaps come to a personal revelation about why their worldview.... sucks, for a lack of a better term... than have someone looking through a thermal-optics enhanced digital screen pressing a button and watching people's preventable deaths occur like they're part of a interactive movie.

If you claim to be willing to die for a cause, then put your money where your mouth is and die for it. And if you're willing to murder someone else for your cause, but not die for it... Then you're just a murderer.
edit on 7-12-2012 by HairlessApe because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 7 2012 @ 11:43 PM
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Originally posted by HairlessApe
reply to post by Zaphod58
 


I'd rather someone have to think about the unjust cause they're murdering for and perhaps come to a personal revelation about why their worldview.... sucks, for a lack of a better term... than have someone looking through a thermal-optics enhanced digital screen pressing a button and watching people's preventable deaths occur like they're part of a interactive movie.

If you claim to be willing to die for a cause, then put your money where your mouth is and die for it. And if you're willing to murder someone else for your cause, but not die for it... Then you're just a murderer.
edit on 7-12-2012 by HairlessApe because: (no reason given)


Your moral beliefs have nothing to do with the fact that one of the biggest limiting factors for aircraft is human frailty. Remove that component and a whole new world is opened up to you. If you wish to make an anti-war post please feel free. Let's not turn this thread into that.



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 12:00 AM
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Originally posted by OccamsRazor04

Your moral beliefs have nothing to do with the fact that one of the biggest limiting factors for aircraft is human frailty. Remove that component and a whole new world is opened up to you. If you wish to make an anti-war post please feel free. Let's not turn this thread into that.


I'd rather they go completely UAV than to field a bunch of manned, winged aircraft with no 'Punch' nor 'Power' to see their way through to target annihilation in the end. One and Done - In the Cheapest manner Possible, wprks for me!?



I care not for what 'birds' it takes to make that a reality a force to be reckoned with.




as Jean Paul would say: Make it so # 1



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 12:31 AM
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reply to post by 12m8keall2c
 


I too would like 100% UAV to be the goal. Not only does it make the aircraft capable of feats manned craft can't compete with, you do not lose valuable pilots when a bird goes down.



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 12:53 AM
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Originally posted by OccamsRazor04

Originally posted by HairlessApe
reply to post by Zaphod58
 


I'd rather someone have to think about the unjust cause they're murdering for and perhaps come to a personal revelation about why their worldview.... sucks, for a lack of a better term... than have someone looking through a thermal-optics enhanced digital screen pressing a button and watching people's preventable deaths occur like they're part of a interactive movie.

If you claim to be willing to die for a cause, then put your money where your mouth is and die for it. And if you're willing to murder someone else for your cause, but not die for it... Then you're just a murderer.
edit on 7-12-2012 by HairlessApe because: (no reason given)


Your moral beliefs have nothing to do with the fact that one of the biggest limiting factors for aircraft is human frailty. Remove that component and a whole new world is opened up to you. If you wish to make an anti-war post please feel free. Let's not turn this thread into that.


My moral beliefs have everything to do with why we should reduce wartime UAVs down to 0% and is therefore completely relevant to this thread.. Let's not limit one voice so that the one you like to hear is louder. If you want to cherry-pick, fine. Ignore the posts you don't want to see.



Also we're talking about Air Force UAVs. Commercial use would OBVIOUSLY be another story.
edit on 8-12-2012 by HairlessApe because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 12:57 AM
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reply to post by OccamsRazor04
 


I think the most effective punch would be a combined fleet. You have dedicated UAVs for SEAD, along with some controlled from an AWACS type aircraft, for aerial interdiction, along with manned aircraft for ground attack. Until some of the technologies mature, and are developed, that's my opinion on the best way to go for now. But for the current leadership, it's all about manned, and their precious (now) F-35.

Getting them to open up UAV operator to non-pilot rated people was like pulling teeth. If it flew, in any sense of the word, you had to be a pilot. Not enough pilots for the mission? Work them harder. Operators getting stressed out? Find more of them from the pilot ranks. God forbid someone that isn't an officer/Academy graduate wear wings on their uniform. The only reason they finally did it was because none of the top graduates wanted UAV operator on their resume. They all wanted F-22s.



