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The Asian Airpower Balance: Challenges from Chinese and Russian Fifth-Generation Fighter Programs
The Hudson Institute

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Published on September 14th, 2009








10:00 A.M.

Transcript by
Federal News Service
Washington, D.C.

KEN WEINSTEIN:  Good morning.  I’m Ken Weinstein, CEO of Hudson Institute.  I’d like to welcome everyone here this morning to the Betsy and Walter Stern Conference Center for Hudson Institute’s conference on America’s fifth-generation fighter.

As with all large issues of defense – defense procurements, potential future security landscapes – simple answers to the questions we’re examining this morning are simply unavailable.  All we really know is that the world the U.S. military must operate in is becoming increasingly more complex, and human predictions in this area, as in all others, are highly fallible.  And so I think it’s altogether appropriate that we have such a distinguished panel of experts here this morning to launch the discussion.

And it’s something that I think is long in tune with Hudson Institute’s future-oriented policy research background, going back to the days of our founder, Herman Kahn, a man who believed in the importance of examining future security landscapes and assessing potential security environments, to thinking the unknowable, thinking the unthinkable and beyond.  And so I think we’ll have a very good discussion this morning.

Moderating this morning’s session is Hudson Institute’s senior fellow Seth Cropsey.  Seth, who was a former journalist at Fortune magazine, started out in the Defense Department as assistant to the late secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger.  He went on to serve as deputy undersecretary of the Navy with Lehman and three other secretaries of the Navy during the Reagan administration, including one who is currently seated in the U.S. Senate.

In the first Bush administration he was acting assistant secretary of defense for Special Operations and then principal deputy assistant secretary in the same office.  Seth administered one of the Marshall Center’s academic programs in Bavaria in the late 1990s, and after having been confirmed by the Senate, served most recently in government as director of international broadcasting from 2002 to 2005.

He’s had significant experience dealing with significant policy challenges, and I’m really pleased and honored to be able to introduce him this morning and to draw on his experiences at the Pentagon for today’s discussion.  Seth?

SETH CROPSEY:  Good morning.  We’re here, as Ken said, to consider a recent administration about U.S. airpower with far-reaching consequences.  It’s important to remember, though, that our relationship to the Pentagon, while sometimes critical, is guided by respect for the Defense Department’s remarkable responsibility.

This respect is increased by the challenges that so large a bureaucracy and so huge a building present.  In fact, some of you may have heard the story about a woman who approached one of the Pentagon’s security guards not long ago and told him breathlessly that she had gone into labor. 

Could you call an ambulance, she said.  So the guard picked up the phone immediately and requested assistance.  But he just couldn’t help himself and said, ma’am, you really shouldn’t have come here in this condition.  And the woman is said to have replied, when I came here, I wasn’t.  (Laughter.) 

Now, I’m not going to compare the position of the United States to that of the unfortunate woman in this anecdote, but I am impressed at the noteworthy inconsistencies within many current strategic forecasts of the future global security environment.

A look at such efforts as those offered by, for example, the National Intelligence Council, Global Trends 2025, the joint operating environment, the British Ministry of Defense Developments, Concepts and Doctrine Centre, a report of the Venusberg Group on “European Grand Strategy,” and also white papers published by various allied defense ministries in Europe and Asia produces near, I would say, unanimity on several issues.

There is agreement, for example, that the future is likely to be increasingly unstable and chaotic.  The challenges that these efforts see include proliferation; terrorism, including the use of weapons of mass destruction; failed states; emerging and not always friendly powers; more competition for oil; increasing scarcity of other critical resources; demographic bulges in unstable regions; and environmental changes with possibly large national security implications.

Upon these mostly dismal outcomes there is general agreement.  What strikes me as interesting and noteworthy is that these strategic forecasts agree on the likelihood of events, any of which by themselves could escalate from a local to a regional or broader conflict, to say nothing of the consequences if they were to occur simultaneously.

But the same documents see the chances of major conflict as very small to virtually non-existent.  It’s almost like a fire chief explaining that the several areas within his jurisdiction are likely to experience such different individual dangers as extended drought, high winds, low humidity and electrical storms, but that the chance of these particular threats transforming into a larger conflagration does not require further consideration.

Current U.S. defense policy is increasingly parallel to the fire chief’s judgment in this analogy.  It’s these future warfare as a series of irregular, unconventional, asymmetric engagements that require a shift in our force structure toward the lower end of the spectrum of conflict.  It increasingly disparages the possibility of major conflict. 

An important question at the bottom of today’s distinguished panel’s considerations is whether, or to what extent, this view of future warfare and thus the defenses required to protect the United States is correct.

American air superiority has been a fixer of the post-World War II period.  The Korean War was the last time that an enemy plane shot down an American fighter.  Does the Obama administration’s decision not to purchase additional F-22 fighters suggest that we have begun to take airpower for granted, that the definition of airpower has changed, that the threat itself has transformed?  And what does this decision mean for the U.S. and some of its most important allies in the future?

We’re going to hear from three, not four as originally advertised, distinguished experts this morning.  Dan Blumenthal has the flu and sends his regrets, and whatever bug he has, I hope it’s not transmittable electronically.  (Laughter.) 

Rick Fisher, who will speak first, is senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center with which Hudson is sponsoring this event this morning, very happily.  He is an expert on China’s military, the author of an excellent book on “China’s Emerging Military Power,” published by Praeger last year, and an old friend and colleague.  Rick will look at China’s plans for a fifth-generation fighter.

Following him is Reuben Johnson, who has just returned from the Moscow air show and published a depressing article in last week’s Weekly Standard that’s worth reading for the parallels it draws between the Putin regime and its predecessor.

Reuben is a 22-year veteran of analyzing and reporting on foreign weapons systems and defense technology.  During this time he has worked several years in the U.S. defense industry as a foreign technology analyst and later as a consultant for the Department of Defense, the Navy and the Air Force, the United Kingdom and Australian governments.  He’s based in Kiev.  Reuben will look at Russia’s plans for a fifth-generation fighter, then we’ll have a short break.

After him, Dr. Rebecca Grant will discuss what the Obama administration’s decision to curtail the purchase of the F-22 means for U.S. airpower, and will also look at Asia. 

Rebecca is a veteran of RAND and the offices of both the secretary of the Air Force and the chief of staff of the Air Force.  Her analyses of major recent U.S. air campaigns and her experience with strategic planning are exceptional qualifications to judge the national security consequences of the administration’s recent decision on the future of the F-22.

And I’m very grateful that, given the occurrence today at the Gaylord Hotel of the Air Force Association’s annual meeting, that you were able to make it over here.  Thank you.

Following their presentations there will be a question period.  And let me turn the floor over to Rick now.  Thank you.

RICHARD FISHER:  Okay, thank you.  Great. 

Well, it’s a real pleasure to be joining my old boss, Seth Cropsey, and joining forces with the Hudson Institute.  We’ve very grateful for this opportunity.  I’d like to thank Ken Weinstein as well for agreeing to join forces to examine the elements of the future airpower balance in Asia.

And before I begin I would also like to thank my colleagues on the panel for joining us:  my colleague in stomping around arms shows, Reuben Johnson.  We both just attended the Moscow air show and Reuben, right after that, attended the air show in Poland. 

And it’s a special pleasure to be joining Dr. Rebecca Grant, whom I have only known previously by her near-constant presence on the Military Channel, which is – I’ve learned so much from you, Dr. Grant.

This morning I’d like to talk about China’s fifth-generation – which they call fourth-generation – fighter program, to the degree possible from an open-source perspective.  After that I’d like to try to fill in some of the variables that Dan Blumenthal would have mentioned had he not been taken away from us by the flu.  I hope he recovers soon.

But just to give a simple précis of my address, we start with what was a very rare revelation of what I believe to be an intelligence community consensus by our secretary of Defense last July that the Chinese would not be able to field their fifth-generation fighters until after 2020.

I think there are grounds for doubt.  And even though trying to talk about this subject is very difficult; trying to get your hands around a very slippery rope, there is enough what I would call interesting smoke to hang some conclusions that ought to be taken into some consideration and, in my opinion, ought to, at the end of our process, have affected our policy deliberations differently.

As far as I can tell, both the Shenyang and Chengdu Aircraft Corporations have had heavy fifth-generation fighter programs going back to the early 1990s, probably extending back into the late 1980s. 

Some recent encounters indicate that China may also have a medium-weight fifth-generation fighter program much in the vein – although clearly we don’t know whether it will exactly mirror the American heavy F-22 versus medium-weight F-35 combination, but this is to me a very significant data point.

There is at least one active 15-ton afterburning turbo fan engine program, and after the last Moscow air show, there was a strong indication that China would like a second such engine program.

To this we can point to a longstanding interest in China in advanced stealth technologies, advanced aircraft systems, advanced radar and such.  And also I think we can also conclude that next-generation air-to-air weapons are on the way.

And in the meantime, even if we accept the ICE’s assessment of a post-2020 IOC for Chinese fifth-gen fighters, the spin-offs that will be taking place that will enable the Chinese to upgrade their fourth-generation fighters, which are now already entering into advanced versions, will further stress our air assets’ defensive posture in Asia.

And we must also keep in mind – and this will be the segue to the second part of my address – is that China’s fifth-generation fighter program is but one of many clear efforts that China is making to undermine the pillars of the American deterrent posture in Asia, in space in terms of its nuclear missile modernization, a possible AMB program, its counter-carrier activities, its submarine modernization, investment in future power projection assets.

All of this should be factoring into a decision so critical as that which was recently made to end F-22 production.  And that’s sort of my bottom line already, but just moving into what has been said about China’s advanced fighter program?  Precious little on an official level from the American side and even less on the Chinese side.

