Schwartz: A Smaller More Focused Air Force

Here’s a quick hit on what Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said at the Air Force Association’s annual conference in National Harbor, Md., today.

Basically, tightening budgets mean that the service is going to be smaller and might not be able to perform numerous major operations at once. As for future weapons buys, the Air Force is going to have to be realistic about what it wants from it’s new weapons and list requirements that are based on operational needs and nothing more. It’s also going to have to scale back on certain mission areas that it doesn’t deem critical to its role in projecting U.S. air-power around the globe.

Still, the Air Force is going to fight to protect its ability to control and exploit “the air ans space domains, as well as mission assuarance in cyberspace,” hit targets anywhere, anytime, transport almost anything anywhere and maintain its dominance in ISR around the globe, said the four-star.

Here are critical programs that he said the service will fight hard to protect:

First was the KC-46 tanker recapitalization. A contract was awarded last year and the service will be buying the 767-based tankers well into the next decade.

Next, the new bomber. The Air Force is moving forward on this plane which it sees as fundamental to its mission of being able to quickly threaten any target, anywhere on Earth with a lot of precision weapons. He told reporters here that the bomber, (which is again under development, according to the general) won’t be an exquisite “lone wolf” or “Battlestar Galactica” style plane. Instead, it’s being built with existing tech and will work in conjunction with the other members of the DoD’s planned ‘family’ of long range strike systems.

The F-35 must be made to work since the service has no other options. Even with structural and sensor modifications, the services older F-16s and F-16s won’t be very useful against modern air defense said Schwartz. F-35 production needs to stabilize and costs need to be brought under control.

More later…

  • blight

    I hope we’re not burning too much cash continually churning through new development programs over and over again. Then again, it is cheaper than the few billion it costs to develop a program before the kinks are worked out, and then be committed to fielding a platform while simultaneously pondering its replacement.

  • brian

    The problem with doing a job well for a very long time, is that people take it for granted that to do a good means you have all the appropriate resources to do all the things you may need to do. Those making these calls simply can’t imagine what the loss of air dominance would mean for us strategically, and for the grunts on the ground, and maybe civilians in our cities.

    Soon our elected leaders are being called on to decide what more important, welfare payments to dependent voters or the physical security of all voters. Since this country is run by short sighted MBA types I expect the penny wise, pound foolish policy that worked so well during the Catrer years.

    • mpower6428

      carter had nothing to do with the fiasco that has been our defense appropriations for the past decade.

      carter cancelled the B1, and he may not have been wrong to do it. i mean, you could count on one hand how many times we actually used the damn thing. although the airshows were better because of them.

      • crackedlenses

        We don’t buy have our weapons because we will use them heavily, we buy them as a deterrent to our potential opponents….

        • mpower6428

          couldnt we do both…? i mean, we’re involved in 3 WARS !!! as we speak.


          • Lt_Kitty

            3 wars? Name them, please.

          • Joe Schmoe

            Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya?

          • Lt_Kitty

            Did Congress declare war in any of those cases? Either way it’s been a long day and my comment has nothing to do with the article. Please ignore it.

          • Sev

            Iraq and Afghanistan, yes. COngress legally approved those wars. Obama didnt and his “Overseas contingency operation” or kinetic action or whatever BS substitute for Libyan War is illegal. It lasted more than 30 days without congressional approval

          • @Cr4shDummy

            It’s actually 6 if you include the areas where we conduct special ops missions and UAV strikes only.

        • blight

          Procurement is supposed to support warfighting doctrine. Warfighting doctrine is about how we fight our potential opponents. We don’t buy extra weapons just for the sake of intimidation. Otherwise we would’ve gone with the 140mm gun for the Abrams because it “deters”, rather than dropping it, and we would have bought Crusader and AGS because they “deter”, and Wireless TOW and ground-launched Hellfire…and Seawolf…

      • blight

        Carter canceled B1 on the advice of his generals: that ALCMs would do the job at lower casualties, and he had info that the stealth bomber was coming through the pipeline which would totally supersede the B-1.

        If there were no B-1’s, there’s a chance the B-2 buy would not have been capped out at 21.

        • William C.

          Or there’s the chance we would have still only gotten 21 B-2s and would never have had those 100 B-1s which have provided good service.

          • blight

            Good service in what? B-52s shouldered most strategic bombing until Kosovo, the limited debut of the B-1B. And then Afghanistan and Iraq.

            Late “service” for an aircraft that was resurrected by Reagan.

      • STemplar

        We used the B1s quite a bit in Stan. Provide great overwatch. The one sortie in Libya was extremely effective. They’ve been a great plane.

        • blight

          Per sortie, the B-52s have probably paid themselves off many times over. The B-1, less so (especially since we conceded they couldn’t be used in the high-impact role during the Cold War, which was ceded to the B-2). In WW3, a B-2 would cost oodles of money, but can drop nukes on Moscow. A capability worth its weight in gold.

          The B-1 occupies that strange spot as a generalist, not particularly cheap, and not particularly stealthy. It could have new life as a bomb truck…not sure if it can deploy ALCMs.

      • m167a1

        Procurement is different than overall policy and utilization.

        The Pentagon gets stuck following orders with whatever is on hand no matter who is in charge. This is a separate issue from procurement which is a soup sandwich.

        With so much money involved and political fortunes riding on jobs in district A vs District B district and conflicts of interest out the wazoo this is a real, perhaps insoluble problem.

        I am personally in favor of sole source contracts when practical. At least a General gets the money not some Senator. (mostly kidding guys peace.)

  • blight

    If they want to play hardball, they could start retiring old airframes and shutting down squadrons now and reallocating funds to JSF.

    KC-46 needs to go through, and pushing it through may also require early retirement of the tankers it is meant to replace just to “burn their ships”, Cortez-style.