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 01:51 AM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by OccamsRazor04
 


I think the most effective punch would be a combined fleet. You have dedicated UAVs for SEAD, along with some controlled from an AWACS type aircraft, for aerial interdiction, along with manned aircraft for ground attack. Until some of the technologies mature, and are developed, that's my opinion on the best way to go for now. But for the current leadership, it's all about manned, and their precious (now) F-35.

Getting them to open up UAV operator to non-pilot rated people was like pulling teeth. If it flew, in any sense of the word, you had to be a pilot. Not enough pilots for the mission? Work them harder. Operators getting stressed out? Find more of them from the pilot ranks. God forbid someone that isn't an officer/Academy graduate wear wings on their uniform. The only reason they finally did it was because none of the top graduates wanted UAV operator on their resume. They all wanted F-22s.


Just to clarify, at this point in time a full UAV fleet is not tenable. That should be the goal however. Manned is necessary for now, although the next generation I am not sure if that will still be true. Our thinking of what a "pilot" is should also change. If you can't handle pulling the g's but can get in a UAV and smoke everyone else, who cares? Common sense just escapes so many people.



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 01:56 AM
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reply to post by OccamsRazor04
 


But half the reason that pilots join the Air Force is to fly fighters. UAVs just aren't sexy.

Add to that an entrenched leadership that thinks that the only "real" airplanes are manned airplanes, and you have the makings of a mess. Eventually, you're going to have one manned aircraft that on the same mission is going to do SEAD, air interdiction, ground strike, EW, and be a mini-AWACS, along with god only knows what other missions (probably ISR and self BDA as well). And they're going to sit there scratching their heads trying to figure out why the first time they go to fight, it gets its head handed to it. But by god it's going to have a pilot in it, and that's all that matters!



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 02:14 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Yes, that is what makes me sad. Thinking needs to change. If a video gamer is more effecting in a UAV than a 'pilot' is in a f-22/35 then I am sorry, goodbye pilot, hello gamer.



posted on Dec, 8 2012 @ 11:30 AM
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reply to post by OccamsRazor04
 


Until we get someone in the CINC role, that is willing to buck the system, and create a major paradigm shift in the Air Force, thinking won't change. By the time you reach that rank, you've been so immersed in the political games of the higher ups that you start thinking the same way. It's almost a way of brainwashing. If you go against the system, you get shuffled off somewhere meaningless, until you retire. You might rise in rank, but you'll never get any position of real authority. Just like if you come up through anything but ACC, you won't stand much of a chance of seeing CINCAF, except for the rare times when they think they have to to appease someone.



posted on Dec, 10 2012 @ 01:43 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 

Thanks for the intelligent, informative and interesting thread. I've watched some of the tech develop not too closely, but I really haven't followed the politics about implementing it, and didn't realize there was this much resistance to UAVs. But if I was training as a pilot, I too would prefer to fly the real thing instead of operating a UAV. However the US defense does not exist to serve the needs of pilots, it's supposed to be the other way around, right? I guess it's not quite there yet due to the indoctrination.

Can't a strong commander-in-chief change the direction? They wouldn't be subject to the air force indoctrination.



posted on Dec, 10 2012 @ 02:45 AM
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reply to post by Arbitrageur
 


As much as I couldn't stand him, Gates was one of the better things to happen to the Air Force in years. A SECDEF with a good plan for the Air Force, that will force them to follow it is what's needed. The problem is that as soon as he's gone, they do what they're doing now, and they reverse everything he gets done.



posted on Dec, 10 2012 @ 02:59 AM
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The USAF is still the most powerful and capable air force in the world. The UCAV technology isn't advanced or developed enough yet. But one day it will be.

What I find interesting is what will come after the B-2, F-22 and F-35? By that time the UCAV technology might overtake the manned aircraft concept completely and there will no longer be combat pilots in the air. That is probably the inevitable future of air combat.

If other countries start putting in service advanced UCAV designs with air-to-air capability the US will have no choice but to match them. This is what will probably happen I think.

There are so many advantages for not having a pilot in the aircraft and combat aircraft with pilots will one day be obsolete. I think the major world powers must know this and must be secretly working on the next gen UCAVs.






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