On Target for Joint Theater Air Defense

Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, U. S. Air Force chief of staff

Remarks to the National Fire Control Symposium, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 30, 1996

It's great to be here and have the opportunity to spend some time discussing a very important topic. Let me take a few moments and give you my perspective on a conference which has as its title, "On Target for Joint Theater Air Defense."

I would begin by reminding all of us that the purpose of the United States military is to fight and win our nation's wars when called upon to do so. Despite the vast changes we have seen around the world, it is obvious that the use of force has not disappeared as a means of settling disputes and furthering national interests. And it's important that we keep ourselves focused on the purpose of our military forces.

Winning the nation's wars requires a very thorough understanding of the nature of modern warfare. One of the constants of warfare in the 20th century has been the need to gain control of the air -- over both friendly and enemy territory.

Simply put, air superiority is the key to winning wars with the fewest losses. In light of the disdain from the American public on the issue of casualties, I believe being able to gain air superiority has become a strategic imperative for our nation.

I can tell you that this issue of casualties is not taken lightly. As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff I spend many hours in discussion on whether or not we are going to deploy military forces and examining the likelihood of American casualties. For our national command authorities this issue has become a critical question when it comes to considering the employment of U. S. military forces.

In light of the recent events in Dhahran, I think that force protection are words that you'll be hearing more and more. Certainly, protection against air and missile attack is one of the basic forms of force protection. This mission is not about a particular type of fighter, or a service, or a weapon system -- it is about ensuring freedom of action for American forces, not just protection from attack, but also freedom to attack.

Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of people who have lost sight of what it means to operate without air superiority. Maybe that is understandable for Americans, because we have not had to fight without some form of air superiority since 1943. As a result, many view air superiority as sort of a God-given right of Americans, but it is not.

The reason that we've had air superiority and have generally enjoyed freedom from attack by air-breathing assets since 1953, is because people like you in this audience, from all the services and industry, pay attention to the subject.

At the risk of going back to the most recent war as an example, I think Desert Storm offers a clear illustration of the benefits of air superiority. Just think about (USA, ret.) General Norman Schwarzkopf's ability to shift large numbers of coalition forces westward in preparation for the left hook into Iraq. He could do that because we not only had air superiority, but space superiority as well. Saddam Hussein was denied all air intelligence and, without access to space systems, he was cut off from critical information. Some future adversary, however, may have access to commercially available imaging systems and the ability to gather other types of information through space, creating a tremendously difficult and challenging environment.

Nonetheless, during the Gulf War the coalition had total air and space superiority and that gave us tremendous leverage and opportunity. By contrast, when the Iraqi vehicles tried to leave Kuwait and we were cued to that and we owned the sky -- well, everyone can see the results in the pictures of the "highway of death." You simply cannot function and operate in the face of such air superiority and freedom of action.

More than 50 years ago in North Africa, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel summed up the problem. Rommel had done extremely well there, until he lost air superiority. After that he wrote, "Anyone who has to fight, even with the most modern weapons, against an enemy in complete command of the air, fights like a savage against modern European troops, under the same handicaps and with the same chances of success."

I think in the future maintaining control of the air will be even more difficult. While it may be impossible to predict any one future scenario perfectly, we know enough about general trends to see the outlines of the operational problems in this area.

The future threats facing the joint force commander (JFC) will be even more diverse, more lethal and more difficult to detect and kill than we face today. And they are going to include manned and unmanned, stealthy and non-stealthy vehicles, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. Faced with this diverse threat array, the JFC will need an integrated offensive and defensive counter-air approach to destroy or neutralize enemy aircraft and missiles.

Manned aircraft will continue to pose a danger, especially if they are carrying cruise missiles. Some advanced foreign fighters are beginning to approach parity with U.S. fighters in terms of performance. Aircraft like the French Rafale, the Eurofighter and the Russian SU-35 have exceptional maneuvering performance and they are proliferating, along with AMRAAM- (advanced medium-range air-to-air missile) type missiles. In addition, relatively cheap and very effective SAM (surface-to-air missile) systems must be dealt with unless we want to give the enemy sanctuaries from which they can attack our forces with impunity. These challenges make the modernization programs in all of the services extremely important and we should not become complacent by our success in Desert Storm.

Although the Iraqi Air Force was essentially eliminated from active operations during the first few days of combat in that conflict, Saddam Hussein still retained a "fleet in being," and we had to assume that he might use those forces. This situation had a telling effect on how we ended up using our air power: Naval air, Air Force air and Marine air. A future adversary may not pit his aircraft directly against American forces, but preserve them for attacks on very high value assets, such as air transports, airfields, ships, ports, docks, staging areas and storage facilities.

