New technologies are fundamentally changing the character of warfare and both air force services are leading this charge, Defense Secretary Dr Mark T. Esper said today at the virtual conference on Air Force Association air, space and cybersecurity.
During the COVID-19 era, Esper spoke to the group virtually.
The secretary said America’s air, space and cybernetic warriors “will be at the forefront of high-end combat tomorrow.”
This means taking on competitors close to their peers, China and Russia. It means shifting focus from defeating violent extremist groups to deterring high-powered competitors. It means fighting a high intensity battle that combines all areas of warfare, he said.
“In this era of great power competition, we cannot take the long-standing advantages of the United States for granted,” Esper said.
The last time an enemy force dropped a bomb on American troops was during the Korean War. “China and Russia seek to erode our long-standing dominance in air power through long-range fires, area access / denial systems and other asymmetric capabilities designed to counter our forces,” he said. -he declares. “Meanwhile, in space, Moscow and Beijing have turned a once peaceful arena into a battlefield.”
China and Russia have placed weapons on satellites and are developing directed energy weapons to exploit US systems “and destroy our military advantage,” he said.
Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and some violent extremist groups are also seeking to exploit cyberspace to undermine American security without facing conventional American outclassing. “They are doing all of this in a growing ‘gray area’ of engagement that keeps us in a state of perpetual competition,” the secretary said.
The military guide to the future is the National Defense Strategy. The strategy calls on the military to divest existing systems, reinvest savings in higher priority systems and make the tough choices necessary to break with the status quo and continue to outperform the competition, Esper said.
The Department of Defense’s research and development budget for fiscal 2020 is the largest in history, he said, and it focuses on critical technologies such as hypersonic weapons, directed energy and autonomous systems.
“In the Air Force, in particular, we are modernizing our force for the 21st century with aircraft such as the B-21, X-37 and the Air Dominance Next Generation platform,” Esper said. “Equally important, we are transforming the way we fight through the implementation of new concepts such as Dynamic Force Employment, which offers scalable options for employing joint force while preserving our capabilities for major combat.
To realize the full potential of new concepts, the department must be able to exchange and synchronize information between systems, services and platforms, transparently across all areas, he said. “The Department of the Air Force is leading on this front with the advancement of joint command and control in all areas,” Esper said.
This concept is part of the development of a concept of joint warfare that will drive the transition to all-domain operations, he said.
“For these breakthroughs to be successful in any future conflict… we must maintain superiority in the ultimate height – space,” Esper said.
The military launched US Space Command a year ago, and Congress created US Space Force. Command is in charge of operations and the USSF seeks to maneuver, train and equip the force. The new service has already submitted a budget and released its first doctrine – Spacepower.
Cyber warfare is a distinct possibility and the DOD is looking to the department’s digital modernization strategy to improve our capabilities and policies, he said. The military is working on game-changing technologies, such as artificial intelligence and 5G, and is looking to move combat to the cloud.
The Air Force is at the forefront of DOD’s efforts to harness the power of artificial intelligence. “In collaboration with academia and industry, the Air Force’s AI Accelerator program is able to rapidly prototype cutting-edge innovations,” said Esper. The AI technology used to accelerate the F-15EX acquisition program is one example.
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