Second Line of Defense (SLD) interviewed recently-retired Air Combat Command (ACC) Commander General John D.W. Corley on the future of Airpower. Although the .pdf file at the link mispells Airpower as two words (I kid -- I kid!), and also contains a small number of transcription errors, the discussion approaches the topics of Airpower, platform/system acquisition, and Airpower purpose, priorities and strategies quite well within a short document. General Corley, as ACC Commander was responsible to train and equip the nation's Air Force. Earlier, he was also the Combined Air Operations Center Commander ('Air Boss') in Operation Enduring Freedom. While I wouldn't agree with everything the General says without some qualification or clarification, I listen to guys who are 'Theorists' as well as 'Practitioners' more than the rest. General Corley qualifies (even though he was a fighter 'meat-servo').
SLD: We clearly are working in a relatively constrained fiscal environment, how do we maximize the air superiority effort in these circumstances?Read it all. Contrast the expert view with some of those frothy rants on the red-meat threads at defense 'fanboy' sites.
Corley: The approach is to leverage extant legacy assets through building upon the foundation provided by F-22s and F-35s. For example, if I’ve got a fleet of F-15s, how can I leverage those F15s in a potential future environment at the challenging end of the scale with the range of military operations? F-15s today, or F-18s, or F-16s, do not possess the needed survivability inside an anti-access environment. One can say what you will, argue what you won’t, they will not be survivable.
And from con-ops point of view, they're being pushed further and further out due to terminal defences or country wide or regional defences that exist. And this diminishes their utility, but they can still be effectively utilised.
For example, you may take an existing platform, like an F-15 from the Air Force and begin to apply a pod to provide for infra-red search tracking, so that it could basically begin to detect assets and then feed that information back to other assets. Or, by providing for connectivity with some advanced tactical data link, that platform, in turn, could be directed to launch weapons from it.
Even if we have the capabilities of platforms like F-35, F-22, B-2, or a follow on long range strike platform, they ultimately will be limited; limited by what? Limited by things such as, what is their capacity to carry weapons?
If I’m going to be able to apply persistent pressure, then I have to have some capacity to employ others’ weapons. If I eventually run my F-35s out of SDBs, or out of JDAM’s, is there a way for them to still contribute to the fight because they're inside of that anti-access bubble, still using their sensors, still communicating? Can I contribute to weapons employment from other platforms, outside the anti access bubble to enable the concept of operations and apply persistent pressure?