Meeting the Korean Defense Challenge: The View from 7th Air Force


2012-08-03 In an interview this month with Lt. General Jan-Marc Jouas, Second Line of Defense had a chance to discuss the challenges of defense in the Korean Peninsula.  This area remains a key driver for U.S. forces in the Pacific, and any consideration of how to strengthen alliances in the Pacific must start with South Korea. This is especially important given the coming transfer of command within South Korea which will elevate the South Korean role.

Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas is the Deputy Commander, United Nations Command Korea; Deputy Commander, U.S. Forces Korea; Commander, Air Component Command, Republic of Korea/U.S. Combined Forces Command; and Commander, 7th Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Osan Air Base, South Korea. He is also the U.S. representative to the joint committee for the Status of Forces agreement between the two countries.

General Jouas was commissioned in 1979 as a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is a command pilot with extensive operational experience in F-4, F-15 and F-16 aircraft, including more than 80 combat missions. He has commanded at the squadron, group and wing levels, and served as a Joint Staff division chief and special assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Prior to his current assignment, he was the Pacific Air Forces Director of Operations, Plans, Requirements, and Programs.

SLD: What about S Korean AF Modernization and its importance?

LT. GENERAL JOUAS: Whatever aircraft South Korea purchases has to be capable not just today, but five years, ten years, 15, 20 years from now.  And you have to get the best aircraft that you can afford for your war fighters.  When you get down to it, they need an aircraft that meets those citeria.

SLD: Let’s talk generally about the world of air power in Korea and beyond.  What does air power bring to the party in the defense of Korea, and our ability to provide for deterrence in depth?

This map view underscores why the impact of enhanced and more agile defense capabilities in South Korea has an immediate impact on the defense of Japan (Credit image: Bigstock)
Any deployment of F-35s to the Korean peninsula will clearly modify the template, including the Marine Corps F-35B. The Seventh Air Force relationship with the Marine Corps is the best I’ve ever seen. Their aircraft will be… used as part of our air campaign to the greatest effect that we can deliver. (Credit image: Bigstock

LT. GENERAL JOUAS:Air power, not unlike in 1950, will initially stem the flow of aggression against the ROK. Historically, the reason we were able to establish a defensive perimeter in 1950 was because air power was able to slow the advance of the North Korean Army as it moved south.

Air power is always able to attack in depth; we’re able to operate at the strategic level, the operational level, and the tactical level.  An air campaign on the Korean peninsula would follow that blueprint, establishing air superiority and creating effects across the spectrum of a joint battle space. In doing so we would provide ground and naval forces the freedom to maneuver and engage, so that we jointly defeat the adversary.

SLD: So to summarize this, whatever the realities perceived elsewhere, you are the point of the spear in a traditional air force sense, and that you really need to be able to conduct simultaneous operations.  You need to be able to manage effects on the battlefield, so you need a real capacity to be multi-mission, and have a lot of similitude and reach, any decent reach.  So those are the functions that you need to execute.  Does that make sense?

LT. GENERAL JOUAS: Absolutely.  We need to be able to attack in depth.  We also need to be able to attack at the forward edge of the battle space.

We need to be operating against targets that will create not just tactical effects, but operational and strategic.

We need to be operating cross domain, and by that I mean kinetic and non-kinetic effects, one reinforcing the other.

One of our greatest advantages is our air operation center that will oversee the entire air campaign, and where I will be situated as the air component commander.

SLD: How will the coming of F-35s to South Korea affect the template?

LT. GENERAL JOUAS: U.S. overseas basing decisions are not yet determined; however, any deployment of F-35s to the Korean peninsula will clearly modify the template, including the Marine Corps F-35B.

The Seventh Air Force relationship with the Marine Corps is the best I’ve ever seen.  Their aircraft will be dedicated to the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) at some point, but before then, they will be used as part of our air campaign to the greatest effect that we can deliver.

The F-35A, B, and C will give us greater flexibility, and greater options in terms of where and how we can operate.

We will integrate the F-35 with F-16s, F-15Ks, F-15Es, F-22s, and other airplanes in a way that will enhance and increase everybody’s capability, much in the same way that we currently see the F-22 and the F-15 integrating and increasing their capabilities.  Our targeting, and the effects that we will seek, will be adjusted by the fact that we have F-35s.

SLD: Lt General Deptula often makes the point that the F-22 and the F-35 is not really an F but is an ISR platform in a new way.  How do you look at these developments?

LT. GENERAL JOUAS: I’ll just say it has an inherent ISR capability that we can exploit.  And as our sensors join together to form a common picture, hopefully that would integrate with the ground and naval components’ capabilities, so that we can rapidly target the developing threats before they are in position to employ.

And that’s just one example. When the F-22 and F-35 will be over flying any terrain, and relay what it sees and what it senses, and have that distributed to other weapon systems, we will have a significant growth in capability.

SLD: What will be the impact of the transition in 2015 to South Korean military command?

LT. GENERAL JOUAS: In December 2015 operational control will transition to the Republic of Korea. Now we have a U.S. General heading Combined Forces Command and US Forces Korea.

US Forces Korea will be deactivated, and in its place we will stand up a U.S. Unified Command called Korea Command, KORCOM.

South Korea will have command and responsibility for its defense, and we will provide supporting forces.

South Korea understands the need to develop its own capabilities in key areas. We are in very earnest discussions with them about the supporting and enduring capabilities that we will provide.

SLD: Basically this F-35s entering into this particular period of political history, political military transition right?

LT. GENERAL JOUAS: Absolutely.  And air power is an essential element in Korea.  This is a “come as you are” fight over here. No one is going to let us reinforce for six months; when people take on the United States, they know they don’t want to give us the time to build up our forces.

SLD: Looking to the future, as the F-35 becomes a reality in the Pacific, he point is that by having common aircraft, Australia, and Japan or anyone who chooses to get into the program, buy and plus it up, that commonality gives them a low-hanging fruit to try to shape their own interoperability.  Is that fair to put it that way?

LT. GENERAL JOUAS:  You’re exactly right.  You have a commonality and interoperability, and when it comes to either exercises or contingencies, you’ll find that it’ll be a great advantage.  And it’s not just that we fly the same airplane, or we employ the same ordnance, but it’s that we’ll be linked into the same common operational picture, have the same situational awareness, and become interdependent.