The Future of Air Superiority: The Imperative

The Future of Air Superiority: The Imperative
U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Solomon Cook

While the American ability to control the air is often taken for granted, the United States risks losing this advantage over the next decade and a half. Budget pressures have delayed key investments, while others continue to develop advanced technologies that will surpass U.S. capabilities if we fail to move forward. Sensing this challenge, from mid-2015 to mid-2016, the Air Force afforded me the privilege of leading a team of experts studying how the Air Force would provide air superiority for the U.S. military in 2030 and beyond. Air superiority, often thought of as a mission, is more correctly conceived of as a condition. At its most basic, that condition is achieved when a force possesses the degree of control of the air required for joint operations succeed. Air superiority not only allows the joint force to exploit the air domain, but also grants it freedom from attack on the surface. Without air superiority, results can be devastating — witness the rout of the Republican Guard as it tried to escape from Kuwait along the “Highway of Death,” or the devastating losses suffered by the Taliban in 2001 on the Shomali plain. With this in mind, the team I led — composed of air, space, cyber, logistics, and support experts— challenged every assumption and conducted an exhaustive review of options to gain and maintain continued control of the air.

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