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Air Power 2017: USAF relearning peer capabilities

14th July 2017 - 02:07 GMT | by Richard Thomas in London

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The US Air Force is having to relearn capabilities required for operations against peer or near-peer opposition following extended operations over Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

This was among the key points raised by Gen David Goldfein, USAF chief of staff, during the recent Air Power Conference 2017 in London on 13 July as he made his case for the production of a service prepared for future conflicts.

With his expected term as chief of staff likely to conclude in 2021, Goldfein said that future conflicts will be transnational, multi-domain and multi-component in nature, features of which are already being seen in present day wars.

‘If we go to war against peer or near-peer country before 2021… the question for me is what kind of service am I building for [the next chief of staff] in order for them to fight and win?’

‘In a future conflict with peer or near-peer, we may not control the time frame. In [the past] 16 years of warfare we have been able to operate in uncontested environments… Syria has been a new game for us.’

Citing the need to ensure coalitions can operate effectively, Goldfein added that it was key the technological gap between partners not be too great as to hinder its overall efficacy. Additionally, for the USAF certain command and control capabilities would have to be relearned.

‘The past 16 years we have walked away from and traded away some of our deployable command and control capabilities. We need to think about C2 relative to the flow of information and as we build to the future, how we do this is a coalition environment.’

Concluding about the potential role that private industry and enterprise could play in the future USAF shape and capability, he added that systems such as the Uber service could indicate the kind of interconnection of systems for certain functions, such as CSAR.

‘Industry is going there. How do we jump on board and make use of those opportunities?’ he said.

Meanwhile during a keynote speech, Air Commodore Jonny Stringer, air commanding officer of RAF No 83 Expeditionary Air Group at Al Udeid in Qatar, said that he would ‘like to see something between a Brimstone and a Paveway’ for use against potential targets during operations.

RAF units are currently deployed on Operation Shader supporting counter-IS operations in Iraq and Syria. 

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