The first sort of official pronouncement on this took place over a decade ago when the Office of Naval Intelligence issued a series of glossy reports – public reports about emerging global threats and made a statement – offered an estimate that this next-generation aircraft, which would emphasize air combat and reduce signature or stealth capabilities, would enter service by 2015.

This estimate really was not challenged in terms of public American statements until this past summer when Secretary Gates, in a speech in Chicago last July 16, stated very clearly that by 2020 the U.S. would have 1,100 advanced fifth-generation fighters – F-35s and F-22s but, in contrast, China would have none, and this gap would only increase looking to 2025.

Then at the August – last August Moscow air show, I was privileged to have the opportunity to query a prominent Russian official from the Sukhoi Corporation about China’s fifth-generation program.  And I’ll say that, first, you know, they made clear that they’re not part of it. 

In contrast, the Russians are helping India’s fifth-generation program heavily.  They’re supplying most of the technology and wherewithal for India to make that aircraft.  But he was also somewhat in agreement with the ICE-Secretary Gates estimate that China would not have a fifth-generation fighter in service until after 2020. 

Now, is there grounds for skepticism?  Well, in the long tradition of Americans debating their all range of national security issues, I say yes, of course there’s ground for skepticism.  While we certainly respect the efforts of thousands of people within the intelligence community who labor furiously to produce estimates to serve our leadership, it’s a historical fact that they have differences of opinion.

Sometimes we are let known those differences of opinion and sometimes they also make mistakes.  I would just point out the 2002 Pentagon PLA report, which, on page 20, had a rather frank statement that China had appeared to have set aside indefinitely its plans to acquire an aircraft carrier.

Well, here on our PowerPoint page on the lower left we have one of the most recent pictures of the Varyag, an aircraft carrier that China acquired from the Ukraine in 2002.  At the end of April this year, the Varyag was moved across Dailan Harbor into a purpose-built dry dock.

The dry dock is right next to an incomplete, very large set of tall buildings, the purpose of which, in my opinion, is to begin to fabricate components for large ships, most likely aircraft carriers.  I don’t know.  We haven’t heard the explanation as to why the Pentagon or the ICE felt comfortable with this statement, but within a decade I would offer the conclusion that it’s been proved wrong.

The Pentagon reports as well have not really explored the fifth-generation program.  There are no details that I can find in a decade of these reports that really tell us what are China’s plans for the next generation?  I mean, they don’t have to tell us.  These reports are mandated by Congress.  We’re the only country that produces such a detailed report on the modernization efforts of another country.

I’ve long criticized these reports for not saying enough.  I think they could say much more.  But I’m sure there are others who would say, no, we have to protect our sources, and we can play with the Chinese too, try to steer them down dead ends in trying to figure us out.

So I take all that, but I think we can also ask, as well, well, if there’s nothing to say, maybe there’s nothing to say.  But maybe there also are some inconvenient facts that should be said. 

And I would also respond to my Russian interlocutor by noting my own experience – and I’m sure Reuben can attest to this as well – of a decade of listening to Russians consistently underestimate Chinese determination and capacities. 

Earlier in this decade we were hearing from our Russian interlocutors about how difficult it would be for China to fully copy the Sukhoi 27 fighter, and how much more difficult it would be to copy the carrier version of this fighter, the Sukhoi 33.

Well, since 2004, China’s unlicensed copy of the Su-27, the J-11B, has been flying, and about a year-and-a-half ago it was revealed that China had produced the two-seat version, which they call – or which is designated J-11BS.

And after August 31 this year, the Chinese military Internet was in some great buzz.  The news apparently is that a canard-equipped version of the J-11 flew for the first time.  That would be a pretty – if true, that would be a very strong indication that Shenyang has made some kind of copy of the SU-33, the carrier version.  And I’ll talk more about that later.

Like the fifth-generation program in Russia, China has made it very difficult to produce definitive – and perhaps you’ll be the judge of this – a cogent analysis of China’s fifth-generation fighter program.

Details are very hard to come by, and there is a great deal of speculation; some of it promoted by respective governments, much of it generated by Internet enthusiasts, and sometimes we trip up ourselves. 

On the left here we have an example of a military technology, a Mank (ph) Media publication producing a serious Defense Journal article based on what is somebody’s Internet art, the sort of hook, line and sinker that makes our Chinese friends just jump up and down with glee, I’m sure.  But even those of us who try to avoid being tripped up can be tripped up.

I remember at the 2002 Zhuhai air show, watching patiently through a long, not-very-informative AVIC-1 promotional video to get a very – probably half-a-second glimpse of this wind tunnel model of what appeared to be a possible fifth-generation shape.  You notice the sort of – the stealth characteristics:  the flat bottom for possibly internal weapons carriage. 

And I remember standing there on the show floor talking with other journalists about this:  That’s what it must be.  Yeah, yeah.  And a couple of us wrote this up, only to be informed later at the 2006 Zhuhai show via a friend who saw this in a video promoting the designer of what is the L-15 supersonic trainer that these photos of wind tunnel models had actually been early shapes for the L-15.  Of course the Chinese would not clarify this for us – we’d have to figure it out ourselves – but in this case only by chance as well. 

There is a great – that said, though, there is a great deal of what I would call interesting gray literature.  One can have access to hundreds, thousands of engineering articles via Chinese web searches.  And if you can go down to the Library of Congress you can get your hands on many of these articles that have, for over a decade, been exploring very specific aspects of the range of technologies that would contribute to China’s fifth-generation fighter.

In my book I assembled about two pages of citations for these articles:  radar, 15-ton engines, stealth, what is a fifth-generation fighter, and on and on.  So there is a serious effort, but to say who’s ahead, who’s being chosen, whose fortunes are being favored politically, it’s just hard to say because the Chinese won’t tell us, primarily.

One of the few official statements, if not probably the only official statement that gave any indication of China’s direction in terms of its fifth-gen program was made just before the April 60th anniversary celebration of the PLA navy, in which the commander of the PLA Navy, in a published speech, mentioned future requirements for the navy, and in this list was his statement of a requirement for a fighter capable of supersonic cruise.  An interesting choice; a very clear preference to state their requirement for something with that kind of – that offers that kind of tactical flexibility. 

China is also, according to various sources, trying to fit a lot of progress in the shortest amount of time possible.  As I see it, the Chinese are trying to advance from essentially a third-generation level of capability in the late 1980s to a fifth-generation capability in the next decade.  Leaping through two generations in that amount of time is a very stressful requirement.

However, we see an investment in this kind of air combat capability that is basically matched by a broad investment in new BVR – beyond visual range – capabilities; two, possibly three, AWACS platforms; new electronic warfare capabilities; advanced air-to-air missiles; advanced surface-to-air missiles; space warfare; a possible new mission for the PLA air force; and new, large long-range transports.  And as my colleague, Ken Allen, if he’s here today, would remind us, that’s just the hardware.  The investment in software, doctrine, training, logistics is the hard part.

We do know that China has faced tremendous difficulties in reaching its achievements thus far:  developing the J-10 fighter.  The long story, I would say that among many of my colleagues looking at the Chinese from an academic perspective, that in the 1990s the J-10 program was not taken very seriously, but by the late ‘90s it had flown.  Production has probably reached beyond 120, maybe more, and just earlier this year we’ve seen the first new advanced version of the J-10 emerge.

The Shenyang J-11 began as a licensed co-production program from the Russians with many, many discussions with the Russians:  Aren’t you afraid they’re just going to take this and steal it and copy it and undersell you, to, the J-11 is flying; it’s not yet on the market, but that’s, I think, to be expected.  And increasingly the Russians are expecting that this fighter will be on the market.  They have, of course, many things to say about that.  

And then, in terms of looking at their fifth-generation program, I would point to the possibility of their making breakthroughs in airframes faster – airframes and systems faster than in engines.  A great deal of resources is being devoted to engines, but this is apparently proving to be the most difficult aspect for China’s advanced fighter programs.

Looking on, here are just a few images of what gives us some hints of where the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation is going.  On the far left here is a shape – a wind tunnel test shape of something called the Type C, probably a configuration that many Internet commentators say has been dropped in favor of a more conventional-tailed delta configuration, this image being labeled the product of the 601 Aerodesign Institute, which is normally associated with Shenyang.

And here is another interesting wind tunnel shape – a bit stealthy, cranked delta, also said to have been a product of the 601 design bureau.

We know a little bit more about Chengdu’s fighter – fifth-generation fighter program, only because they’ve decided to reveal a little bit more about it.  This shape, which was made available in 2004, comes from a Chengdu brochure that contained this aerodynamic shape.

And on the bottom left we have two photos of what appears to be, or what has been widely labeled as a politician visiting Chengdu’s design bureau to view models of advanced programs.  And here we have an actual model of what appears to conform with the published shapes.

This configuration appears to have been widely influenced by the MIG Article 144, which was developed in the 1980s, only few once or twice.  And there were – at the time of the test flight there were reports that MIG was trying to sell this design to the Chinese. 

No subsequent reports, but then we start seeing this Chengdu shapes, and it’s a logical question to ask whether the Russians are providing some degree of design assistance for Chengdu’s fifth-generation program.  We know for a fact that the Russians provided a great deal of assistance in helping Chengdu put the Russian engine into the J-10 fighter. 

And then we have the prospect of a follow-on medium-weight fifth-generation fighter program.  This possibility was raised by a Chinese source that I happened to have a long conversation with in early 2005 in talking about the J-10 and other programs to the extent that he felt comfortable doing so.  He did mention very specifically that in 2005, Chengdu was considering an F-35-class fighter. 

Now, 2005 is significant because that was about the time that all of the decisions and paperwork was being processed for the next five-year plan, which began in 2006.  Was there such a decision in 2006?  We don’t know.  The Chinese certainly have not answered follow-up questions about this.

