Ozair
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Re: Study of U.S. Air Force aircraft inventories

Sun Aug 18, 2019 11:02 pm

Another study released on the capability of the US Military to fight and win a near-peer conflict in the Indo pacific area. The United States Studies Centre’s mission is the following,
The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney is a university-based research centre, dedicated to the rigorous analysis of American foreign policy, economics, politics and culture.


I don’t think anyone is in doubt on the issues facing the US Military in conducting a near-peer conflict in the region. The lack of real investment over the last 25 years has left the current force aging and costly to maintain. The question is whether the US can either spend the amount required to bridge the current capability gap or if eventually they will withdraw from the indo-pacific region and return to a more isolationist policy likely to the determinant of long term allies in the region.


AVERTING CRISIS: AMERICAN STRATEGY, MILITARY SPENDING AND COLLECTIVE DEFENCE IN THE INDO-PACIFIC

Executive Summary headings
America no longer enjoys military primacy in the Indo-Pacific and its capacity to uphold a favourable balance of power is increasingly uncertain.

Over the next decade, the US defence budget is unlikely to meet the needs of the National Defense Strategy owing to a combination of political, fiscal and internal pressures.

A strategy of collective defence is fast becoming necessary as a way of offsetting shortfalls in America’s regional military power and holding the line against rising Chinese strength.

...

https://www.ussc.edu.au/analysis/averti ... do-pacific

The full report can be downloaded here
https://united-states-studies-centre.s3 ... acific.pdf

To make it relevant to this thread some of the air based recommendations and findings include,

Air power is a critical component of the conventional balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. For America to deter opportunistic aggression by the Chinese military, the US Air Force and carrier air wings of the Navy must be able to project combat power across the vast geographic distances that characterise the regional security environment. This requires bombers, fighters, aerial refuelling aircraft, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms to operate effectively during times of crisis. Beijing’s establishment of sophisticated anti-air and area-denial capabilities, however, means that American air power must develop new ways to surveil, strike and survive in a highly-contested region, and, by extension, hold the elements that comprise China’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) network at risk. Unfortunately, the technological advantages that America developed in the 1970s and 1980s — such as stealth technology and precision strike weapons — are inadequate against Chinese systems that can threaten US aircraft at significant distances. Compounding this challenge is the fact that force development, particularly in the 2000s, did not produce the amount or kind of Air Force and Navy aviation platforms that are likely to be required for conventional deterrence in the Indo-Pacific today. Looking to the 2030s, changes will need to be made to the size, composition and capabilities of America’s air power fleet in order to maintain a favourable balance of power in the region.


On basing and hardened infrastructure in the region,
According to some analyses, coordinated attacks by PLA ballistic and cruise missiles on American air bases could destroy “up to 70 per cent” of their aircraft in the opening stages of a conflict. Others have described the damage to runways, maintenance facilities and associated infrastructure that would prevent their use for over a week in certain combat conditions. As air bases close to potential areas of conflict, such as the Taiwan Strait, have come under threat, mastering the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean has become a greater factor in America’s ability to efficiently project military power. Only two air bases — both on Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands archipelago — are located within the 1,000km unrefuelled range of US tactical fighters from the Taiwan Strait. For American land-based air forces to reach the Strait, they would have to operate at longer ranges and rely on vulnerable air-to-air refuelling “that would substantially reduce the sortie generation rate and on-station time of the aircraft employed”

One way to offset this growing challenge is to selectively harden runways, aircraft shelters and other supporting regional infrastructure. As the threat to US basing has grown, military leaders and defence strategists have repeatedly testified on the need to invest in military construction and the hardening of facilities. But the United States has lagged in building resiliency across its bases in the Indo-Pacific. According to a 2014 estimate, the US military had only 207 hardened aircraft shelters across four bases in the Western Pacific, with most located in South Korea — an increase of just 2.5 per cent over the previous 12 years. The Air Force has 15 hardened shelters at Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa; all other bases are either unhardened or shared with allies and partners that may not allow access to their facilities during a US-China conflict. If a major conflict broke out today, the Air Force could operate up to 190 aircraft from Kadena, the vast majority of which would be “parked in the open”. By comparison, between 2000 and 2012, China — which has 39 air bases within 800km range of Taipei — grew its hardened aircraft shelters from 92 to 312, representing an increase of nearly 240 per cent


Lots more in the article.

