AFA NEWS: Much Anticipated Tac-Air Study Released Soon
Air Force photoNATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Air Force’s highly anticipated tactical-air study — which is meant to examine the proper mix of new and legacy aircraft the service will need in the future — will be released soon, top officials said Sept. 20.
“The tac-air study is coming to a close soon,” said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall during a media roundtable at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Maryland.
While Kendall noted that he hadn’t had a chance to review the study yet, he hopes that it will inform the upcoming national defense strategy — which is slated to be released next year — as well as the fiscal year 2023 program objective memorandum. The POM lays out the military’s five-year program plans.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown announced the launch of the study at the beginning of the year, nothing that service intended to 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 future conflicts, he said at the time. “That requires some modeling and simulation and analysis and that's what I plan to do here over the upcoming months.”
Speaking during the AFA roundtable, Brown noted that while the service has been undertaking the study for some time, the service did not want to get ahead of itself before a new service secretary was installed following the change in administrations. Kendall was confirmed in July.
The tactical-air study is about looking to the future and planning for the fleet the Air Force will need, he said. However, the study will not be the “final answer,” Brown added.
“Facts and assumptions change as you move forward so we want to use this as a way to continue our analysis — not only for the upcoming POM, but future POMs as well to ensure we're on the right track,” he said.
Meanwhile, as the Air Force considers what its future fleet may look like, the recent end of the war in Afghanistan may spur changes, officials said.
The service has for years been asking Congress to allow it to divest of legacy equipment so it can invest in new technology but has been met with pushback.
“This provides an opportunity to really take a hard look at ourselves, which is what we're doing ... [and] having the conversation with Congress and our staffers to explain the threat, and where do we take the Air Force in the future so we can start that transition,” Brown said. “If it doesn't make China nervous, then we need to consider why we retain that capability."
During his keynote remarks, Kendall slammed Congress for its reluctance to divest legacy equipment. During his recent confirmation hearing, Kendall noted that senators would agree with him about the threat posed by adversaries such as China but in the same breadth tell him that under no circumstances should a weapon system that is built in their state or a base located there be closed.
“We will not succeed against a well-resourced and strategic competitor if we insist on keeping every legacy system we have,” he said. The military cannot win and "deter China or Russia without the resources we need, and a willingness to balance risk today to avoid much greater risk in the future.”
He added: “I do understand the political constraints here and I'm happy to work with Congress to find a better mechanism to make the changes we need, but we must move forward.”