However, we can say that historically, going back to the late 1970s, China has been interested in acquiring a vertical takeoff fighter capability.  They came close to buying carriers from the British, and in the late 1980s, early 1990s there were at least a passel of reports of China’s interest in the advanced Russian Yakovlev vertical takeoff, short-landing fighter designs.

So this conversation was then followed by the revelation at the Zhuhai show in 2006 of a new Shenyang single-engine advanced fighter design.  At the show Shenyang would not answer any questions about this model.  As the Chinese like to do, they put these things on display and then gather the reactions. 

But putting two disparate facts together – Chengdu’s interest in an F-35, Shenyang’s production of a concept for what could be a medium-weight fighter – at least allows us to ask the question:  Does China also intend to produce its own, quote, unquote, “F-35”? 

We do know that China has the ambition to produce a gator navy – an amphibious projection navy.  They’ve launched one landing dock ship and they are ready to start producing, at some point in the not-too-distant future, a helicopter dock ship.

Shenyang’s 606 Aeroengine Research Institute – moving on to engines – is known to be working on the fourth fifth-generation engine.  This has been at least acknowledged in terms of wall art at the 2006 and 2008 Zhuhai shows. 

Some Chinese journal articles and other articles point to this engine having a goal of perhaps a 15.5-ton level of thrust.  That’s about what you need to allow a heavy fighter to supercruise, or to fly supersonically without use of the fuel-guzzling afterburner. 

And the fifth-generation engine will be based on the current program, the Taihang, which is China’s attempt to produce a 12-to-13-ton engine, about as powerful as what we’re putting in our F-15s and F-16s.  The Taihang, however, is well-known to have caused a lot of trouble for the Chinese.  It’s been a hard program.  But it’s on the cusp of entering production and the 15-ton program is being built on it. 

And then at the Moscow air show, an interesting conversation with a Ukrainian source explained that there may be a second advanced-engine family associated with the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation.

The problem is that the Ukraine has not produced an advanced fighter engine.  They’ve produced other engines well – smaller turbo fan engines, large bypass engines such as are used on the large Antonov 124, but it was explained to me that after selling China the license to co-produce a smaller after-burning turbo fan, they would then cooperate to bringing forth a much larger engine based on this nine-to-11-ton Ukrainian turbo fan program.

Will it work?  We don’t know.  Will it take a lot of time?  Yes, but it is at least an indication that Chengdu is serious about its fifth-generation program.  It’s not going to rely on Shenyang’s engine, and the race is on.

In terms of advanced systems, here we have a cockpit display from the last 2008 Zhuhai show that looks just like the one in the F-35 cockpit.  China’s interest in stealth, a very curious image supplied on an AVIC-1 calendar.  No one could really tell me what this is, but it has – my best guess is that it’s an experimental platform to test stealth technologies.

China is also working on thrust-vectoring engines and phased array radars.  This is an AWACS with a phased array radar, and this is possibly an air-to-air radar test platform; the wide oval shape consistent with stealthier platforms.

Air-to-air missiles are coming along.  It’s generally expected that the next Chinese short-range air-to-air missile will bear a striking resemblance to the South African A-Darter. 

The PL-12, which is already in service, is estimated by some air-to-air missile makers, Western air-to-air missile makers, to have about a 100-kilometer range in a lofted trajectory.  That’s very competitive with what the Russians and what the Americans are offering, at least for sale.

And here a curious image of what appears to be a ramjet-powered derivation of the PL-12, or perhaps something else with Russian technology.  Of course, with a ramjet engine you can go a lot farther, perhaps 150 kilometers, maybe more.

And we expect that these advances will be put into new versions of existing fourth-generation fighter programs.  Here we have what is called the J-10B.  This very curious difference between the colors, the angle, offers a curious hint that this fighter may have an advanced, electronically phased array radar.

Putting the radar at that kind of tilt helps the stealth aspects of the fighter.  At least that’s what the Americans do.  And so we have to ask the question, have the Chinese come up with something already that that could be developed rather quickly into a fifth-generation platform?

Here we have a CAD/CAM image that was found on the Internet about two weeks ago.  The software company that produced the CAD/CAM image is known to be doing work for the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation.  Clearly there is some indication here of the potential that Shenyang has accomplished a naval carrier-capable version of the SU-33.

And then we have to consider China’s ambition to have fifth-generation airpower as we consider China’s larger, broader military modernization push.  Of course we all remember the ASAT test of 2007, preceded by at least two or three demonstrations.

Chinese military academic literature exhibits a great interest in space warfare.  Here we have the latest, most advanced surface-to-air missile, the HQ-9, based largely on Russian technology.  This will be followed by longer-range, more capable versions.

Here we have the DF-21C, a new version; longer-range, intermediate-range surface-to-surface missile, which my sources say has also been developed into an anti-ship-capable version. 

We have a lot of articles that have just come out of the Naval War College and others on China’s anti-ship ballistic missile program, a real game changer; something that we cannot defend our ships against now.

Here – all of these pictures are from a practice session for the October 1 PLA parade.  On the bottom we have the first images of China’s new land-based, land-attack cruise missile, and on the left a parade row of their new airborne infantry fighting vehicle.

China is making these investments, these very expensive investments, at the same time that it is investing in fifth-generation airpower. 

So at a time when the United States has decided that we have enough F-22s, what we’re seeing is China not only move ahead with its own fifth-generation fighter program, but it is working on advanced air defenses.  It is working on multiple means to attack American naval forces in Asia.  It is working on means to attack our connectivity, especially in outer space.

China is also working on its own power projection capabilities that I estimate will start coming along more visibly later in the next decade. 

Aircraft carriers – there was an interesting series of leaks in the Hong Kong press and Japanese press earlier this year about China’s intention to build two conventional and then two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

I’ve already talked about the gator navy.  China has a very important, large air transport program.  They want to compete with Boeing and Airbus, but at the same time they want to start building C-17-sized or IL-76-sized transports.  And they’re already working on multiple mechanized army assets that are configured for air projection.

The American posture in Asia, however, is facing increasing question marks.  Just yesterday in the Japan Times there was the revelation that the United States is considering pulling our F-16s out of Misawa Air Base in Northern Japan.  We’ll just not have anything there and those missions will be taken up by the F-35s when they arrive at Guam later in the next decade.

Our position on Okinawa has been controversial for decades.  Our decision to cut back and curtail missile defense comes at a time when China, in my opinion, is working toward a potential warhead breakout.

The Chinese are working on – so, let’s see; let’s count them – the DF-5A, which has already been deployed; the DF-31 being deployed; DF-31A now being deployed, perhaps with a very maneuverable warhead, perhaps with multiple warheads.  Then the JL-2 SLBM, perhaps with multiple warheads, and a new, unidentified ICBM on a much larger TEL that is certainly large enough to carry a substantial number of warheads, 10 or maybe more.

The Chinese don’t like to talk about how many ICBMs they’re going to be building, and they certainly don’t like to talk about the potential for these to have warheads. 

But my sources in Asia have given me some estimates for the multiple warhead capabilities of these missiles, and if one assumes a kind of minimal one-unit-size projection for each of these missile types, plus five SSBNs with 12 JL-2s each, we’re looking at the possibility of a breakout in which China could be building up to a level of 400 or 500 nuclear warheads.

At the same time we’re talking about – talking with the Russians seriously about a reduction to 1,500, 1,600.  At the same time, of course the United States has global deterrent commitments.

All of this, I would offer, is noticed by our friends and allies and our potential adversaries in Asia.  My Japanese contacts have been worried about this trend for some time even though government officials are not eager to talk about it publicly. 

We have heard some anxiety expressed by our Japanese friends about reducing our number of warheads.  Carriers, well, looking at the press about carriers, a reduction to 10, maybe eight.  That certainly is not going to promote confidence in our deterrent posture in Asia as well. 

All of this comes at time when we have a government in Beijing that has proven historically that it is able to exercise wars of option.  That is, it is willing to look at a point of vulnerability and advantage and act against Korea in 1950, against India, against Vietnam.

As we reduce and our questions increase about our posture in Asia, I would submit that we’re only increasing the chances that China will be tempted to act during a point of crisis, during a point of vulnerability, and that this is clearly not in the American interest.

Okay, I will stop there and turn the podium over to my good friend, Reuben Johnson.

REUBEN JOHNSON:  Thank you, Rick.  (Applause.)  Okay, this is on?  Okay.  Everybody can hear me, right? 

Well, first of all, thanks to the Hudson Institute for having me here and for Rick inviting me to be here.  And a special thanks to the Weekly Standard, who keeps publishing my stuff, without which I probably would have been parking cars downstairs today rather than speaking in front of you.

For those of you out of town, welcome to Washington, D.C., the city where everyone mutinies but no one deserts.  And I’m going to talk a little bit here about Russia’s attempt to build a fifth-generation fighter program.

Unlike the Chinese, they have actually given a name to the effort, which is – the acronym which we’re all calling it is PAK-FA, which is a Russian acronym which means perspective aviation complex dash frontal aviation.

Let me see what my next – wait a minute; where do I point this thing? 

MR. FISHER:  The arrow on the right.

MR. JOHNSON:  Okay, there we go.  Ah, okay.

Okay, so the Russians have been working on this for some time.  They’ve been working on fifth-generation fighters for a long time; actually for really more than 20 years.  And a lot of people out here say, well, why do we need fifth-generation fighters?  You know, the Cold War is over; there’s no air-to-air threat.  We don’t really understand.

There’s a lot of things in the present day that only fighters can do.  First of all, a fighter is the only thing that can reach a target within a thousand kilometers within one hour and put ordnance on that target.

It’s the only platform that defends itself throughout that mission.  It’s the only platform that can place multiple sensors on the target, including human eyes, which a UCAV cannot do.  It’s the only platform which can drop ordnance with a very, very low CEP.  And it can attack almost any target that there is except sometimes not submarines.