While the article is critical of US Military forces and overall political will it is important to note that China, the perceived main threat in the area, will have its own issues (economic, military, climate change, domestic unrest and just feeding their population) over the projected timeframes.
 
texl1649
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Re: Study of U.S. Air Force aircraft inventories

Mon Aug 19, 2019 5:40 pm

The US really is energy independent at this point, and as such needs to pull out of the Middle East, let Europe fend for itself now (prop up Britain vs. Germany/Russia/Turkey), and focus on more of an alliance with Australia, Japan, Philippines (long term), and yes S. Korea. It will take sustained decades long investment, trade relationships and strategy to counter China’s goals.
 
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kc135topboom
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Re: Study of U.S. Air Force aircraft inventories

Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:14 am

The USAF just took delivery of the last rewinged A-10, so they should stay until at least 2035, or so. Replacing the A-10 with the F-35 has been discussed to death. The A-10 is loved by the Grunts and the F-35 just doesn't have the capabilities to compete with the A-10 down in the mud.

The KC-46, and Boeing, have a long way to go before they can even replace the retired T-41A/B/C (Cessna-172), let alone the KC-10 or KC-135. Before the USAF retires the KC-10s they should look at removing the air refueling mission and just make it a long range trash hauler. That supplements the C-17 and the C-5. Let the KC-135 soldier on as the primary tanker until the KC-46 can find its way around the flight line.


The FT-X is a good idea. But the first uses of it should be in USAF, USN, and USMC Aggressor Squadrons, then move on to homeland defense. But the FT-X should be a single seater to allow for aggressor type avionics, a weapons system, and more fuel. Since the Boeing TX is air refuelable, the FT-X should keep this capability. The current requirement for the T-X is just 351 airplanes. a FT-X would more than double that number for US forces alone.

Bases in Oz should be built on existing and active RAAF bases, not at some retired RAAF base out in the outback. It is far cheaper to expand the RAAF base than rebuild an abandoned one. USAF deployments to Oz currently go to RAAF Bases anyway, so they already have much of the infrastructure.

Bombers? Yeah, despite the capabilities the Bone has (ability to go fast is good), it has no nuclear delivery capability. So retire it and go with the only game in town, the B-21. Keep the B-2 longer than currently planned, and when the combined fleet of B-2As and B-21As reaches 40-50 active airframes, begin retiring the B-52H, don't waste money reengining it.

The current fleet of F-15s and F-16s is getting up to collecting social security age (for airplanes). Replace all F-15s and F-16s with a mix of new build F-15NGs, and F-16NG, and the F-35.
 
texl1649
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Re: Study of U.S. Air Force aircraft inventories

Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:48 am

Thx KC-top boom. Wish you’d post more again! Good feedback. Agree on bases in Oz. Disagree on some of the other stuff, but not enough to nitpick.
 
Ozair
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Re: Study of U.S. Air Force aircraft inventories

Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:51 am

kc135topboom wrote:
The USAF just took delivery of the last rewinged A-10, so they should stay until at least 2035, or so. Replacing the A-10 with the F-35 has been discussed to death. The A-10 is loved by the Grunts and the F-35 just doesn't have the capabilities to compete with the A-10 down in the mud.

Yes the A-10 is planned to fly until the mid 2030s but it will be replaced by the F-35 in due time. The issue with the A-10 remains that it cannot operate in the threat environments expected in the indo pacific region, nor does it have the range or speed to operate there. If the USAF intends that to be the primary threat region for development of its capability then the A-10 is the odd man out.

kc135topboom wrote:
The FT-X is a good idea. But the first uses of it should be in USAF, USN, and USMC Aggressor Squadrons, then move on to homeland defense.

