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F/A-22 required for deep strike against enemy threats

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 05, 2004) -- Maintaining deep-strike capability is critical to future warfighting operations.

In a March 3 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on projection forces, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley said the Air Force must continue to maintain its deep-strike capability.

The F/A-22 is an air-superiority fighter with improved capability over current Air Force aircraft. From the inception of the battle, the F/A-22's primary objective will be to establish air superiority through the conduct of counter air operations. The F/A-22 also has an inherent air-to-surface capability. A combination of improved sensor capability, improved situational awareness, and improved weapons provides first-kill opportunity against the threat. (U.S. Air Force photo)

"(Deep strike) must be defined as the capability to achieve the desired effects rapidly and persistently upon any target set in any environment, anywhere, at any time," General Moseley said. "Simply said, we must continue to be able to hold any enemy target set at risk at any point on the Earth."

For an operation like Iraqi Freedom, General Moseley told committee members that the Air Force's ability to strike was in part because of American presence in the region for nearly 12 years and U.S. access to nearby bases. In testimony submitted for the record, the general said that type of access might not always be available to the U.S. military.

"We are unlikely to encounter such a luxury in subsequent conflicts," General Moseley said. "In the future, we will require deep-strike capabilities to penetrate and engage high-value targets during the first minutes of hostilities anywhere in the battlespace.

"Against the most advanced current and future enemy anti-access threats, the F/A-22 [Raptor] will be required," he said. "Combining stealth and supercruise, the F/A-22 will destroy these systems -- pave the way for penetrating F-117 [Nighthawks] and B-2 [Spirits] -- and support follow-on operations by our nonstealthy bomber and legacy fighter-bomber fleets."

Committee members asked the panel of witnesses, which included both military and Department of Defense advisers, about the threat posed to U.S. long-range capability in Iraq by military hardware produced in Russia or China. Such hardware included the SA-12, a tactical surface-to-air missile system with anti-ballistic missile capabilities.

General Moseley said such systems were unlikely to surface in Iraq.

"The opportunity for the bigger systems, the strategic systems that are such a threat to long-range strike capability … I don't see as a threat … in Iraq," General Moseley said. The systems, he said, are too large and too expensive to be used by opposition groups there.

By some estimates, systems such as the SA-10 or SA-12 may cost as much as $300 million to acquire. Both the initial cost, and the training and support required to sustain such systems would be prohibitive the general said.

One concern of the committee was the possibility of U.S. technology being leaked to adversaries because of liberal licensing of Joint Strike Fighter technology to subcontractors. General Moseley said the JSF program office is aware of the issue.

"The JSF is a critical niche in our portfolio, is a critical backfill to many of our aging systems and is a compliment to the F/A-22," General Moseley said. "The (F/A-22) program office is acutely aware … of our sensitivities on the protection of software, source code, and key and emerging technologies. We believe … the way ahead on this is to build this airplane the way we have it laid out and to be ever vigilant to the challenge (of security)."

Also discussed was the need for intelligence in the field, the ability of the services to replenish munitions at a fast enough rate and the Air Force's need for a new tanker aircraft.

One committee member asked if the requirement for a new Air Force tanker was invalid or "made up." General Moseley assured committee members the requirement was very valid.

"Yes we need a new tanker, and yes we cannot operate these (KC-135 Stratotankers) at the level we have in the past," General Moseley said. "I am the operating commander from two campaigns. I could not take the KC-135E and, in fact, said ‘Do not deploy it, I do not want it over here.’"

General Moseley was the first combined air forces component commander for Operation Iraqi Freedom.