Now, fifth-generation fighters differ from the aircraft that we have in the present day because they can perform these missions and move about with a higher assurance of survivability.  And in an era in which air defense systems are continually improving, that’s an important factor.

Now, what drives the Russian’s program?  Well, the Russians have, ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, been basically driven by the need for export customers.  And it’s always been a game of how do they balance their own domestic requirements for their own armed forces with those of an export customer?  How do you make those two overlap?

Most of the export customers in the world that are looking at modern-age fighters, they still want more than 20 aircraft.  You’re not going to see, with a fifth-generation fighter, too many buys of five or six, seven – you know, small numbers.  You’re going to see larger numbers.

They want the increased effectiveness, as I mentioned before, against air defense systems because of the double-digit SAMs – SA-10, SA-12 – are still probably the biggest concern for anybody out there who’s operating a fleet of modern fighter aircraft.

The Russians also require – traditionally have required ease of maintenance, something which can be repaired fairly easily in an austere environment, often away from air bases, sometimes even from a roadside air strip out of the back of a couple of trucks. 

They’ve also increased their work over the past few years on a long-range air-to-air missile.  They have more than one design they are working on this because they want to be able to shoot something down from a very long distance. 

And, of course, most customers that are looking at a fighter, whether they’re buying from the U.S. or from the Russians or from the French or from anyone else, they want two things in the present day.  They want local production because they want work for their own people because at the end of the day, these decisions are made by politicians; they’re not made by pilots. 

And the politicians want jobs, they want technology transfer, they want impact of that procurement to be across the entire spectrum of the economy, not just within the military, and they want to be able to integrate third-party weapons.  They don’t want to depend on just one source or just one country for weapons systems.

Now, what do we know about PAK-FA?  We’ve never really seen it.  We’ve seen some drawings.  We’ve seen some what I call artist “deceptions.”  We have people talking to us on the record, off the record that say, okay, it’s going to be a lot closer to an SU-35 or an SU-27 type of platform, but it will be lighter weight than an SU-27 but it will be heavier than a MIG-29.  So it will be in between.

And it will also signal the abandonment by the Russians of their traditional two-tiered airpower strategy.  They’ve always wanted to have a big fighter on the top, the SU-27 being the current one, and a smaller one on the bottom, the MIG-29, just like the U.S. Air Force had the F-15 and F-16 two-tiered structure for years.

There is a first flight predicted by the end of the year, which came out of the Moscow air show.  No one that I’m talking to in Russian industry or familiar with the program actually believes that.  And if anyone wants to talk to me offline afterwards, I can tell you this amusing story about the schedule that’s been set up for the flight test.

There will be an AESA radar, which has been designed by NIIP.  NIIP are one of the two Russian design houses.  They have been the traditional suppliers of radar to aircraft made by Sukhoi Design Bureau, and although this is supposed to be a joint industrial effort by all of Russian industry, Sukhoi is sort of leading the design on this.

There will be a next-generation engine derived from the AL-41F, which was in the 144 MFI prototype, and also taking something from the 117-S, which is a very deep modernization of the AL-31F, but there has been some very, very long articles in Russian about this engine, about the development, and it still goes on.  And it’s not to the point where the design is very clearly defined.

What the Russians will do with this aircraft – and this is sort of where you draw a line between aircraft like F-22 and F-35 and other aircraft in the world is they will go for what we would call a managed signature versus a true, low-observable blended body shape.  There will be some blending to the body but they will no try and design an airplane which is, by virtue of its shape, low-observable.

There will be an internal weapons bay.  There will be an enhanced EW system – and the advances by the Russians in EW have been quite extraordinary over the last few years – and, as I mentioned before, an improved suite of air-launched weapons.

Now, previous Russian developments.  As I said, they’ve been looking at this for a long time.  One of the first concepts was the old original SU-27M and SU-35, which had a canard so you had three vertical – I’m sorry, three horizontal control services.  And this was to validate the concept of super maneuverability, which was more or less an obsession of the general designer at Sukhoi at the time.

Then later on you had the S-37 – SU-47, I’m sorry.  That’s probably my misprint.  It should say SU-47, the forward-swept wing demonstrator aircraft which flew several times. 

And then of course the MIG MFI, which we’ve got a couple of photos of here.  And I don’t want to go into great detail about this, but this aircraft program was something – if you talk about an airplane which was every rivet, every single element of it was designed for the Cold War, it’s this one. 

And it was designed at a time when many of the technologies that we have today were far beyond the dreams of anybody, the Russians or even ourselves.  And so the aircraft ended up being quite large – extremely large.

One of the test pilots – or the test pilot I knew who was supposed to be the test pilot for the program, told me he was taken aside one day and he was taken into the special room and they said, you’re now going to see our next-generation aircraft, this thing which has been kept in such secrecy for so long.

And they opened up the door and he saw this huge monster, and he says, well, he says, that night, he says, I went out and got drunk – (laughter) – because he couldn’t believe the size of this thing.

And another Russian colleague of mine, when I talked to him about it – I mean, years before it was revealed he said to me – he said – (speaks in Russian) – which means, it’s not an airplane; it’s a big, heavy, expensive toy.

But that aircraft and the LFI design concept, which was a Russian effort to build something similar to F-35, and then the MIG project 701, these were all basically irrelevant to post-Cold War defense requirements. 

They didn’t really fit with Russia’s national security needs at the time and they certainly didn’t fit with any other export clients.  And this was at a time when Russia was tremendously dependent upon exports to survive – Russian industry in general. 

What people were hoping – I don’t want to belabor this point too much, but what the Russians were hoping was what they used to describe the MFI as, I mean long after it was obvious that it had not real requirement for the Russian air force, but they kept working on it.  They said, we’re going to fly it.  We’re going to demonstrate this thing.

And you ask the question, why, and they say, well, we intend for this aircraft to be a locomotive of technology, meaning that they were going to take this program and use this as a way to develop a whole bunch of technologies that they could use for another aircraft that would then be built in serious production.

And what they were literally counting on was, you know, what the Russians are good at.  You mobilize a lot of people, a lot of resources and – (cell phone rings) – oh, sorry for that.  I should have shut that off.  I’m sorry.  Sorry about that.

The reason that – what the Russians are good at is mobilizing all these resources, and their idea was, if we get this big, heavy airplane and we fly it and we demonstrate all this stuff we’ll shoot right past the Americans, just like we did with our space program.  You know, we got Gagarin into orbit first.  You know, we’ll have a better airplane first.  And it didn’t quite work out because the times were different and the resources weren’t there. 

Okay, now, people say, what is a fifth-generation fighter?  How do you define that?  Well, I define it, this is mine and anybody can throw rocks at me as much as you want, but there are a whole list of things that a fifth-generation fighter needs to have, and none of them really have all of these. 

But if you were in an ideal world, yes, you should have, first of all – and I think this is really the first two being the most important – a complete digital electronic infrastructure.  And, secondly, it should be open architecture infrastructure, which is, you know, plug and play avionics.  I don’t have to integrate something; I don’t have to, you know, give Raytheon $10 million to make this piece of kit work with this airplane that’s already flying.  You know, everything is already operating to a common data interface.

Now, F-22 of course fails that test.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a fifth-generation fighter, but it’s the last of what we call the federated systems.  But in the present day, if you’re designing a new airplane now in the modern day, it has to have these capabilities. 

Then of course you want a supercruise.  You want to have a low RCS.  You need to have an AESA radar because that’s becoming the gold standard for everybody.  Everybody who doesn’t have one is working on one.  Ideally you’d like to have thrust vector controls for your engine. 

Very important, something which is kind of overlooked because we kind of look at airplanes at air shows and we see how they fly and we think, oh, that’s really great, but the data fusion, the data fusion, the battlespace management capability – I mean, in the idea world the F-35 pilot is not just a pilot; he’s a battlespace manager. 

He’s receiving input from all types of platforms, including direct download from satellites.  And that sort of capability – all the other airplanes and all the other assets you have to have, those have to be in place before you can fully take advantage – I mean, just having a fifth-generation fighter does not make you, you know, the kind of the hill.

And then new-generation weapons because we are constantly trying to find ways to increase the release range for weapons without any degradation of accuracy for air-to-surface and longer-range air-to-air.

Now, the current Russian industry suffers from a lot of technological bottlenecks in trying to achieve some of these objectives.  And although they have produced – you know, you can see there is an AESA radar here. 

If you talk to their people about the problems with production of specifically the TR modules, and if you talk to them about – as I mentioned before, about the engine, there are technological problems which remain, and it’s uncertain if the money is there. 

Okay, program issues with the Russian PAK-FA.  One is the integration issue of all components in avionics.  Traditionally that function would have been performed by the state Scientific Research Institute for Aviation Systems because they’ve done that for almost every Russian military aircraft, and they still continue to be the coordinating integration entity for all of the MIG aircraft.

Sukhoi have decided they’re going to try to do this on their own.  Good luck.  Lots of luck, because it’s a lot more complicated than people think.  You don’t just hire 25 of the best programmers and hope that something good will happen.

Engine development, I mentioned before, is still kind of a bottleneck, and my prediction is whenever this aircraft flies, it’s not going to have a true fifth-generation engine; it’s going to have 117-S or some cobbed-up derivative.

The new design air-to-air missiles, you can see two of them down here at the bottom of the picture.  This is two of the only really three new items we saw at the Moscow air show, but these are improved variants of R-77/AA-12 and R-73/AA-11 missiles. 

Test facilities.  Test facilities are a big problem because the Russians themselves admit that in order to fully validate the PAK-FA design, you need to create facilities that they don’t have, that never existed.

Production of critical technologies, as I mentioned before, is another problem, and not just TR modules but there are all sorts of specific components which you need for an aircraft like this. 