In the future we're bound to see an increase in the use of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. Desert Storm, again, provided a glimpse of what we might expect. The relatively low-technology SCUD missiles threatened us not so much from the military perspective, but from the political perspective -- the cohesion of the coalition. Certainly it also affected our planning for combat operations, and the lethality of the weapons was demonstrated when we lost 28 troops in an attack on the barracks at Dhahran.

Everyone in this room knows that ballistic missiles are continuing to spread around the globe. Today, more than 15 different countries possess operational missiles and more are attempting to acquire them. These missiles are also growing more sophisticated with improved accuracy and submunition warheads.

The future air defense environment will also include cruise missiles. U. S. cruise missile success has established a precedent for other nations to develop this capability, although we still retain a tremendous asymmetric advantage in this area because of our unparalleled ability to launch cruise missiles from our naval forces. In contrast, most cruise missiles that we will face, at least in a theater-type war, will come from either air-launched or surface-launched platforms. A threat from the sea is unlikely, given the capability of our Navy, but naval forces themselves may face a cruise missile threat from land and the possibility of fleet-to-fleet combat.

The advent of the Global Positioning System, along with improving computer technology and miniaturization, has resulted in a rapid drop in the price of highly accurate cruise missiles. At the same time, sensor systems are proliferating and in the very near future it will be possible to find, fix and target virtually any surface force in the world. This a very real threat that we must continue to watch. The low costs relative to penetrating aircraft actually favors cruise missiles, making them attractive to many nations and large numbers of such missiles may soon be available in a variety of areas.

Coupled with the growing diversity of air vehicles is the spread of weapons of mass destruction. For a relatively small amount of money an adversary could be equipped with a variety of well-defended air assets, mated with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, giving them the capability to disrupt and potentially devastate a U.S. response to aggression by inflicting large numbers of casualties. Such attacks could make it virtually impossible for us to resist an enemy offensive or mount an effective counterattack.

Now it's possible to defeat these threats, but only by making the best use of each component's resources and capabilities, all working together. I don't intend to spell out all of the specific technical requirements on how we can do this, that's why we have the experts here. Instead, I want to offer some considerations for your thinking as we move forward.

The variety of air threats and the deadly nature of weapons of mass destruction make it clear that we need a variety of solutions. I think at the heart it will be a focused, integrated, joint Battle Management C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) architecture for detecting, tracking and disseminating threat information. And air supremacy is an absolute must for conducting successful defensive and offensive operations against the threat.

Destroying aircraft, missiles and launchers on the ground through offensive counter-air operations is the most effective way of stopping an enemy's air attacks. This asymmetrical approach gives us the initiative as to the time and place of attack and allows us to destroy an air asset before it enters the lethal envelope. In addition, this approach has the advantage of destroying and eliminating a possible threat from an adversary's inventory.

But destruction, I am convinced, can only be one criteria for judging the effectiveness of offensive missions. In this arena you can begin to chase the 100 percent solution, when the 80 percent solution may be within our grasp and may be what is most effective. For example, the ability to delay and disrupt the enemy's plans, induce the friction of war if you will, can be very important. At the risk of relying too heavily on a very narrow, but the most recent, and perhaps, the most applicable example, Desert Storm again provides a good model.

We know, for instance, that our offensive counter-air operations, known as attack operations, were effective in suppressing Iraqi SCUD rates of fire, disrupting their operations and in limiting multiple launches. Iraq had somewhere between 500 and 600 missiles and, as a minimum 36 TELS (transporter erector launchers). But during the war they only fired 88 SCUDs. You can see statistically that once the Iraqis understood the impact of attack operations, they launched their SCUDs more often during low cloud ceilings -- significant evidence of the impact that attack operations had on that particular campaign. The bottom line is that coalition dominance of the air and vigorous offensive attack operations significantly limited the Iraqi's ability to launch SCUDs in more operationally effective attacks against the coalition. And not just aircraft are involved in offensive operations. The Army ATACM (Advanced Tactical Missile System) system is being looked at and has, in fact, been employed in such operations.

Offensive operations are only part of the equation and the difficulty of the task certainly should not be underestimated. Against an aggressive enemy using concealment and deception, it will not be possible to destroy every air asset before it can be launched. This makes our ability to detect, target and destroy weapons after launch very important.

