BREAKING: Air Force Chief to Order New Tactical Air Study

By Mandy Mayfield

Air Force photo

The Air Force’s top officer wants to conduct a tactical air study in the coming months to assess what mix of new and legacy aircraft is most fitting for the service, he said Feb. 17.

Through the study, the service will perform "analysis to show what is the right mix, not only in capability, but also in numbers to make sure we are going to be successful in the future conflicts,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown. “That requires some modeling and simulation and analysis and that's what I plan to do here over the upcoming months.”

There is a need for fifth-generation capability, next-generation air dominance programs, and a mix of other capabilities in order to remain competitive against adversaries, Brown told reporters during a Defense Writer's Group meeting.

As the service and Pentagon begin to consider recommendations for the fiscal year 2023 budget, the study will help inform them as they make those key decisions, he noted.

“That’s why the analysis to me is important and a dialogue is important going forward," he said. "So we can actually have a good conversation about what is that right force mix and have a good understanding or shared understanding."

To conduct the study, Brown wants to work alongside the Defense Department's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, or CAPE.

“Naturally, if I just do the Air Force, it's just an Air Force study but if we do it with CAPE, we also get their perspective as they work with OSD,” he said.

Because of his desire to work with CAPE, the timeline for the study is uncertain. “I'm not sure it can be done in the next couple of months," he said. 

The study will also help advance the Air Force's goals by assessing its modernization efforts, he said.

“I want to actually have a starting point as a point of departure and a point of dialogue on what is that best force mix — and then if we decide to go down a different path — there's a level of risk associated with that and my job then is to articulate what I think that risk might be with a different approach,” he said.

The average age of the Air Force's fighter fleet in 2021 is approximately 28 years old, Brown said.

“That is not going to compete well against our adversaries, and this is why we need to modernize,” he said. “This is why this force mix study is going to be important … so we can actually bring down the average age and then have something that's going to be relevant, not just today, but well into the future.”

Topics: Air Power, Air Force News

Comments (5)

Re: Air Force Chief to Conduct New Tactical Air Study

The DOD should purchase only F-22s and F-35s. The costs will come down over time. Then the F-15s and F-16s should be retired. The F-22 and F-35 can go into beast mode just like conventional fighters.

Jon at 11:38 AM
Re: Air Force Chief to Conduct New Tactical Air Study

I strongly believe that the USAF should purchase new F-15EXs (which it is doing) and the F-16V because not every NORAD intercept, Exercise, or stadium or memorial flyover requires expensive stealth aircraft to participate. The F-22 and F-35s should be reserved for wartime and as backup to the conventional "radar-friendly" fighters that the USAF possesses. The Legacy F-15s and F-16s are getting too old so they should be replaced not entirely by stealth aircraft, but by newer versions of the existing Legacy aircraft. The reason for this is that the USAF still requires fighters that can engage at Mach 2+ and the F-35 falls short of that goal, not to mention fighters that can carry drop tanks and ferry long ranges as a rapid response. The stealth aircrafts can't particularly do that without compromising stealth and having many air refuelings. Furthermore, the need for a "missile truck" to even the odds requires conventional non-stealth aircraft.

The F-117As should be studied again in more detail...perhaps with new FLIR balls inside and a new glass cockpit if manned. Can they be made into stealthy unmanned drones, or long-distance FLIR spy planes, or drone motherships, or unmanned EW/SIGINT/ECM jammers? Can F-117As carry new ordnance with new datalink and SATCOM like the SDB II, smart PGM Anti-Tank, LRASM, sea mines, lightweight torpedoes, or Hypersonic weapons? Can F-117As carry a laser weapon ball in their internal bays and all the associated power packs for Anti-ship and tactical missile defense like a smaller Airborne Laser System? The stealthy F-117A may prove itself as a useful testbed platform again if reconfigured for another mission and improved upon with new technology and AI/software.

Krashnovians at 1:10 AM
Re: Air Force Chief to Conduct New Tactical Air Study

The USAF now says that it wants a new fighter that is a replacement to the F-16 and that the F-16V is "maxed out" in terms of power, tech, upgrade space, etc. The new F-16 replacement will be GEN 4.5 or GEN 5- and will not be entirely stealthy.

I agree with this approach as the stealthy F-35 cannot sustain Mach speed without damaging itself, and that is the F-35's major flaw. The F-35 can sustain over Mach 1 for perhaps 60-100 seconds and that is pitiful. THAT is the main problem with the F-35. When one needs to get to somewhere far in a hurry, the stealthy F-35 cannot do it and the USAF has to rely on the rare F-22 and Legacy fighters to sustain Mach 2 afterburners for a duration of time. The SR-71 is long retired and that can supercruise at Mach 3+ for hours.

A new "clean sheet fighter" that is semi-stealthy with one or two Supercruise engines, longer range, CFTs, perhaps two seats, EW/ECM jammers, larger size, AESA radar, DAS, IRST, glass cockpit, UAV command, and the desires that the USAF wants makes total logical sense. I think that this is the proper approach.

Krashnovians at 7:58 PM
Re: Air Force Chief to Conduct New Tactical Air Study

With a few minor modifications a F/A-18 Super Hornet variant for the USAF should be considered.

Sabre at 8:39 PM
Re: Air Force Chief to Conduct New Tactical Air Study

I don't see any mention of CAS in this short report. Who is representing those equities?
I'm pretty sue DoD CAPE won't.

walter busbee at 1:40 PM
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