And, just as an example, everyone I think is familiar here with the debacle of the Bulova submarine-launched ballistic missile, which has failed so many of its tests.  And the Russian response has been almost comical.  First of all, they fired the chief designer.  They said, well, you know, you’re the guy in charge so we have to fire you. 

And he turned back and said, okay, well, I’ll exit the scene but I have been telling you for years that this program depends upon 650 different component suppliers scattered all over Russia, many of which no longer exist or no longer produce the components that we need.  I’ve been warning you for years you need to do something about this.  You haven’t done anything.

And the Russian government, and through style of the Putin era, instead of listening to what he had to say, they have set about trying to find the evil saboteurs who purposely introduced faulty components into this missile.  So you’ve got a Claude Rains-type Russian chap running around rounding up the usual suspects but not looking at any of the real problems. 

Support platforms.  As I mentioned before, you need these other platforms to be able to support a fifth-generation aircraft so it can perform to its full capability and right now Russia lacks the capability to build the IL-76/IL-78 tanker platforms because of problems with the aircraft plant in Uzbekistan where they would have to be produced.

Pilot autonomy.  Another thing that is sort of new to Russia – a pilot being a battlespace manager is not something that the Russians have traditionally allowed.  They’ve relied a lot more on ground control intercept than we have in the United States or in European or other allied countries.

And then the big issue of them all is if you’re going to fly an aircraft like this you’re going to have to fly it a lot of hours, and we all know that Russian pilots in the present day and for years now have had abysmally low numbers of stick time per year.  And the current Russian government funding for all of this stuff is completely inadequate. 

So was that the end?

MR. :  Yes.

MR. JOHNSON:  Oh, sorry.  Okay, I though I had something at the end there.

I mean, that about sums it up.  I mean, yes, the Russian program sort of moves along – there may be a first flight in 2010, but I suspect that the first flight of the Russian aircraft will be very similar to the YF-22 prototype. 

And I’m going to spout some heresy here, but when the YF-22 flew – for those of you who don’t remember – it didn’t have a radar on board, it didn’t have the avionics set on board, it did not supercruise, and it did not demonstrate stealth. 

So the aircraft flew and the air force said, okay, well, you’ve demonstrated this aerodynamic paint job, and so now we want you to go and develop it.  And it’s taken, you know, almost 20 years.  It will probably take the Russians at least 10 years from first flight to be able to go into serious production.  So we’re now in the 2020 timeframe. 

So anyway, I’ll be glad to answer anybody’s questions during the Q&A session.  And I hope I didn’t run over, did I?


MR. JOHNSON:  Okay, all right.

MR. CROPSEY:  Thank you very much. 


MR. :  We should probably just go right into the –

MR. CROPSEY:  Yes, I’ll tell you what.  Would anyone object to a three-minute break?  Good.  (Laughter.)  We’ll have a three-minute break.

MR. :  It’s voted in unanimously.


MR. CROPSEY:  (In progress) – from the floor.  And if you would be so good as to identify yourself when I call on you, we will have, I hope, a useful question period.  Thank you.

REBECCA GRANT:  Well, I told Seth Cropsey that I would be happy to join the panel here just to hear the first two panelists.  And they have more than borne out my expectations.  I think those were just super presentations.  I feel like my task now is to talk a little bit of what is going on with the home team and quite a story it is. 

I would, first of all, actually like to take you back and remind you of the context in which we are having this discussion.  The number one priority is to maintain air dominance.  And we often, I think, in this day and age wonder what air dominance really looks like.  I wanted to put up this picture which is now nearly 20 years old to really illustrate what air dominance is.   This was taken obviously in the last days of Operation Desert Storm. 

And here you have, you know, a carefully picked selection of aircraft flying low and in complete command.  We understand certainly what air dominance achieved in that six-week run up to a very successful ground war.  I think what we sometimes forget is the amount of work that it took.  And so that small pie chart up in the corner summarizes the sorties required both for air superiority and for ground attack in the air campaign phases of Operation Desert Storm.

That is what our American military power requires.  That is what our joint war-fighting concepts are built around.  I think our question today is how well we are doing in maintaining that for the future.  And we do see some real question marks hanging over that capability going ahead. 

To remind, this is not – air dominance is not something whose importance ended with the Cold War.  We rely on it very heavily today.  It was important at the beginning of major combat operations in Iraq in 2003.  The achievement of air superiority was important even to the beginning of our operations in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, where the timetable for that operation was driven very largely by the ability to bring a great share of carrier-based air power and the associated land-based resources into the area to begin to work the targets in Afghanistan. 

What you are looking at here is a recap of sorties flown and munitions dropped.  You will note the increasing effort being made by the coalition and joint forces in Afghanistan.  And I put this up here just to show you it is something we still rely on today. 

You see here an extremely heavily loaded F-15E, more than likely operating out of Bagram, more than likely on a first-name basis with a number of tactical controllers on the ground.  And we expect for any type of operation, whether it is high end or irregular warfare, to be able to have this air dominance whether it means having ordinance to drop, being able to do a low-pass show of force, being able to strafe, being able to provide eyes on in terms of ISR to forces on the ground.

So coming out of 1991, the end of Operation Desert Storm, the plan was to scale back purchases of F-16s and F-15s and to bring what we now call fifth-generation aircraft into development.  You see on the ramp here a number of F-117s lined up as they deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990.  The success of stealth in that conflict convinced the Air Force, in particular, that it really did not want to buy any more fighters that didn’t have stealth and didn’t have the characteristics that we now associate with fifth generation.

For the F-22, in particular, the down select was made in that same year, in that same timeframe as the ending of Desert Storm.  The plan was to buy a much smaller number of F-22s, several hundred and to replace multiple types of aircraft in the high end of the Air Force inventory.  The first one that would be replaced, of course, would be the 117, which has, in fact, retired. 

Also on the schedule to be replaced in this original plan were the variants of the F-15 and, to some extent, the F-16CJs, which are known for their role in attacking surface-to-air missiles.  So this was the fighter neck-down plan as we might have seen it at some point in the 1990s and at some point really even in the early years of this decade.

As a result, the Air Force greatly curtailed its purchases of aircraft.  This chart looks back at fighter aircraft purchase per year from 1963 through 2008.  The only two things you really need to see on this chart are one, the great bulge in the middle – and I know Secretary Weinberger was a lot to do with this in buying out the airpower that we still rely on today, particularly F-15s and F-16s. 

And then to look at the absolute drop-off that occurs in recent years to the very, very tiny quantities of aircraft being purchased as one, the waiting period for stealth aircraft to become available and then sadly, the cuts to F-22, in particular.  This chart does not yet depict any of the early purchases of F-35 test articles, although, as you know, those are beginning.

What you can see from this chart is that we have really created what I think we could accurately call almost a fighter gap coming up within the Air Force.  This depicts it a little bit more vividly in terms of aging.  The force that went to Desert Storm was a very young and strong force. 

This chart shows you a mix of active duty only aircraft graded by age, those that are less than 18 years old and those that are more than 18 years old.  It is a bit of an arbitrary divide.  You will see the older ones depicted in orange, the younger ones depicted in blue.  We all know that you can upgrade aircrafts, SLEP them, keep them a long time.  They can be very capable. 

But the message on this chart is that we have experienced an enormous change within the Air Force’s active duty inventory in the type of aircraft that are on the ramp.  We now have a very old force.  In the middle of the 1990s, the so-called Legacy aircraft were less than 1 percent of the active force.  Currently, they are a much higher percentage of that force.  And as I will show you on a concluding chart, this situation will only get worse before it gets better.

What does this mean?  This means that we are opening up a level of risk with the fighter force.  A good deal of this was planned and anticipated in the decision to curtail purchases of new F-15s and F-16s and wait for F-22 and F-35.  The diminishment of the F-22 buy, in particular means that we have seen a good deal of risk in this situation.  Now, you are thinking we probably need fewer fighters than we did back in the timeframe of Desert Storm and that would be absolutely correct. 

So I want to draw your attention to the fact that what you see on this chart is also a shedding of about 1,000 active duty aircraft over this same period of time.  So we are seeing a situation where the fighter force is on a path to getting smaller and more capable.  The question is whether we are now programmed to really execute that vision.  And I am afraid that after the events of this summer, we have to conclude that the answer might be no.

I want to talk for a minute about F-22 and F-35.  My fellow panelists have given some great discussions of what fifth gen really means.  But let me point out that there really are some unique things about the F-22.  We do regard both F-22 and F-35 as having many of the characteristics associated with a fifth-gen fighter.  But perhaps, the single most unique thing about the F-22 is its ability to operate at high altitude and to super cruise. 

Neither of these are features that were designed into the F-35.  Remember the plan for F-35, which is a born joint multi-service and multi-partner program, was predicated on having F-22s in the inventory.  So the F-22 alone among all the world’s combat aircraft today is able to operate optimally at altitudes above 50,000 feet.  This is a very important advantage in dealing with both other fighters and with surface-to-air missile threats.  It is also unique in its ability to super cruise defined here as achieving speeds of 1.6 without the use of afterburner. 

F-35, by deliberate design on the part of the Air Force, does not share these particular characteristics.  F-22 mission for many, many, many years, from its initial conception, has been, of course, to eliminate interference from adversary fighters, but also to perform ground-attack roles. 

It was extremely evident coming out of Desert Storm that fighters needed to be highly capable in a ground-attack role.  The platforms that were used among the heavily included the F-15E, which was often turned multiple times a day in order to perform ground attack against Iraqi armor and other types of vehicles.

So the Air Force realized from the beginning, from the time, as my fellow panelist described, of going from that experimental YF-22 into the production version, that there would be air-to-ground capability.  JDAM, which is a weapon we understand very well today, the joint direct attack munition, the satellite-precision guided weapon was in development at the time the F-22 was coming along as well. 

