F-35 Becomes the Backbone of USAF
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth, and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond answered questions during the House Appropriations Committee on Defence during a virtual hearing at the Pentagon, Arlington, Va., May 7, 2021. Committee members raised topics that included confronting new and emerging threats, air and space superiority, and nuclear deterrence.
“Long-term strategic competition with China and Russia demands that we focus on the capabilities we need today to win tomorrow,” Roth told the subcommittee in his opening statement. “Our nation’s competitive strategic advantage relies on air and space superiority, which is underpinned by rapid technological advancement and the extension of space as a warfighting domain.”
When asked, “In the event, you got more money, where would the focus be, what would be the top priority?” Roth acknowledged there would be difficult trade-offs.
“We’re going to have to make some hard choices and some difficult decisions concerning trying to invest in the future versus continuing to support some of our legacy systems,” he said. “My sense is the budget you’ll see is a balanced budget that can support the national security strategy with some reasonable risk.”
At the same time, he emphasized, “We need to continue investing in technology for the future.”
When asked about nuclear modernization, Brown said, “it’s important that we do modernize that part of our nuclear portfolio,” he continued, noting that the current frontline system, the Minuteman III, is more than 40 years old.
They asked to continue to roll out F-35 (Lightning II) aircraft into the fleet. The F-35, according to Air Force senior leaders, “is the cornerstone of our future fighter force and air superiority.” It means continuing to introduce the KC-46 (Pegasus) into the fleet while also continuing to revamp the service’s “career field” categories to match personnel and leadership philosophies to the needs of national security and modern warfare.