2015-03-25 By Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake
Late March 2015, we interviewed Secretary Wynne with regard to the evolution of coalition airpower over the period ahead.
Earlier, Wynne laid out a wide-ranging perspective on the evolution of airpower in his article entitled: “Airpower in the Next Two Decades of the 21st Century: Secretary Wynne Looks Ahead.”
That article addressed in Wynne’s words the following:
Globalization may have brought the world closer together in terms of collaboration, but the United States remains a singular continent that can now be reached by the forces of military globalization, missiles and nuclear weapons.
Without air superiority, we can neither defend our land nor project power abroad.
If we rest our assumptions of superiority on an aging stock of proud yet outdated airplanes, we can never hope to prevail in the face of rising and adventurist powers like China and other modern adversaries.
I would like to examine a way forward in understanding how we can recapture air superiority and the enthusiasm necessary to build and sustain it.
Quite clearly, coalition capabilities are evolving as well, and a key challenge is how best to mesh U.S. and coalition developments to shape forces appropriate to the 21st century missions facing the democracies.
In this interview, we discussed with Secretary Wynne his thoughts on the nature of the challenge and ways to shape an effective way ahead.
Question: How important is the coalition aspect of operations going to be for the United States?
Secretary Wynne: I think it will be the norm, whether you are following a concept of leading from the front or from behind.
The emphasis on coalition warfare will be the norm and driven by two factors.
The first is the relative equality of the technology across the coalition, as well as the role of bases provided by coalition partners.
The second is the lack of sufficient investment by any of the coalition partners to shape an overall dominant national force structure.
The U.S. and its allies will need to reach out to other nations to have a completely capable dominant force structure.
Question: In other words, the U.S. and allies achieve mass only by connectivity and convergence of capabilities?
Secretary Wynne: That is a good way to put it.
A challenge, which we face, is the perceptions, which core competitors have of the United States.
Namely, the Russians and the Chinese clearly perceive US forces to be exhausted and stretched thin.
Our peer competitors see an advantages in increasing their leveraging power and capabilities to pressure those U.S. and coalition forces as well.
Question: The Russians are pushing hard on the Baltics and the Nordics.
How can their reactions help shape a response to provide a deterrent strategy?
Secretary Wynne: The recent threat articulated by the Russian Ambassador to Denmark clearly is an Article Five issue for NATO.
But solid defense modernization and regional cooperation of the Baltic republics with the Nordics is crucial for shaping any effective credible deterrent strategy, as the Russians would see it.
And with the coming of the F-35 to the region, the coalition partners can shape new capabilities to deter the Russians with which we can interact and work with effectively as well.
In fact, the coming of the global F-35 fleet will enhance overall coalition capabilities and provide the U.S. with an opportunity to provide some key enablers for enhanced coalition effectiveness as well.
Each member of the coalition will now bring a specific set of expertise.
And in that bringing of expertise, we’re finding ways to integrate older technology into the newer systems.
And what we bring really, although we are very good at increasing the technology level of our weapon systems, we are really good at increasing the command and control technologies.
Our coalition partners are going to require that aspect of our own improvements and so I would say we will be drawn in first by our command and control expertise.
And I think then by our weapons systems and then by the commonality that we have, should there be a need, augment the coalition force.
I see us as offering to support and essentially provide command and control throughout wherever the theater develops.
Question: You have several points in your briefing about the opportunity to leverage legacy forces and make the point that 80% of what the coalition will have in 2030 already exists. In highlighting command and control going forward how do you view the challenge of re-shaping the force?
Secretary Wynne: You have new forces coming in the airpower arena, which allow you to redesign a lethal C-2 extended force.
The new systems enable transformation but the older platforms need to be reworked to ensure that they can actually play the role of an effective operational reserve.
And in shaping a lethal C-2 extended force, the role of exercises with the allies is a crucial element of force modernization and concepts of operations innovations.
Question: We focused in earlier work on the role of the 12th Air Force in working with the Dominican Republic to provide the C2 and ISR which enhanced the effectiveness and lethality of the Super Tucano force against the drug lords operating in their airspace.
C2 can be a tool as well working with allies and how does this affect you sense of the coalition approach going ahead?
Secretary Wynne: The current ACC Commander, Hawk Carlisle, put it well: as allies bring capabilities to the forces; the goal is to fit it into a coalition operation and capability as appropriate to the agreed upon coalition mission.
Question: The Russians are stepping up their engagement in the Baltic region and beyond. Do you see what there doing as part of what we have called tron warfare, namely probing Western defenses to see how they respond electronically?
Secretary Wynne: I would say it this way.
We are being probed, and in those probes the Russian are seeking to gain domain knowledge.
We should assume that the Russians bombers are accepting the trons being pinged at them and retrainsmitting them to analysis station, rather than carrying bombs.
Why carry bombs?
Why not carry electronic equipment so the Russians can learn with regard to how sophisticated the West has become?
That’s far more useful information than simply being escorted out of allied territory by Typhoons.
Question: And speaking more generally, clearly the Russians are engaged in probing operations across the board and pushing the political-diplomatic-military envelope to achieve objectives where effective resistance is not operational.
If you take the probing warfare point coupled with the perceived exhaustion of US forces, don’t you end up with an effort by the Russians to essential seek to open gaps in NATO and other bilateral relationships to seek to expand Russian power?
Secretary Wynne: You do.
And we are not far from a tipping point which could parallel the Pueblo incident.
There we pulled back from seizing the Pueblo to avoid a major confrontation with North Korea.
But what would happen if a Russian bomber or escort fighter crashes or is shot down over Western territory.
What would the Russians do then? When the probability of warfare increases from the captivity of a foreign force, what happens then?
We were restrained this time, but ‘Remember the Maine.’
Question: A major challenge facing the democracies in dealing with probing warfare is the timeline whereby democracies make decisions. Another is how non-democracies play into democratic ideals and use them against us.
How do you view this challenge?
Secretary Wynne: We clearly in a period of lawfare whereby our adversaries use our own concepts of law against us.
The ISIS declared themselves a state in order to be subject to international law with regard to prisoners of war.
They have no intention themselves to abide or be limited by international law, but know that the West will self deter.
And more generally, our non-democratic adversaries are leveraging the forms of legality as tools in their warfare kit.
Putin did not seize territory in Ukraine; rather plebiscites of concerned Ukrainian citizens voted themselves out of Ukraine.
Our own self-deterrence is a key challenge facing the US and its coalition partners in meeting the challenges of the period ahead.