And it was well-understood that the first weapon F-22 would be designed for what, in fact, would be 1,000-pound JDAM.  So that role has been there a long time, as has a role that one hears a lot less about, but that was equally important in the Air Force’s concept and that is the ability to attack advanced SAMs using some of those very characteristics we see up in the corner.

There was a deliberate decision to create a linked partnership between F-22 and F-35.  You see that – and this is a rather old chart with some rather old stuff on it, but you see the same threads running through this.  The Pratt & Whitney F-119 engine in the F-22 helped to lay the groundwork for what is now called the F-135 engine for the F-35.  It remains to be seen whether there will, in fact, be a second engine associated with F-35, that being, of course, the F-136.  Congress is currently split on whether it is funding this engine – again, a second engine for F-35.  But what is important here is the role that F-22 technology has played in helping to push forward the technologies for F-35.

My fellow panelists have wisely and rightly pointed out some of the obstacles and challenges that the Russians and Chinese face in their fighter development.  What we see here is a real success story – not that there haven’t been obstacles and challenges, but the Air Force and U.S. aerospace industry has been able to find ways to really move forward on some of the toughest challenges and you see them represented here. 

We have seen tremendous advances in low-observable materials.  The F-22 bears very little resemblance to the F-117 or even to the earlier versions of the B-2.  F-35 materials are a leap ahead again in terms of the way they are applied, the manufacturing processes, their durability and maintainability.

So we see a really robust base created on purpose from these two programs.  That has left, again, on purpose that the way ahead is F-35.  And I need to point out from the beginning that there is no single U.S. service more dependent on F-35 than the Air Force for the reasons I showed you on the chart depicting the aging of their fighter inventory.  It is the only program of the scale and maturity to recapitalize fighter forces, particularly for the Air Force. 

It is vital for the Navy and Marine Corps because it introduces to them first day strike capability with stealth and the other fifth-generation characteristics.  In fact, the Marine Corps will be the first to have initial operating capability for the F-35.  The Navy has recently announced the decision to speed up their targeted initial operational capability, your IOC, for F-35 from 2015 to 2014.  It is pretty remarkable in this budget climate that you would see the Navy accelerating the IOC for a program.  I think it is a real sign of their commitment to the program and to the type of threats that they may be facing in the Pacific.

Beyond this, of course, there are many partners committed to F-35.  The partnership on the program runs in different tiers beginning with the U.K., which is a level-one partner and going down through some other partners involved at various levels.  But the message to take from all of this is that NATO and other alliances will depend quite heavily on F-35. 

The biggest risk in this program is probably right now and that is in whether it will maintain the policy and program momentum to ramp up to its higher production rates.  We already see a situation where the U.S. Air Force would prefer to purchase F-35s at a maximum rate of 110 aircraft per year.  However, they are currently funded only to 80 aircraft per year, a situation the Air Force would like to change, but probably very difficult to find the money to do that.  And although we heard many good things about F-35 from the April round of budget cuts, the reality was that quite a bit of aircraft were taken out of the program – perhaps as many as 80 in the current – (inaudible).  So the risk with F-35 as much as anything remains executing and getting it on to the ramp rate it needs to fulfill the obligations to multiple customers as their inventories age out.

I think it is important to remind ourselves that the threat environment – we tend to get very focused on programs and quantities and which programs are up and down.  But the reason that F-22 and F-35 are here is to contend not only with this environment, but with the considerably more advanced environment that is just around the corner or very nearly here. 

What you see here are surface-to-air missile launches that occurred in Iraq in 2003.  I am thinking it is probably a higher number than you expected.  Now, the coalition was able to degrade the integrated control of Iraq’s air defenses quite substantially.  They actually spent about a year working pretty hard on attacking SAM sites in the run up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

And they had, of course, spent 12 years with no-fly zones constraining the role of Iraq’s air force and of its ability to pose any challenge and yet, nearly 3,000 SAM launches.  What this means is that air crews – although they could press very close to be near where the ground forces were pushing to Baghdad, they could never completely ignore the surface-to-air missile environment.

And I must point out that these were missiles developed largely based on 1960s technology.  These were old systems.  But there is a truth about air warfare here.  And that is that you will never eliminate every surface-to-air missile that your adversary possesses.  And you will certainly never achieve a benign environment below 15,000, 10,000 feet, where you have smaller arms and aircraft missiles and the ability to just continue to have a threat pop up in that environment.  We have even scattered reports from air crews operating in Afghanistan of periodic threats in this realm. 

We saw much the same sort of thing happen in Kosovo a decade ago.  And what we have not yet faced is a new generation of systems.  We have not yet faced an SA-10.  We have not yet faced an SA-20 type of missile. 

This is a chart that shows from the European perspective how some of this might look.  I think what is important to note here is that the Russians, of course, who are tremendous leaders in the development of surface-to-air missiles – they are not quite as good as our patriots, but they are very, very good at what they do and their newest and most formidable missiles are already fielded in Europe. 

They are already planning factor for NATO.  NATO has been providing additional air superiority coverage up in the Baltic Republics for several years on a rotational basis rotating allies such as the Netherlands and Denmark along with U.S. detachments to provide air superiority there.  So you can see that the challenges are real today.  From a technological perspective, the challenges to fifth-generation forces are already here. 

So let’s talk a little bit about how things might look in the near term.  This chart shows a prospective bed down of F-22s.  And I think the thing that first jumps out at you is that there aren’t going to be very many F-22s to go around.  This chart assumes that the program of record stays actually at 183 or perhaps 187.  I must point out that even the funding for those final four aircraft is somewhat in doubt as it works its way through the Pentagon’s byzantine process of dealing with program ending tail up and other associated issues.  We will see if it does come through at 187 aircraft total buy.

Whether it does or not, the reality that we are left with is an F-22 force that is a lot smaller than what is required to meet the most basic requirements.  Currently, this force would bed down seven squadrons of 18 PAA.  If you are a Navy squadron, 18 is plenty of aircraft.  If you are an Air Force squadron, you would much prefer to have 24.  And there is a wealth of history to support your decision on that. 

We are looking now at perhaps two squadrons at Langley, two at Holloman in New Mexico, two up at Elmendorf.  F-22s are already at all of these bases and hopefully, but to my mind, not a certainty of being able to position one squadron in Hawaii at Hickam.  That will leave really just three squadrons – those at Elmendorf and those at Hickam – in the PACOM AOR.  No F-22s will be based in Europe.  It is an interesting decision that reflects the size of the force.  Of course, we will see F-22s deploy there for exercises and for detachments.  But at the moment, only F-35 will go into U.S. bases in Europe.

For the F-35, at the moment, the program is healthy.  We see a program of record that has been unchanged for many years.  And I have discussed where the IOCs stand.  One area where the F-35 does have a decided edge is in its electronics and its avionics.  It has more of the fifth-generation characteristics that one of my fellow panelists discussed in terms of data fusion and data links.  The F-22 is also pretty good in these. 

But F-35 benefits from being the slightly younger of the programs.  It benefits from what has been learned on F-22.  But I must point out that a lot of the real obstacles in bringing – particularly in bringing secure data links into the fighter force rests with upstream decisions, decisions made about how to integrate older systems and new systems, decisions that must be made by the Pentagon about exactly what waveform you want it to be able to capture, exactly what data rate. 

And these decisions, unfortunately, take time.  So these programs are somewhat subject to waiting for top-level guidance as to what a certain link will be.  If a decision is made as it was many times with F-22 to go ahead and make a decision and stick with it so you can field an aircraft, then you get subject to saying oh, you have old systems, this sort of thing.  But a unique feature about F-22, of course, is that much of what is in that aircraft is already superb and highly capable.  Quite a bit of the rest and we hear let’s talk, for instance, about adding more secure data links. 

These are the sorts of things that can be added to and improved over time.  The change you can’t make is you can’t go back to an airframe and make it able to super cruise, which is unique to F-22, and to operate at the higher altitudes.  So in limiting ourselves to less than 200 F-22s, we have put ourselves in quite an interesting situation.

A final comment to make on the F-22 fleet.  I think by any measure, it will now be a much smaller fleet than was anticipated.  That will pose problems in modernization and sustainment.  We will have to have the will to go ahead and modernize the aircraft as we have with other fighter types and to bring its sustainment into a balance between contractor sustainment and government sustainment that makes the most sense for the fleet. 

And inevitability about a fleet with 186 aircraft is that the flying hours per year on these jets will go up at a higher rate than planned.  Much of what was thrown off in not buying more F-22s was not only combat capability, but the training base, so that you can have jets dedicated to a training base, the ability to have some attrition reserve and the ability to keep aircraft in test. 

What this means is that the number of aircraft available to train pilots initially in the F-22, to be sure that they maintain their currency in their syllabus, that they are able to go on exercises and get the seasoning they need to move along in seniority in the squadron – all of this is going to mean putting more hours on the F-22s than were anticipated.  And the net result of that sadly is a greatly shortened service life for the fleet. 

Most combat aircraft flown by the Air Force are designed to be flown for 8,000 hours.  If you fly these jets faster, you erode the number of years that they remain in the fleet.  And so as my panelists talk about what we might see in 2015 or 2020 from some of the other aircraft manufacturers out there, I was thinking in my mind how close that would be to the beginning of the retirement of our F-22s, which is something that we could see begin in about 10 years depending on decisions made about the aircraft.  Is there a possibility of SLEP-ing F-22s?  S

SLEP stands for service life extension program commonly done in the Air Force now being widely explored for the Navy Super Hornets as well.  Yeah, there might be a possibility there.  We need to keep the tooling around to make sure we can do it.  But to begin to think about these issues really puts into context that we have created a tremendous air dominance asset in the F-22 and chosen to not buy enough of it to last us a very long time, chosen also, perhaps, to not buy enough of it to be able to fight in multiple places at once.

