General Mike Holmes, Commander of Air Combat Command:
Good morning all. I want to extend my welcome to all the crowd that are here -- both Air Force and Joint Partners, that are here trying to take a look at what we’re doing, to the congressional staffers, to the press, to our international partners, to the industry folks that are here. Thanks everybody for coming to be a part of today. I know we are here to talk about this Light Attack experiment, so I won’t bore you with too much of the context, but I just want to give you a little bit from ACC’s perspective.
So, Air Combat Command is responsible for making sure that the United States Air Force can perform that direct land attack mission -- which [is] several missions: direct attack against ground forces, close air support in coordination with ground forces, the combat search and rescue mission, and the reconnaissance mission. That we can perform that mission across the range of threat environments that we might have to operate in.
We’re working hard to try to regain our readiness for that most lethal combat environment, and we’ll look at that end, and how we’re going to be able to provide it there. There are a range of options that take us down into a more permissive environment, and we want to found out exactly how an available airplane, with an affordable cost per flying hour, can fit into that formula, and how we’ll link it with the networks that it will take to communicate with ground forces, and with the weapons we would like them to use, and with the TTPs, or Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, to be able to operate in an environment to deliver the whole capability. We’re particularly interested in it because, as our Chief has said, we’re halfway into a generational struggle. We are going to continue to fly missions in support of both U.S ground forces and Coalition ground forces, to fill in the gaps in what they can provide, and so we want to find a way to do it effectively, but in a way that we can afford, a way that won’t get in the way of us trying to regain our readiness in that most complex threat environment.
So, we’ll work through one-at-a-time the airplanes here, and we’ll get a feel for how they perform with an Air Force or one of our joint partner’s pilots at the controls. We’ll get a feel for how they are maintained from having our maintenance professionals being a part of it. And we’ll take that information, and we’ll put that together into four reports as you heard. We’ll bring that to the Chief and the Secretary, and, if they say “go,” my job is to make sure that as we hand off this experiment run by Air Force Material Command and the SDPE [Strategic Development Planning & Experimentation Office], as we hand that off to Air Combat Command, that we’re ready to deliver something in about six months like AFMC and their team has been able to do in six months here. That’s how it fits into the big picture.
We are also interested in some of the second- and third-order effects -- which is you may have heard we have a pilot shortage, and how can we used this airplane to make seasoned fighter pilots faster? How can we use it to do training for Tactical Air Control Parties cheaper, and with putting less demand [on other aircraft], so that our fifth-gen guys are doing enough to meet their training requirements but not more than that? And then how can we meet the deficit in our ability to support Army maneuver training as they work to regain their full spectrum readiness? Can we do that in a more cost effective way with an airplane like this one when it’s at home?
So, thanks for making the trip here to be a part of it, and learn from it, and as I hand it off to [Lt. Gen. Arnold] Bunch, the last thing I would like to tell you is that I think this is a great example of how our Airmen, if we will give them the new authority that Congress gave us, and get out of their way, can work across the lines that sometimes get in our way. Airmen from the Secretary of the Air Force’s Acquisition Office and from the rest of the Headquarters Air Force Staff, Airmen from Air Force Material Command, both in their planning and their test organizations, Airmen from Air Combat Command, Airmen from Air Force Special Operations Command -- when we told them what we wanted, and when we got out of their way, good, smart guys were able to make good risk decisions, decide how to get around some of the barriers that had been in their way, and move out and do it fast.
We’re particularly interested in that in Air Combat Command because we believe that we need to bring the future faster in all things that we do. And this is an opportunity for us to learn as an Air Force on how to make it faster. We went through a list, and Col. Young laid out some of the people who had been key to it, and it’s not Gen. [Ellen] Pawlikowski, or me, or Arnie Bunch, that made this happen, it’s people named Mildred, and Star Baby, and Slick, and Trogg, and folks like that have been working this year in and year out, trying to convince us that we can do it and then executed it all when it was time to go.