CUTTING THE CORD: SUSTAINING UNTETHERED AIR SUPERIORITY OPERATIONS IN THE PACIFIC
AIR COMMAND AND STAFF, AIR UNIVERSITY MAXWELL AFB United States
Pagination or Media Count:
Since the end of the Cold War, the USAF has based airpower safely without a persistent threat from long range. This has allowed the USAF to base aircraft closer to conflicts with recent adversaries in the Middle East. As the US pivots to the Pacific, this freedom of access and maneuver is being challenged. China and North Korea possess long-range weapons that are expanding the safe operating distance further east past the second island chain. As a result, the USAF is beginning to employ untethered operations UTO to disperse airpower independent of main operating bases. Although UTOs enhance survivability, they have only been demonstrated on a small scale and supported exclusively from the air. During a major conflict, multiple UTOs will need to be conducted simultaneously to deliver decisive airpower. This paper argues the current USAF airlift capability is not sufficient to sustain large-scale UTOs in the Western Pacific Theater of Operations WPTO. A scenario methodology is used to evaluate future sustainment options for UTOs in the WPTO. Four scenarios are presented to determine the effectiveness of the scenarios to integrate land and sea-based sustainment while increasing logistics survivability and sustainment capacity. While the USAF is demonstrating the advantages of UTOs, the Navy is fielding a new class of ship designed to provide logistics support in an A2AD environment. In the past the USAF has used sea-based sustainment effectively and could very well apply those concepts to todays sustainment challenges. To meet the demand of future conflict in the WPTO, the USAF should expand current UTOs beyond the baseline package and sustain them by using sea-based prepositioned materiel.
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
- Military Forces and Organizations