I haven’t talked at all – and I won’t give you much on this – about the potential of the homeland air sovereignty mission.  Of course, we all marked the anniversary of 9/11 very recently.  I was flying on a commercial flight and certainly it was the talk of everyone around the airports.  But one thing that we see happening as well with this is a constraint on the ability to use aircraft like F-22 against advanced threats including, perhaps, cruise missiles that might become homeland air sovereignty threats at some point.  So we are really quite constrained in what we do.

I think – (inaudible) – greater concern – and I will do this to wrap up just in the last couple minutes of our time here by talking about the Pacific.  It is well-known that our very close ally, Japan, had demonstrated a tremendous interest in buying the F-22 as the beginning of its fighter modernization program. 

This is now something that seems to be very much in doubt as to whether it might happen.  We can’t say entirely that it won’t.  But there are real question marks about going ahead.  And to me, as an outside observer, there is a real – (inaudible) – strategically here first of all because of our long partnership with the Japan Self-Defense Force and the quality of their air force. 

Secondly, because as they might put it, they live in a very dangerous neighborhood and the ability to counter cruise missile threats, for example, and to be the overwater power projection force that they must do for their own air sovereignty is something for which the F-22 would have been very well-suited.  It would have been nice in a more adversarial scenario to see F-22s – Japan F-22s based in Japan there to join what we may be able to muster in the Pacific.

Make no mistake, F-35 will be very capable against a lot of the threats that we see coming out of the Pacific.  But we have really set ourselves a tremendous challenge.  And I think, perhaps, no one is feeling this more than the U.S. Navy.  I attended a conference of naval aviators over the weekend.  And the admiral there, Pat Walsh – he was leaving his Navy vice chief to become commander of the Pacific Fleet – took what was to me the unusual step.  He gave the after-dinner speech. 

And in addition to talking about many other topics, he said that he wanted to quote the man who had given the speech a year before.  And that man was Admiral Willard who is moving up to PACOM.  And here is what these two naval aviators had to say to the assembled group not only of retired aviators, but of younger JOs, junior officers, as well.  He said, in the Pacific, you naval aviators face an adversary who thinks he can defeat your airplane, your weapons, your tactics and your sensors.  And you are going to have to be able to deliver everything we ask of you in combat to defeat him.

So for one admiral to say that last year and another one to repeat it just this weekend tells us that there is great concern about what a denied battlespace may mean.  Denied battlespace means many things – not only possible denial of bases.  It means denial of SATCOM potentially, denial of other types of data links, denial of, perhaps, even RF communications in some environments.  It may mean a denial of cyberspace, which we have become very dependent on in our far-flung global military operations. 

So all of this is not to say that we expect a second war in the Pacific.  I think what we can expect is a long period of deterrence in the Pacific.  And it is in this context that I view with sadness the increasing risks that our American airpower faces in that region.  I think quite a lot of this will begin to close and narrow as F-35 comes online in numbers.  That will take place in the second half of the next decade.  But there is no question that we will mark 2009 as a year of loss in not completing even the minimum F-22 buy that would have helped us guarantee our airpower edge and our alliances in the Pacific.  And I will leave it at that.  Thank you.


MR. CROPSEY:  Thank you for that optimistic view.  If there are questions from the floor, would you please identify yourself and to whom you would like to address the question?

Q:  Hi, Danny – (inaudible) – to Rick Fisher, first of all.  How much difference is there in the air-to-air capabilities of the fourth- and fifth-generation Chinese fighters?  And then also, what do you expect to see as far as aircraft capability on this October 1st parade that is coming up?

MR. FISHER:  Well, to answer the latter question, they will be displaying current squadron-level J-10s.  They will be showing their J-11Bs for the first time.  There will be two AWACS platforms and upgraded J-8s, sort of their cutting-edge platform today.

To answer your second question, Danny, we can only speculate about the capabilities of Chinese fifth-generation fighters.  Will they succeed in assembling, mastering and producing the technologies that they are striving to accomplish?  If they are, then I would expect that a Chinese fifth-generation fighter would be competitive with the Russian PAK-FA, potentially competitive – more than competitive with the F-35, but there are so many unknowns that we have to wait and see.  We don’t know for sure.

However, what concerns me for the medium term at least is the likelihood that J-10 and J-11 will be spinning off into newer, more capable versions sooner rather than later.  The emergence of what is called the J-10B potentially with an AESA radar, with a new infrared IRST.  If this becomes a platform to validate and allow a new WS-10A engine to enter into full production and the weapons that it could carry – the suite of weapons that we see being developed now for these fighters are pretty troubling. 

I think we have to remember as well that like the Russians, the Chinese are going to be targeting our air electronics, our ISR platforms.  They understand very clearly that our ISR and tanker platforms are what enable our aircraft to contest air superiority, especially at distance. 

And they are going to spend a lot of effort to take those out, which in my mind brings us back to an earlier era when the fighter, the capabilities of the platform and the capabilities of the pilot were what really mattered.  And that is why, for me, the F-22 is so important.  Everybody has their complaints about the F-22, yes.  But the fact that it is designed to fly higher and faster, faster longer than any other platform out there sadly is going to become more significant as the next decade turns in less.

Q:  And I am sorry – one final – how does their current generation of fighters – how would they match up against the F-35 and the F-22 today?

MR. FISHER:  It would come down to a question of numbers.  There was a RAND study that came out last year that postulated that even if we could deploy 180 F-22s to the Taiwan Strait that the attrition would remove them as a factor far sooner than we would like.  That is one element.  But the J-10 family is becoming competitive with current versions of the F-16.  The J-11 family could become competitive quickly with current versions of the F-15, which is why we need F-22 and F-35 and, in my opinion, many more F-22s than the budget now allows for. 

MR. CROPSEY:  Mr. Komori in the back.

Q:  Yoshi Komori with Sankei, the Japanese newspaper.  Again, this is a question for Mr. Fisher.  I am curious as to if you see any correlation between China’s intention to develop fifth-generation fighters and China’s posture toward the whole set of maritime disputes including the territorial dispute over Senkaku or the dispute over the resources in the East China Sea.  What sort of gains do you think China would gain by acquiring this new generation of fighters for these maritime disputes?

MR. FISHER:  Thank you very much, Mr. Komori.  Well, I would answer this question kind of in reverse.  I would say that by removing the option of the F-22 for Japan, Japan is losing a very important opportunity to maintain a level of non-nuclear capability capable of deterring what is an increasing level of Chinese military activity, some of it aggressive, in the disputed regions of the East China Sea. 

China has shown a penchant over the last five to eight years of using increasingly sophisticated naval platforms in its power demonstrations in this region.  It certainly follows logically that once they gain confidence with refueling their J-10s, J-8s that we will be seeing fighters joining maritime patrol aircraft and increasingly sophisticated naval platforms.

In my opinion, the Japanese acquisition of the F-22 was essential.  For Japan, that platform would have served to provide a far greater degree of deterrence than just that platform itself would allow for.  And its removal as an option for Japanese Air Self-Defense Force is to be very much regretted.

Q:  Question for Ms. Grant.  I have two questions, I guess.  The first would be –

MR. CROPSEY:  Could you identify yourself?

Q:  Mike Goldfarb, the Weekly Standard.  The joint strike fighter, there have been a lot of doubts about – I have seen a lot of doubts about whether it is a genuinely stealthy aircraft, so I wonder if you could address that, that Australian study that raised that issue.  The second question, I would ask, is the study this summer that came out of the Pentagon that said JSF timeline already looked to be two years behind back to 2016.  So I wonder – your numbers seem to reflect 2014.  When do you think the operation on JSF will start rolling off the line?

MS. GRANT:  I am happy to answer both of those.  The F-35 is a low-observable stealth aircraft, period.  There is no question that this is a stealthy aircraft.  You know, my fellow panelists gave you a lot of – I thought just a really good way of looking at what fifth gen means and very appropriately accented that it takes a lot to be fifth gen.  You have got to have the right engines.  You have got to have the right airframe shape.  You have to have the right data fusion.  By any way you want to grade that scorecard, F-35 is a stealthy platform, so no question there. 

Remember just as a footnote that stealth – we tend to think of it as dominating the RF spectrum and the radio spectrum and the shaping obviously goes a lot into that being more elusive to radar.  But for more than 30 years, 40 years really, stealth designers have known that you have to control across a broader range of the electromagnetic spectrum.  You need to control NIR.  You want to control in-visual.  You want to control in the radar spectrum as well.  So make no mistake, F-35 is fully capable of doing all those things.

The questions about F-35 schedule and progress, I think we will continue to see a lot of attention on the program schedule not least because now it is the only program with the scope and magnitude to recapitalize the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force frontline fighter assets.  What has been said a little more recently is that right now cost and schedule appear to be on track.  We will know more about that in 2010.  To my mind, the Navy’s decision to accelerate its IOC is a significant vote of confidence in the F-35 program overall.  You would not see that type of commitment if there was deep concern within one of the prime U.S. stakeholders about the program.

F-35 is really different in the way the program has been put together right from the start.  One of the differences is that so much of it has been tested in advance.  Quite a bit of the work has been done either in the lab or in a flying test bed to test the systems that go into it.  The very things that take so long to achieve in a fighter have been wisely parceled out and tested in other ways. 

It has been a lot of lessons learned from F-22 captured and put to good use in the F-35 program.  So you are right to point out.  That is a program with thousands and thousands of test points that the flight test articles will have to go through.  But there has been a lot of preparation to do that.  And it looks like the program in the Pentagon are very committed to maintaining a rapid, aggressive schedule to get this fielded to the Marines, Navy, Air Force and to the allies.

MR. CROPSEY:  Questions?  Please.

