Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Wilf asks a fair question. Or why not get a production line up and running producing a modern version of the A-6 Skyraider for ourselves and the many small, poor countries that have requirements? (sure they want F-16s, but really?)
I assume you mean the A-1 or AD-1 Skyraider of Vietnam Sandy fame.

The reason why is because we have a production line for the AT-6 and Super Tucano, both of which can do the same job. There are some advantages to having a turboprop vice a prop.

The USAF is currently working procurement of the Light Attack And Reconnaissance aircraft- there's a briefing on it scheduled for 27 Oct at 1230 at CGSC for those who are in the neighborhood.

LAAR will give the USAF a COIN optimized light attack capability that our 6 SOS folks can use to build partner capacity as you suggest.

For the top end aircraft critical issues are threat, deterrence and asymmetric counters.

1. What is the threat? (combination of capability, inclination, likelihood, risk, etc)
The air threat in the current NSS is the same as the ground and sea threats- we need to be able to do full spectrum from peacetime engagement to COIN to the high end.

The high end threat is the Su-30MKK, F-11, and F-10- soon to be PAK-FA. The other issue is advanced EA. See the report on China's military power:


Last year's report, but the picture is pretty grim. This threat is real, and the other problem is their numbers vs ours.

2. Do current platforms effectively deter that threat?
Yes, but we only have 189 F-22s and the last is being built- China is building more of everything mentioned above. F-22s only have 8 missiles - eventually numbers matter. OBTW not all 189 Raptors are available for use...

The only reason we can deter a threat like China right now is our training- and eventually even that will be eclipsed by numbers - even if we match our Korean War 10-1 kill ratio, that still means we could lose everything pretty quickly...

3. Are there relatively simple, inexpensive counters to these new platforms that can be quickly rolled out by opponents putting us right back at the same deterrence balance we are at currently?
I wish. We're pretty much at the level of picking the low-hanging fruit by improving radars and EW systems. We need a new missile, but that's in the works too. Unfortunately there's no easy answers in air to air.

4. What are the missions that drive this. Are there changes of policy that would cause some of those missions to (rightfully) either fall off the books or take a much reduced priority.
The missions are Air Superiority, DEAD, INT, Strategic Attack- but you need Air Superiority first to enable the rest- so unless you feel like conceding our great-power status, we can't really drop the mission.

Strategically we can drop supporting Taiwan, but that doesn't help - we still need to be able to deter China. I think that conflict with them over Taiwan is highly unlikely. However, we can't predict what would happen if a serious disruption took place in China's economy, or if the social contract (Chinese Communist Party rule in exchange for economic prosperity and keeping the PLA happy) broke down.

If we can't deter China, a lot of folks (especially Korea, Japan, and Australia) would need to either accommodate China, develop their own militaries, or quickly develop nukes...

I submit that our ability to project power is a big part of why we haven't seen a great power war since WWII... if we lose that ability (which is highly dependent on air and sea superiority) we are in trouble.

In other words, the small wars may not stay small.

I don't have the answers to any of these. I did participate in the High-End Asymmetric Threat section of the last QDR though, so I do have some insights. Sometimes we use our desire for numbers or types of platforms or organizational units to drive retention or adoption of missions, that in turn then drive policy decisions. My one recommendation is that we need to turn that around to the extent possible.

Services and the corporations who produce these platforms are biased advocates; which is fine, so long as we've designed the process to contain those biases into limits set by our national policies and military missions. Currently (and I suspect historically) they opposite is true. BL, neither General Dynamics nor General Officers should pick our wars for us.
Completely agree. We don't have the cash to buy what we would really like to have, so we have to make do with what we have now.

I think you will end up seeing the USAF follow the Navy and buy some F-16 block 60s as a stop gap- just like the USN's recent Super Hornet buy. Everyone has to hedge because F-35 is going to slip, and at this point it is too big to fail.

I'd be curious to hear more about your QDR insights...