The future of airpower depends on "increased lethality," the chief of staff of the Air Force, General David L. Goldfein, told an audience at a lecture hosted by the Air Force Association in Washington, D.C., on July 28.
Goldfein used his presentation to give an advance briefing on the soon-to-be-published analysis he has written with Heather Wilson, secretary of the Air Force. The general said the key question is, "Who do we need to be in 2030?" And he argued that the answer involves both a move up toward the sharing of intelligence in high-level command and a move down toward giving authority to squadron commanders. The United States must look to its allies in its strategic planning, "the collective economic and military might of 29 nations in the greatest alliance in history." And the Air Force must take advantage of the technological changes of the cyber-revolution to work with those allies, "an age when information sharing is vital to success. And it will be fast."
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Goldfein's speech lacked specifics about new aircraft the Air Force plans to commission and older models it plans to decommission. He did, however, give some clue to future acquisitions by comparing the American military to a Rubik's Cube and declaring the Air Force is merely the blue squares—one of several colors joining the other services in a "multi-domain environment" that covers air, land, sea, and space, along with the virtual world of cyberspace. "We're more interdependent on each other as services than we've been in our history," Goldfein explained, with 26 years of continuous combat since Desert Storm. Capitalizing on that long training in active warfare, the Air Force will use its expertise in adaptive basing of its planes and its advances in communications that allow ever-faster analysis of the battlefield and interaction with pilots. Wars of the future, he explained, will be about "cognition."
Goldfein also expressed a number of thoughts about the expansion into space. He suggested, for example, that the day is coming when space becomes profitable, while warning, "We will be fighting in and from space in the near future." The need to extend the nation's protective umbrella into space, both to protect the nation's satellites and to gain the high ground for terrestrial war, depends even more on the cyber-capacities the Air Force is developing. And the intelligence derived from those cyber-capacities needs to be put in service of planes, pilots, and weapons of increased lethality.