Q:  Dan – (inaudible) – with the Defense Science and Technology Organization.  Two questions just to the panel in general.  The first one is through a bit of the discussion here, there are almost – in a lot of discussions like this, there seems to be an assumption that the U.S. is just going to sit on its hands for the next 10 years like you were talking about, Dr. Grant, that, you know – you were talking about the retirement age of the F-22 fast approaching.  But, I mean, what is going to happen in terms of the U.S. air technology between now and then?

And my second question is how do you see other technologies, possible competitors to fighters such as unmanned vehicles, hypersonics, a lot of this – (inaudible) – strike stuff that is coming up as competing with the roles – the roles fighters have built so far and also possibly filling in some of the gaps that we have seen that haven’t been discussed?

MS. GRANT:  Let me start with your second point, which is about unmanned planes as I think it is time to start calling them.  That is what they are.  They have been tremendously useful.  They have come a long way.  You know, they are no doubt doing extremely valuable work as we speak in the CENTCOM AOR. 

But all of our currently fielded unmanned planes are designed for extremely benign airspace, which is what we have over Iraq and Afghanistan for the most part.  The one exception there in some ways is Global Hawk because of its ability to fly at 65,000 feet or so and its high altitude capability.  But none of these systems are designed to fight their way in or to survive against advanced threats. 

That will mean there is always a set of tasks that requires – (inaudible).  Right now those are fighters.  There are designs for stealthier unmanned planes.  I hope that we see some of those fielded.  The Navy has a very lovely demonstrator called UCAS that looks pretty stealthy in some ways.  But even the Navy has said that that is a long way off from being fielded. 

So there will be a lot of role for unmanned planes in the future.  The Air Force, in particular, is very committed to those plans.  When you get to the smaller – the very much smaller unmanned planes, we see all services heavily investing whether they are ScanEagle, Fire Scout, going on from there.  But make no mistake; if you need to achieve air superiority, you are going to need a fighter to do that. 

And your question about programs is exactly, I think, what worries me and perhaps my fellow panelists, too, who will want to comment.  We don’t have a program beyond F-35.  F-35 is a great program, very solid.  It will push the envelope in a number of key technologies. 

But there is not an F-22 replacement that is out there that is funded that is anything more than perhaps a textbox on a PowerPoint chart, you know, drawn by an Air Force 05.  I mean, there is just a real question about what would come next.  I think a lot of aircraft designers would tell you that if they had to design a new fighter today, it would look an awful lot like the F-22 and hence, part of the tragedy of not buying it when it is there and fielded.

There is some discussion particularly, I think, most evidently by the Navy about whether a super hornet replacement could be manned or unmanned.  But to my knowledge, that question of the super hornet replacement is really the only follow-on fighter program you hear discussed even in the most notional terms.  And so for the first time, we really are looking – for the first time since World War II, we really are looking at a point where we don’t have a clear vision programmatically, a clear Pentagon policy or clear service requirements for programs going forward. 

When you remember how really long it did take the U.S. to make the technology breakthroughs that have given us F-22, you can see that by doing nothing for a decade or so or perhaps longer, we really are threatening to put ourselves behind.  I am sure my panelists will want to comment on that, too.

MR. JOHNSON:  I would just say one of the things that goes on that you don’t see a lot about – not a terrible amount about written is that in parallel with F-22 and F-35, you see an awful lot of things being done to modernize the F-16 and F-15 platforms, both of which have been proven to be very durable and very capable, so there are plans to replace all the radars in aircraft even going back to Block 40 F-16s with AESAs.  Raytheon Technical Services and other people have plans to completely replace the center pedestal display in F-16s to give them new world glass cockpit capability. 

And this is all being done so that the entire force is brought up to something that gives them 90 percent of F-22 or F-35 capability.  And you don’t hear a lot about that because, you know, it is not very sexy and it has not got a lot of big numbers behind it.  But it is essential work.

And Dr. Grant is absolutely correct.  There is a lack of any sort of vision for the future about what the next fighters should be.  And I believe that chiefly stems from the fact that we are in a different time period right now.  If we went back to the Cold War, there was a definite consensus between most of the armed services and our government intelligence agencies that we had one adversary and we had to be prepared to counteract them and they had certain types of weapon systems and this is what we had to design against. 

And now in the present day – and I am quoting a Pentagon official – this is not me.  But he says we are now in a situation where the Army and the Marine Corps are understandably very worried about getting to the end of the month because they have got to keep manpower levels up.  They have got to keep operations going.  The Air Force is – again, in the words of my colleague – out to lunch.  And the Navy is the only service that sort of sits and thinks about things globally.  And I think it is no mistake that when you see a leak of an intelligence report about what is going on in China that unlike in the old days, it doesn’t come from a CIA source, it doesn’t come from a DIA source; it comes from somebody at ONI.  

MR. FISHER:  I would just add to Reuben’s list to say that the kind of triumphalism of the ’90s, where the United States emerged from the Cold War, had all this great stuff and all these fantastic plans for stuff that is even better while the Russians were crashing, burning.  The Chinese were working hard on many things, but at a very low level of accomplishment.  Not even 20 years later, I think we can look at areas of competition where the other side is moving and we are not.  I would suggest to you that China’s manned space program is going to be a dual use space presence all the way to the moon.

Now, who in Washington is suggesting that United States have military assets on the moon?  Well, that would be crazy.  How politically incorrect, my god, can’t do that.  In the Asian theater, the potential for even four Chinese aircraft carriers when if our numbers decline below 10, are we going to even be able to afford to have one in the Western Pacific?  You know, they are running.  Maybe we are deciding not to.  Direct-descent anti-satellite weapons – where is the American program for that?  Well, we shot something down last year, but that was a fluke probably. 

And I expect that there will be lots of surprises coming out of China in the next decade in the area of energy weapons, potential breakthroughs in lasers or rail guns that could become nasty surprises.  I took the time to look at their effort in unmanned systems earlier in the year.  It is quite extensive. 

And there is a very active market approach to the development of unmanned systems in China.  Creativity is going to flourish.  They have ambitions.  They are watching what the rest of the world is doing.  And they are deciding what they need and they are going to go get it.  I don’t take for granted that we will necessarily be the ones with the most, the best and first. 

Q:  Just as a follow-up, is a lack of an appropriate response to all the – (clears throat) – excuse me – many threats you are discussing, does it fall on the services, on OSD, on Congress or is there plenty of blame to go around?

MR. :  The answer is yes.  (Laughter.)

MR. CROPSEY:  We have got time for one more question.

Q:  Yeah, I will finish it off if I can.  Phil Gordon from Australian Air Force.  Dr. Grant, when you showed the chart at the beginning of your presentation with the aging fleet and also the declining fighter numbers, I believe that was just for the United States Air Force. 

Currently, the Air National Guard has a lot of frontline fighters, F-15Cs.  They provide a lot of depth, I guess, for the Air Force and also conduct a lot of training for them.  With the cut down in F-22s, how do you see the Air National Guard being capitalized with aircraft and do you think they will have a declining number of fighters?

MS. GRANT:  I am so glad you asked me that because that chart was, indeed, the active inventory.  And as you know, there were another several hundred in the air guard.  And the terrible problem being faced by the air guard right now is that they are aging.  And I must stress that the Air National Guard is not only an at-home force. 

This is a force that deploys very, very regularly to CENTCOM or to wherever they are required.  They participated in all of the major conflicts there.  And they are a force that we count on to make the numbers in our war plans for our combatant commanders. 

Sadly, I would have to say there is no clear plan to recapitalize the Air National Guard with manned fighters at this point.  That doesn’t mean there won’t be a plan.  It doesn’t mean there can’t be a plan.  F-22 would have been a super platform for a lot of their missions.  They need F-35 in order to stay a relevant, deployable force in the long term.  But right now there is no clear plan that has been presented as to how this will take place.  And the clock is really ticking. 

It may be possible to draw down an active unit and turn its F-16s over to the Air National Guard.  But if those F-16s have 6,000 or 6500 hours on them out of their – and they need to be retired when they reach about 7500 to keep them safe, then that is not really a plan either.  So there is just a huge question – really unprecedented question hanging over whether we will keep the Air National Guard in its manned fighter role as we have done in the past and where they have really excelled in the past.  Big question mark, but thanks for the question.

MR. FISHER:  I would add one other thing that Dr. Grant’s numbers are very good and very impressive, but they don’t tell the worst part of the story.  The worst part of the story is – and we are talking about the age in years on these aircraft.  But what are we using these aircraft for now?  Well, they are being loaded up to their maximum load with bombs and fuel tanks and so on and they are flying a lot of sorties. 

And I know you Australians will understand this, but this is like taking a beer can when it is empty and bending it back and forth until it breaks.  And so not only are these aircraft loaded down when they are pulling, you know, a lot of G’s and putting a lot of stress on the airframe. 

But my friends tell me who are on the ground, they are saying we are now discovering that what is even worse than pulling high G’s when you are loaded down is when you are taxiing because when you are taxiing, your wings are going like this.  And that is the bending beer can effect.  So a lot of these aircraft are going to have to be retired before they have reached that maximum flight hour range because the structural integrity is gone.

MR. CROPSEY:  Well, I would like to thank Rick, Reuben, Rebecca for your presentations this morning and the audience for joining us.  I am reminded of the strategic decisions that were taken in England after World War I when the question earlier was about blame being passed around and the correct answer was yes.  The decision was taken to concentrate on imperial defense at the expense of preparing for another land war in Europe.  And I think I will leave my deliberations and thoughts on that for another time.

Hudson has a conference planned at an indefinite time in the fall on how Asia perceives our Navy and the naval drawdown and what is happening to the Navy.  And I think that – I hope that many of you will come to that and look at this from a complementary perspective.  Thank you again for your attendance today.  (Applause.)


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