This is a complex problem, made more difficult by the varying time lines involved in intercepting the various threats -- some with reduced signatures and others flying at hypersonic speeds in the case of ballistic missiles. If you're sitting at a radar scope looking at an inbound track in the not too distant future, you're going to have great difficulty telling whether it's manned or unmanned, aircraft or missile. It is not a problem easily divided into compartments.

Defeating these systems is going to require dynamic interaction, control and tasking, and demands that the services move beyond interoperability to integration. In the past it was good enough to design equipment and train people so that they could work together if needed. In many cases interoperability was viewed as good, but not essential to combat success. I maintain that this is no longer the case. Given our constrained resources and the growing number of lethal and diverse threats, we must build equipment, develop procedures and train people so that we can fight together when a crisis begins.

Meeting the goal of integration will not be easy. We must ensure that detection and guidance systems function on common data transmission formats and, where possible, incorporate common displays and command and control systems at all levels.

Fortunately, I think we are making some progress towards this goal. The JROC (Joint Requirements Oversight Committee) and its associated working groups, provide a joint forum and an effective mechanism for making decisions that maximize the capability of each component with a minimum of overlap. This structure is the catalyst for establishing and sustaining the joint contribution for meeting current and future theater air defense challenges.

We can see the joint outlook in command and control in some of the current initiatives underway for improving the accuracy and responsiveness needed to neutralize time-critical targets. Rather than the strict fighter hierarchy and functional structures, typical of the way we used to imagine theater air defense organization, newer systems are circular in nature and designed to share real-time intelligence among commanders and different weapon systems instantaneously. For instance, the Army's Golden Thread initiative, originally developed for ATACM, shows promise for streamlining the decision-making process in targeting inbound threats. The Air Force, Navy and the Ballastic Missile Defense Office are currently investigating the ability to use the Navy's Cooperative Engagement Capability with Link 16 to pass information about targets directly from surveillance platforms to the shooters -- regardless of the service.

The nature of the international environment also dictates a shift in the nature of the communications network we use in a theater air defense system. Put another way, we talk about the problems of joint operations -- the focus of this conference -- but I will tell you that before we fix and solve all the problems associated with joint operations, we need to begin considering the next challenge, which is coalition operations.

In the past, we tended to concentrate our efforts on the worst case scenario, an invasion of western Europe. This resulted in a reliance on large, static communications systems. Today, we must have flexible communications arrangements capable of being used all around the world in a variety of scenarios to support diverse missions. As we move forward we're going to find that commercial applications are becoming more important.

Developing these systems will require a continuing partnership with industry. We need your help in defining the problems we face and the gaps we have to fill. At the same time, the services, service agencies and DOD have to work together in decreasing the time and cost of designing, developing and producing new systems. I think we're already making progress in streamlining the acquisition process by making it faster and more flexible, but we can do more.

Although new technology and systems are important, they must be tied together with people. We need the appropriate doctrine to get the most out of the new systems. People need to think "outside of the box" and come up with innovative, imaginative solutions for employing these new systems. That's why I think its important that we get the kind of brain power in this room together. We should not come to these symposiums expecting to be briefed on the approved solution. Instead, we should come here with the kinds of ideas and innovations that have allowed this nation to stay in the forefront of defense matters for many years and not be bashful about speaking up if you have something to contribute.

Let me close by relating another historical example about air defense that highlights the dangers of not integrating systems and not developing an appreciation for the proper doctrine and training.

During the 1930s both Germany and Great Britain were trying to develop radars and air defense systems. At the time, the principle of using radio waves to detect objects was very well known and, in terms of technical developments, the Germans actually made greater progress than the British. By the beginning of World War II they had radars with better resolution and capabilities than anyone in the world, but they emphasized technical innovation through competing agencies and paid little attention to integrating the radars into their air defense network.

The British, on the other hand, had not achieved the same level of technological sophistication, but had spent a great deal of effort in developing the conceptual basis of an air defense system and then integrating radars into it. When it was all over Winston Churchill noted that, "It was our operational efficiency rather than [the] novelty of the equipment that was the British achievement." An achievement highlighted during the successful defense of Great Britain in the summer of 1940.

Over the next few days I would urge you to keep this cautionary tale in mind as you take advantage of the opportunity to work on the issues that are the theme of this conference -- "On Target for Joint Theater Air Defense," an issue vital to all the services and of great importance to our national command authorities. As we look out into the future one of the driving considerations about the deployment of forces will be our ability to employ these forces effectively, efficiently and with a minimum of American casualties. There are, unquestionably, things in this world worth fighting for that may endanger the lives of American troops. Our task is to ensure that it is possible for us to employ U.S. military forces, whatever the situation.