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Optimizing Dispersed Air Operations: A Concept To Use Highways As Improved Airfields In A Contested Environment

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Technical Report

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Air Command And Staff College Maxwell Air Force Base United States

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The US Air Force stages fighter and other aircraft at main operating bases at central locations across the globe to gain efficiencies in operations, maintenance, and security. However, these bases are lucrative targets, and adversary missile development continues to place air operations from main operating bases at risk. In addition to security concerns, examples in air operations since World War Two illustrate how sustaining sortie generation from main operating bases to locations over extended distance presents operational risk due to the amount of flying time required from takeoff to landing, as well as the potential for pilot fatigue in sustained conflict. An alternative to main operating bases is to disperse air operations, which affords certain advantages however, the Air Force has limited capability to conduct airfield surveys outside of a permissive environment. Optimizing the Rapid Raptor Forward Arming and Refueling Point FARP concept to include suitable highways and other roads is necessary to avoid a scenario limited by operating from established civilian airbases, locations well known to the enemy. If the enemy can find US aircraft, those platforms are inside the enemys kill chain. Conversely, dispersed FARP sites using suitable highways and other roads disrupts the enemys kill chain as the enemy is unaware where air operations are generated. Investments in a low cost multipurpose remotely operated vehicle, outfitted with scientific and other instruments capable of conducting surveys and assessments of potential improvised FARPs, solves the current capability challenge of conducting site surveys outside of permissive environments. It also offers multiple advantages to a US air strategy of dispersing airfield operations in a contested environment.

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