So pretty much a month ago I was standing on this stage doing my pin-on; that's how long I’ve been at Air Combat Command. I also used this stage when I was a squadron commander to do commander’s calls, so I’m pretty familiar with this room.
I want to thank you all for being here, particularly my former boss here a couple of times, General Ron Keys. When I went to F-15 school the first time, Lt Col Keys was in one of the sister squadrons there learning how to fly the Mighty Eagle. When I was in the 71st across the street, I was Lt Holmes and my commander was Lt Col Keys. As a squadron commander and when I was a wing commander, COMACC was General Keys. So General Keys, thanks for taking the time to be out here with us and thanks for all you’ve done to teach us and build our Air Force. We're glad to see you out here this morning.
I also want to thank my A5J guys who put this on, Rainman who was up here and Lt. Col Amy Hussmann. Thank you guys for doing all the work, working through clearances and everything it takes to put on something like this, so thanks to them for doing that.
The F-15 that I flew the first time at Luke in F-15 school was a massive upgrade to the radios of the T-38A that I flew in pilot training by adding a second receiver. It had one UHF that you could transmit and receive on. And then a giant innovation: we added a second receiver in the back where you can hear somebody else talk. But you know we got pretty good at flipping back and forth between radios to pass kills and do all those things.
I showed up here at Langley in the F-15C and wow it had two transmitters in it so you could have two radios going at one time. The last F-15 I flew, an E model at Bagram in 09', had three radios in it which could do UHF SatComm, UHF, VHF and FM and a fully realized Link-16 powered by a BACON interpreter. That meant when I was flying around In Afghanistan, I could have one radio on UHF SatComm to the ASOC to find out where I was supposed to be. I could have another radio on VHF to the battalion TOC, where my TACP was sitting and the battalion commander was watching my Rover downlink live in the battalion command post and could see were my targeting pod was looking. And then I had a third radio on FM where I was talking directly to the platoon leader or the squad leader on the ground that I was supporting.
The Link-16 meant that when I got launched and went to a TIC, I could put my cursor on top of the two Strike Eagles that were there and I knew what radio frequency they were on so I could go ahead and turn to the freq that they were talking to the JTAC on. I knew how much fuel they had left, so whether I should go straight to the tanker and get fully topped off so I could stay an hour or whether I should go straight to the scene and relieve them because they were about to run out of gas. I knew how many weapons they had left that would figure into that decision as well and I knew what their designations were on the ground. So I could make my way there, go to the tanker first, be listening to their frequency for SA, slew the nav pod or the targeting pod to their point, listen to what they were talking about, know how many bombs they had coming over the top, do a handoff in about 30 seconds and be engaged in that fight immediately.
So that's the difference we made without changing much of the airplane by changing our ability to communicate with people. That made a tremendous difference from the F- 15 I first flew in 1982 to the last one that I flew in 2009.
That set up won't be enough for us in the future as we go through it. We’re going to have to push back data from 5th gen airplanes that are vacuuming up everything that they find and would like to share that information beyond just the guys that are forward so that other people can make decisions based on it. We are going to be in an operating environment where people are using sophisticated jammers to take out our ability to talk to each other and our ability to datalink with each other. We are going to face cybersecurity threats where people turn off our radios by trying to get inside the weapon system and work to keep us from communicating. And we are going to have to be interoperable between the new things we are acquiring and the legacy systems that we're going to keep for quite a while, because we have no alternative because of the budget.
We need to get past what we have done in our development efforts in the past where we came to a major contractor and we said build us an F-15 and you have an independent system that you own that belongs to your company and we will have to come back to you for upgrades and updates to every time. It won't talk to the independent system that's proprietary to the other company that built our other airplane.
We are going to have to have a common system that we can talk to each other on so that we can link those weapon systems together. We are going to have to find a way to communicate between the legacy airplanes and the new ones without going through a bunch of Rube Goldberg gateways that are kind-of one offs in-between, and take a lot of work.
I think we are going to be moving towards software programmable radios in new wave forms and try to address those shortfalls that I talked about. But as I heard somebody say at the Space Symposium last week, a large bureaucratic government organization like us will choose failure over change often, unless we work really hard to convince ourselves that that change is necessary.
We bring you here because we face the cost imperatives of a limited budget. I can't afford new weapon systems. I can hopefully afford to be able to tie them together where we can share information between them. We are going to have to find ways together to drive the cost down and spend money on what we need and not what we want or on other things that don't make sense. We are going to have to collaborate with you because of what we have given up as an Air Force: the systems engineering and the other capabilities that we used to have. We are going to have to depend on you helping us do it.
We want to work with both our traditional industry partners and non-traditional partners that have not been involved in the defense industry before, particularly in areas like our cyber protection and the things that we are doing there. And we want to have two-way communication with you.
I was talking to another friend in industry last week and he said he was in a meeting with his company and they said, “Hey, whoa, whoa, let’s not get out in front of the Air Force and what they're talking about”.
What I want to tell you is, I want you to get out in front of the Air Force, on what you're talking about because if you wait for us we will likely choose failure over change and we won't get there.
So we need your ideas. We are going to lay out for you how we see the problem and the requirements. We want your feedback on that. We need your ideas on how we can meet the requirements of the future and move forward. We are going to have to partner on the ideas and partner on ways to keep the cost down if we are going to be able to go forward and get to where we need to be to prepare to fight the peer adversary that can bring the same capabilities that we brought to bear against weaker guys. And to think about how are we going to fight an adversary that brings the same technical means and the same kind of precision weapons that we used to go hit him with one weapon on one target and how can we prevail in that environment.
So we will continue to do events like today. This one is focused on this area, on networking. We'll continue to do more and we look forward to working with you, as we go forward in the future and figure out how to solve these issues we are faced with.