US Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein, in an address at the Centre for a New American Security, has highlighted the efforts made by the USAF in terms of significant strides in harnessing and using data for deterrence, decision making and warfighting while retaining dominance in space.
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Creating a system that uses data, machine learning and state-of-the art software to seamlessly link “sensors to shooters” across all domains – air, land, sea, cyber and space – were among General David Goldfein’s highest priorities as the Air Force’s highest-ranking military officer.
“First and foremost, we have to connect the joint team. We have to have access to common data so we can operate at speeds that will bring all our capabilities against an adversary,” GEN Goldfein explained, describing what’s necessary to prevail in the future fight.
GEN Goldfein added that the creation of the Space Force as a separate branch of the US military is critical to ensuring national security and to protect commerce and other national interests.
“You’ve got to dominate space. You will see some significant investment in space capabilities. It won’t be just enough to be in the ring and take some punches. At some point, you have to be able to punch back,” he said.
The concept, known as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2), has been widely embraced as the critical transformation needed in an era in which Russia and China are emerging in addition to traditional threats.
“We’re actually building the foundation. We’re not talking about cloud architecture. We actually built one. It’s operating and up and running and all the services are connected in. We’ve actually built unified data libraries that are inclusive of all the services going forward,” GEN Goldfein added.
While complex both technically and culturally, the effort is moving forward in distinct ways, he said. Last month, the Air Force, Navy and Army staged a joint exercise to test new methods and technology for collecting, analysing and sharing information in real time to identify and defeat a simulated cruise missile.
Among other advances, it featured new technology that allowed pilots flying F-35 Lightning IIs and F-22 Raptors to receive data simultaneously along with Army units on the ground, special forces and commanders.
GEN Goldfein also pointed out that the Air Force has created a new “numbered Air Force” dedicated to information warfare.
Those steps, along with increasing the number of Air Force operational squadrons to 386 from 312, refining logistics to make the Air Force “more agile on our feet”, ensuring readiness and powered by the priorities in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, are transforming the service.
GEN Goldfein was clear in his focus on countering the rise of China and Russia while still having the flexibility and capacity to respond to regional powers – namely, Iran – should the tactical and/or strategic environment deterioriate.
“If we build what we need to defeat China and Russia, we’ll have everything we need to handle Iran. If we build a force that just handles Iran, we’re not going to have what we need to handle a peer power,” GEN Goldfein added.
Though nascent and still developing, the changes have produced tangible results, GEN Goldfein said. Previously simulated war games against peer competitors yielded distressing results. But the move to legitimately joint operations, continued prowess in space, the simulations suggest “we can actually win for the first time in years”.
In order to sustain progress, GEN Goldfein said future budgets must be sufficient and the Space Force must be successful. GEN Goldfein said he and his counterpart, General John Raymond, the newly designated chief of Space Operations, are working together closely.
“The objective for Chief Raymond and me is how do we build a foundation of trust and confidence and focus on integrated joint warfare. At the same time, how do we allow the Space Force to develop its own service culture. Right now, I’m feeling pretty confident that Chief Raymond, Chief Goldfein and [Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett] are on the right path,” GEN Goldfein added.