That is the intent, the study states they should increase production to get it to the training units faster and by so doing free up later production for the F/T-X.

kc135topboom wrote:
Bases in Oz should be built on existing and active RAAF bases, not at some retired RAAF base out in the outback. It is far cheaper to expand the RAAF base than rebuild an abandoned one. USAF deployments to Oz currently go to RAAF Bases anyway, so they already have much of the infrastructure.

The study identifies the need for 24 bombers and 18 tanker aircraft to be based at each of four bases. Right now both RAAF Darwin and RAAF Tindal could not hold that number of aircraft, let alone double that to accommodate the number required by the USAF to win a conflict.

The RAAF base bases are functioning bases, just do not have the built up infrastructure to handle large numbers of aircraft. It would probably be cheaper to build on those bare non day to day operational sites than on existing in use bases.
An image of Scherger in Northern Queensland. It just needs hardened shelters and other defensive measures.

Image

Dispersed basing also spreads the US firepower across multiple bases, ensuring that one base being attacked and rendered inactive for a period of time doesn’t eliminate all the long range bombers/tankers in the region.

kc135topboom wrote:
Bombers? Yeah, despite the capabilities the Bone has (ability to go fast is good), it has no nuclear delivery capability. So retire it and go with the only game in town, the B-21. Keep the B-2 longer than currently planned, and when the combined fleet of B-2As and B-21As reaches 40-50 active airframes, begin retiring the B-52H, don't waste money reengining it.

The equation changes if you introduce the nuclear aspect. A china scenario with nuclear weapons is very much a one sided conflict, both sides lose but the US has such overwhelming overmatch on nuclear weapon stocks that China ceases to exist. The study is based on a conventional conflict and I think we can keep the discussion to that aspect.

The study advocates for not replacing the B-1s until there are sufficient B-21 numbers but acquiring enough B-21s to replace them and then some. The B-52s are handy today due to their long range and large weapons capability. Plugging 20 JASSM into the battlespace from each B-52 really changes the dynamics of a conflict as well as increases the ability for other airframes to operate within the IADS zones.

kc135topboom wrote:
The current fleet of F-15s and F-16s is getting up to collecting social security age (for airplanes). Replace all F-15s and F-16s with a mix of new build F-15NGs, and F-16NG, and the F-35.

The study again advocates for acquiring the F-15EX to replace all current in service F-15s but doesn’t talk about the F-16 in any form. An F-16NG would be a non-starter for the US especially with the F-35 hitting its current production targets. It provides no additional capability and the USAF has enough F-16s for the missions they need it to fulfil.
 
Ozair
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Re: Study of U.S. Air Force aircraft inventories

Wed Aug 28, 2019 2:06 am

Esper doesn’t mention any specific countries but the article talks about improvements to existing facilities in Thailand, something in Singapore (which would likely be quite expensive or have a limited ability to take many additional aircraft, moving back to the Philippines and perhaps even operating out of Vietnam (which would be a significant change). All the above are better options for fighter aircraft basing closer to the region.

For the southern region where bombers and tankers would likely be based the article mentions basing in Micronesia would be a good option to prevent expanding Chinese influence as well as further facilities in PNG.

Clearly though pacific basing is now being taken seriously which is a good thing both for US forces and for regional economies.

Esper calls for new basing investments in the Pacific

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper today called for expanding base locations in the Pacific while continuing regular freedom of navigation operations in the region, as part of a broader attempt to stymie China’s influence.

Esper, speaking at the Naval War College, called the Indo-Pacific theater “our priority theater,” as the department continues its shift towards an era of great power competition.

“Many of you spent most of your career fighting irregular warfare or engaging with it,” Esper told the audience. “But times have changed.”

In the Pacific, “allies and partners want us to lead… but to do that we must also be present in the region,” Esper said. “Not everywhere, but we have to be in the key locations. This means looking at how we expand our basing locations, investing more time and resources into certain regions we haven’t been to in the past.”

...

https://www.defensenews.com/pentagon/20 ... e-pacific/

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