    • mpower6428

      the Airforce doesnt need to play hardball. they’re weapons are too cool lookin.

  • mpower6428

    the Airforce wants a cost effective non-battlestar galactica type B2….

    the Airforce wants the F35, presumably at “pre-over run” production levels….

    the Airforce wants the KC-46. a plane that didnt even make it passed appropriations without a major scandel….

    is there ANYTHING the Airforce wants that id DOESNT get…? the world wonders.

    • ohwilleke

      My question exactly. The headline to the post implies cuts. The body of the post doesn’t mention any cuts. Air Force procurement involves lots of dollars but not so many separate programs and I’m certainly unclear which ones are facing the chopping block.

  • @E_L_P

    Everything Schwartz knows about air power can be written inside a matchbook with a large-sized crayon.

    • PMI

      Well to be fair Eric not everyone has had the opportunity to pick up the vast amount of first hand tactical & strategic knowledge that comes with being an enlisted shutter bug.

  • chaos0xomega

    I honestly can’t wait for him to be replaced, hopefully by someone that is both smart enough to recognize the USAF has issues (which to Schwartz’s credit he DID do early on in his run as CSAF), and smart enough to realize that if somethings broke, you need to fix it (which Schwartz lacks the creativity to accomplish it seems).

    Some (such as myself) would argue that the AF is too small as it is. During the days of ‘nam we had many many more pilots and many many more aircraft, and yet we still weren’t able to generate enough sorties to meet demand (to be fair, demand for airpower will always outway the supply), to the point that we even had to start pulling pilots out of heavies/cargo aircraft and stick them into fighters to try to make up for the shortfall… Now ‘nam wasn’t a particularly small or minor war by any means, but it wasn’t a major war by comparison to a couple others from the past century that I’ve heard about….

    The Air Force has been lucky that it hasn’t had to face anything like that since, Afghanistans air force and air defense was nonexistent , and Iraq’s was destroyed about 12 years prior to the current conflict when the AF still had some heft to it (and even then, as I recall, some aircraft had to be pulled out of mothballs, etc. to meet requirements), and then kept that why via no-fly zones and embargoes.

    • @Cr4shDummy

      I concur. But I think that goes to all services. I think they’re all too small.

  • Ben

    I much prefer a leader who fights to get everything he believes he needs to one who carelessly tosses things out the window.

  • darkshadows71

    “the services older F-16s and F-16s”…. no proof reading obviously….. lol

  • Stephen N Russell

    Merge squadrons, missions, make planes Mutirole IE fighters fighter bombers,
    Buy UK planes, retire F16 F15s or use for Trainers.
    Unstealth B2 & make New Long Range bomber witrh dble bomb load?
    Use same airframe for Tanker??
    Or Airbus 380 model for Tanker, 500 seat model.
    Be creative, think outside the box
    & or fly Navy FA18s for missions.

    • blight

      Unstealthing the B2 defeats the purpose of designing them for stealth. That said, since we already paid NG’s R&D costs for the stealth bomber over the 21 purchased planes, any new planes will come at stated airframe costs plus reactivation, which are far less than the 2B we paid for the first twenty.

      B-2 airframe for tanker=bad idea, redesigning the B-2 with fuel tanks, refueling hardware, adding a crew position to man the boom…we have KC-46 off-the-shelf.

      • Lance

        F-18s never those plans are not as good as a F-15 or F-22. The key is to Keep f-15s and F-22s flying get F-35s to replace F-16s and and keep all 3 bombers and tankers new and old flying.

  • BB1984

    The USAF has chosen to be smaller. Choosing to develop and field the most advanced technology regardless of cost or development delays and the subsequent impact on force structure is a choice.

    The USAF chose to build an F-22 that was not affordable. They chose to build the B-2 that was not affordable. The have designed the F-35 not to be affordable. When they have consciously made those choices it is ludicrous to suddenly whine about being a smaller force that cannot sustain multiple operations.

  • itfunk

    Schwartz is so obviously in the pocket of the industry you have to ask where is the FBI investigation into corruption ?

    You only have to look at who he so vigorously defends to see that he’s heading for the board of Lockheed after he retires.

  • @Cr4shDummy

    I’m not to keen on forcing the F35 into service. If it has issues, they must be resolved. If it were me, I would cancel that program, at least for the AF. If it were me, I’d buy more F22s and adapt Boeing F15 Silent Eagles as an interim multi-role fighter.

    I’m glad they’re not scratching the next gen bomber. We really do need a replacement for the B52.

  • m167a1

    We need many new aircraft, and can’t afford them all.

    this is going to be painful and political.

  • halcyon_

    Read this in a high pitched F-35 fanboy voice.
    Wait why does the F-35 have to work? That makes it sound like it isn’t working!

    “F-35 production needs to stabilize and costs need to be brought under control.”
    What!!? I thought the F-35 was problem free and further ahead of schedule than any other aircraft to come before it! The F-35 will be dirt cheap why do we need less aircraft? Especially when it is only getting cheaper? There is no problem with the F-35 A-C so shut up already!

    Ok now in a reasonable calm voice:
    Is it possible that the F-35 program is going to do more damage than good if the attitude is “no matter what problems this program must continue”?

    I get that the f-35 won’t ever be canceled but seriously can’t we say at this point desperation and its signature argument “it must work no matter what” is not a good plan? Especially if the free money pool is drying up.

  • michaelgene

    We the US do not need anything, they our “allies” need us to have extraordinary forces then complain we are a “hyper power” and need to be balanced by other militaries ala communist china. Why do we keep playing the game for foreigners when they don’t appreciate it and still keep their own defence spending to a minimum forcing us to continue hiking our expenditures only for their defence?