The US Air Force celebrates 72 years of operations on 18 September as Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein outlines the future.
The history of the Air Force traces back to the Army Air Forces, the aerial warfare service component of the US Army during and immediately after World War II.
The modern day US Air Force was born on 18 September 1947 when W. Stuart Symington, who had previously been the assistant secretary of War for Air, was sworn in as secretary of the newly-created branch of the armed forces. On its creation, the Air Force inherited all of the Army Air Force’s facilities.
Since 1947 the USAF has established a record of honour, valour and sacrifice, serving during and after the Cold War, during the Korean War, Vietnam War and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In a speech highlighting the need for the air force to evolve from the past 72 years of history into the future, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L Goldfein outlined that the air force needs to be fully integrated.
He described the need to reshape itself in response to a new “character” of warfare that is driven as much by “cognition” as platforms.
“Victory in future combat will depend less on individual capabilities, and more on the integrated strengths of a connected network available for coalition leaders to employ,” General Goldfein said. “What I’m talking about is a fully networked force where each platform’s sensors and operators are connected,” he said.
In presenting the case for an Air Force that seamlessly combines weapons, sensors, data and people from air, space, sea, cyber and information, Gen Goldfein pointed to history.
The Air Force he commands today as the senior military leader traces its roots to decisions made by his predecessor chiefs of staff.
“I am the 21st chief. My job is to make sure that chief 24 – who just made Brigadier General – has what she or he needs to stand on this stage in 2030 and make the same statement without hesitation,” Gen Goldfein said.
The move is already underway as the Air Force shifts “our focus from platforms to networks. From devices to apps. From humans in the loop to humans on the loop.”
While the concept appears straightforward, the technical challenges require linking systems to collect vast amounts of data from an array of sensors from the various domains in a way the information can be assessed, understood and transmitted quickly to commanders and combatants to produce successful actions.
The goal is combine to produce multiple dilemmas for the air forces adversaries in a way that will overwhelm them.
And while the transformation is complex, is still in its early stages and necessary, Gen Goldfein was both emphatic and certain that the Air Force remains pre-eminent.
“I stand here today as the 21st chief and say, ‘This is one hell of an Air Force.’ And it’s why I can stand here with confidence and tell you, if we go to war, we’re going to win.
“If we’ve done our jobs right as leaders organising, training and equipping our service for multi-domain operations and selecting and developing the leaders needed for this future fight, our airmen will excel at multi-domain operations because we will have built it into every exercise scenario and war game,” he said.
To better explain the concept, Gen Goldfein used current-day weapons and choices to illustrate the point.
“So the question for us is not whether we are going to be old or new, manned or unmanned, penetrating or standoff, conventional or unconventional,” he said.
“The answer to that question is yes, all of the above. Standing here today, I don’t know what is going to go in the bay of an 80-year-old B-52 or a 10-year-old X-37 or a one year old F-35 or the tube of a tactical submarine or a HIMARS artillery tube or a marine special forces team. I just need to know we need to connect them in ways hey are not connected today.”
On the USAF’s 72nd birthday Gen Goldfein saluted the 685,000 active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel.
“You are the greatest treasure in our nation’s arsenal and I’m proud to serve you as your chief,” he said, also recognising the contributions of the Air Force’s civilian personnel.