Outgoing Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz leaves behind a very different service from the one he found.
As our senior blue-suit correspondent Michael Hoffman wrote Wednesday, Schwartz's Air Force embraced unmanned aerial vehicles and C4ISR; picked its nuclear mission up off the ground and created Global Strike Command; and tried to shed some of its traditional big war perspective to focus on Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also, at long last, signed a contract for a new fleet of KC-46A tankers and leaves another important legacy: Its much-thought-about, seldom-discussed new bomber.
Schwartz told reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday that his presumptive successor, Gen. Mark Welsh, has a different job in trying to execute the tanker and bomber programs, as opposed to just getting them officially on the books, but that he remains confident the Air Force will field "long-range strike" in the next decade.
There's a lot of secret-squirrel stuff involved, but Schwartz stands by the goal of relying on a system family of systems to threaten all the bad guys' targets, of which the new bomber (inspirationally dubbed "LRS-B") would be a part. But as Air Force Magazine's Mark Schanz pointed out, we normies haven't been able to see much progress so far. Never you mind, Schwartz said -- stuff is going to happen.
Per the transcript:
Q: You mentioned in your opening statement that the long-range strike family of systems -- during your tenure, the next bomber program came back onto the books. Unless something has changed, and you're still looking at about a 10- to 12-year timeframe for that going out into the ramp, to an outsider, I don't believe there's been any official requirements document made for this program. So is that timeframe realistic at this point from where you stand?Problem is, the Air Force's plans to keep much of these efforts secret will make it difficult to know what's what at any given moment. But given the Air Force's recent history of managing its acquisitions, including its tanker saga and its attempts to award a contract for a Light Air Support aircraft, its leaders today and tomorrow will probably continue trying as much as they can to stay out of the public view.
GENERAL SCHWARTZ: Yeah, I think, you know, we've talked about beginning to field the platform in the mid-20s. And there are requirements. And we're going to pursue this program in a very disciplined fashion, and do it in a way that capitalizes on already proven technologies, in aircraft manufacturing, in sensors, in you know, avionics integration, and so on and so forth.
So, we succeeded in persuading the secretary that this is a capability the country must have, that being able to place targets at risk wherever they may be is an American strong suit, largely performed by the United States Air Force, and that is extending a sense of vulnerability on others is a tool of statecraft and one we should not concede.