NATO’s air superiority vis-à-vis Russia is waning, Air Force (USAF) General Frank Gorenc, the commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa told an audience at this year’s Air and Space Conference held near Washington DC, according to military.com.
“The advantage that we had from the air, I can honestly say, is shrinking not only with respect to the aircraft that they’re producing, but the more alarming thing is their ability to create anti-access/area-denial [A2/AD] that are very well defended,” Gorenc said.
With his remarks, the general has joined a chorus of defense analysts and policy makers dispensing Cassandra-like warnings about the slipping technological edge of the United States military and the growing danger posed by effective countermeasures to American power primarily based on precision-strike regimes (See: “No More Easy Victories for the US Military?”).
According to the general, Russia accelerated the development of A2/AD capabilities during the 2008 war with Georgia and has heavily invested in fielding modern long-range surface-to-air missile systems (.e.g., the S-400) and other land-based A2/AD weapon systems based on their experience during the war. “They learned a lot along the way, and they made moves to close the asymmetric advantage posed by the quality of our air force; they’ve done it,” he emphasized.
“It’s one thing to address a aircraft threat that has increased significantly — which by the way it has — but clearly, surface to air missile systems are much cheaper, they’re much more available and that is a concern,” he added.
Gorenc was adamant that the proliferation of A2/AD capabilities poses a challenge to U.S. air power worldwide. “Up to this point, we have talked about anti-access/area denial with respect to the Pacific problem, but what I’m telling you is this is not just a Pacific problem. It’s as significant in Europe as it is anywhere else on the planet.”
Indeed, A2/AD capabilities are fundamentally undermining the essence of the American way of war (See: “The End of the American Way of War?”). “The American way of war requires a robust air reconnaissance … because we believe with air superiority, everything is possible and without it, nothing is possible. We just need to continue to work really hard to make sure that we can provide that to make the aspiration of our joint partners,” according to Gorenc.
The U.S. general called for the introduction of new tactics and training or rather a return to older training scenarios: “It’s pretty clear we’re going to have go back and start exercising some of the same stuff we used to do in the Cold War.” However, the growing technological capabilities of potential U.S. adversaries might also require the introduction of new operational concepts such as an emphasis on long-range strike operations (See: “Adios Top Gun: The End of the Fighter Jet?”).
“We’re going to have to extend the training that we do to allow for access into areas that are very well defended. We’re going to have to develop TTPs [tactics, techniques, and procedures] and continue to develop requirements that allow us to address that modern long-range SAM array,” according to Gorenc.