on the horizon. The United States has long since lost the lead in the manufacture of electronics (the technology of which is driven by worldwide commercial and consumer concerns rather than by aerospace, as was the case in the 1950s and 1960s). Now, the United States is also no longer dominant in the manufacture of commercial aircraft in terms of either manufacturing or technology. In addition to competition from foreign producers, U.S.-“produced” aircraft are assembled from parts largely made overseas. Even U.S.-“made” subsystems and assemblies are increasingly assembled from parts engineered and produced in areas where costs are lower, such as China, India, and the former Eastern bloc. Large U.S. aerospace and electronics companies have set up research organizations in these regions for economic reasons. This offshore sourcing is having the effect of building up research, development, and manufacturing capability in other countries in aerospace and related fields.
One pillar of U.S. airpower in the past has been the capabilities of its major platforms. These sophisticated platforms now require investments of tens of billions of dollars spread over decades, investment levels that few foes can match. However, the life of the advanced technology in these platforms can now be less than the development cycle. Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) offer a counter to large platforms—while much less capable than the large platforms at present, they can have much shorter and less costly development cycles. These factors contribute to the proliferation of such vehicles around the world, especially at the smaller sizes (Munson, 1996).
The new technologies delineated above combined with the globalization of the aerospace and electronics businesses imply that current U.S. aerospace supremacy will face new classes of challenges from new adversaries—a few of which are described below.
Obviously, negating radar stealth must be high on the list of technologies for RED forces to pursue. The antidote to this nation’s stealth advantage takes two forms—direct and indirect. To negate U.S. radar stealth advantages directly requires the development of radars with different and improved characteristics. For example, the power of the radar can be increased to illuminate even small RCS targets. Changes in frequencies and radar-emanation management can also help. On an indirect basis, other sensors could be perfected that can precisely track aircraft, such as improved infrared (IR) or optical sensors. All of these require a high degree of sophistication to invent, but they can be sold to and used by relatively unsophisticated buyers with hostile intentions.
The difficulty of GPS interference has been the subject of great conjecture. Suffice to say that RED forces could profit enormously if the system could be shut down or biased in such a way as to interfere with weapons accuracy.
Other ways to interfere with or reduce the advantages of U.S. airpower include the use of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) radiation to shut down onboard targeting systems, the spoofing of targeting systems, the burying or hardening of high-value targets, population shielding (urban targets), the use of laser absorption material, and many more.
The scope of this report does not allow delving into all of these possibilities. Thus, to make the task manageable, the complex challenge of successfully attacking urban targets is discussed as an example of one mission scenario. This scenario was selected in part because the committee believes that it represents a current as well as an enduring challenge, with particular relevance to the global war on terrorism.
In general, the current use of U.S. airpower in urban warfare can be grouped into the following four broad categories that underpin the operational concepts delineated in Joint Vision 2020 (the concepts are Dominant Maneuver, Precision Engagement, Focused Logistics, and Full Dimensional Protection) (JCS, 2000):