Shaping the Future Air Force
Jun 29, 2006
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In light of the emergence of new nuclear powers and increased emphasis on countering terrorism and insurgency, RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF) assessed the nature of future challenges to U.S. security and made modernization recommendations to the Air Force's Quadrennial Defense Review Analytic Steering Group.
The military will continue primarily to defend the United States from direct attack and external threats, but the security environment has changed:
PAF highlights important priorities for the Air Force as it develops its modernization program:
The demand for timely, accurate intelligence—about adversaries, their capabilities, and terrorist activities, for example—will exceed anything in U.S. experience. The Air Force should identify how it can contribute to a revamped U.S. intelligence infrastructure. New investments in concepts, people, and equipment will likely be needed.
U.S. forces face critical shortfalls in countering enemy ballistic and cruise missiles. The Air Force should pursue new concepts and capabilities in this area, especially in developing effective boost-phase missile defenses, which probably need to be operated at high altitudes or from space.
Given emerging antiaccess capabilities and the time constraints imposed by fast-moving crises and conflicts, the Air Force should ensure that it has the right mix of forces for prompt, persistent operations from locations distant from the battlefield.
The research also suggests altering Air Force modernization plans to emphasize the areas described above, perhaps spending less on attacking massed armor, fighting protracted air-to-air campaigns, deterring massive nuclear attacks, and killing fixed soft targets and investing more in long-range surveillance and strike platforms, ballistic missile defense, and CTNA specialists. Also needed are new concepts for locating, tracking, and attacking small, mobile targets and for providing persistent fire support for U.S. and friendly ground forces across the full spectrum of conflict.
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