The Pentagon must continue to tweak its weapons mix if it wants to meet the military challenges of this century, a member of an influential think tank told an audience of field grade (and at least one general) Air Force officers today.
Discussing the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis new operating concept for dealing with an increasingly well-armed Iran at the Air Force Association's headquarters, CSBA's Mark Gunzinger said the Pentagon needs to buy more survivable long-range strike and ISR gear while trimming spending on weapons that may not be in high-demand in the coming years.
Citing the increasing numbers of countries such as China and, specifically Iran that are building their abilities to strike enemy bases and aircraft carriers near their borders Gunzinger asked:
What are the implications if we don't have close-in bases? Obviously, our shorter range capabilities will have a great challenge to overcome, and we're not just talking about land-based, we're talking about sea-based. What if our carriers can't get within 300 nautical miles, 400 nautical miles of Iran in the future? If they're equipped with short-range fighters, F-35C, they're not going to have a lot of coverage inside Iran."As I've said before, CSBA's ideas and recommendations frequently tie in closely with what becomes Pentagon strategy and policy, so it's always a good idea to pay attention to what the K Street-based think tank is saying.
Given that CSBA's ideas of Air Sea Battle -- which its Iranian concept is based -- call for long-range penetrating strikes that take out heavily defended command, control and ISR infrastructure -- a "kill the archer not the arrows" approach, as one of Gunzinger's slides read -- small, slow and unstealthy weapons will have less use on the modern battlefield than they have over the last three decades. He then listed the categories where the Air Force, Navy and ground forces can invest in:
I haven't got any argument's as we've briefed this about the fact that we need to adjust our mix of long-range and short-range capabilities, and I'm not just talking about the mix of fighters and bombers, I'm also talking about UAVs. We need to take a hard look at our UAV force. The majority of our UAVs are optimized for what? Operating in very permissive environments, they're not stealthy and a lot of them don't have great range and that's a part of the mix we might want to adjust to our more sophisticated and advanced unmanned capabilities with greater stealth.He went on to suggest that the ground forces invest more money in long range weapons like MGM-140 ATACMS and directed energy missile defense and that the Navy seek to buy Virginia class submarines modified to carry a large number of Tomahawk cruise missiles to replace the aging Ohio class guided missile submarines.
He then moved on to discussing where the Pentagon should do more trimming before circling back to where the DoD should invest:
We simply can't continue to throw money at problems and hope to solve them that way because the money's not going to be there. One of the main reasons why the U.S. military developed new concepts like Air Sea Battle and Outside In, is to provide new lenses to take a look at challenges and what the capabilities are that we need to address those challenges, not just prime capability gaps but where we may have invested too much or where need to accept more risk, and there are some areas where we would all agree we might want to do that in the future in order to resource higher priority capabilities.