Science and Technology will Keep US Air Force the World’s Most Powerful
The U.S. Air Force looks to science and technology to maintain its qualitative technological edge over the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) and the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) that are eroding this advantage.
"Where I once would have said we had a decided advantage on all fronts, today I can say that we retain our lead in some technological areas," said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
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"However, in other areas, our potential adversaries are nipping at our heels or are shoulder-to-shoulder with us. To address the shrinking technology gap, we must continue to invest in science and technology and modernize our forces."
The air force intends to widen its technology advantage by more quickly deploying the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in large numbers; continuing to develop the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider stealth bomber and begin work on the Penetrating Counter Air (PCA) fighter -- its sixth generation fighter -- as soon as possible.
The air force also recognizes the need for a new long-range penetrating fighter for missions in Asia and the Pacific.
"As our adversary capabilities advance, a new PCA capability will play a critical role in targeting and engaging future threats in the most highly contested environments," said Gen. Bunch.
"It will also be instrumental as a node in the larger network, providing data from its sensors to enable complementary weapon systems. This capability will provide the survivability, lethality and persistence to meet emerging worldwide threats across the spectrum of conflict and will be the cornerstone of the Air Force shift from 4th/5th generation to a 5th/6th generation fleet."
The McDonnell Douglas F-15E Eagle and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon will have to be modernized and remain in service for decades to come to complement the F-35 and the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.
"In addition to pursuing new capabilities and modernizing fifth generation fighters, the Air Force also seeks to extend the service life and modernize critical capabilities of key fourth generation aircraft."