“Our ability to deploy decisive force is foundational to the National Defense Strategy. The size and lethality of the force is of little consequence if we can’t get it where it needs to go when we want it there.”
~Gen. Darren McDew, former Commander, USTRANSCOM
In a great power conflict, mobility aircraft will be essential to deliver fuel and supplies to the Warfighters. But increasing concern over anti-access/area denial threats from potential foes, and the fact that big bodied mobility aircraft present inviting, in fact, critical targets has the attention and concern of Air Force leadership.
The new head of Air Mobility Command (AMC) is focusing on four key areas to improve the survivability of mobility aircraft and gain persistence over the battlefield. Gen. Maryanne Miller, who took the controls Sept. 7 when Gen. Carlton Everhart retired, told reporters at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference that the Illinois-based command is looking at four categories of survivability improvements:
Situational awareness of the battlefield.
New countermeasures to operate in a combat environment.
Disciplined signature management.
Miller is carrying forward work that was done under her predecessor. Early this year, AMC completed an assessment about how to improve the survivability of aircraft in contested environments. The “High Value Airborne Asset” study recommended improvements to communications, situational awareness and self-protection systems.
There are many different technologies to consider and develop for self-protection, including light armor, signature management tech and high-energy lasers. Former AMC commander Gen. Carlton Everhart often talked about his desire to put lasers on mobility aircraft, beginning with the KC-135, and the command has also been working to improve secure communications, notably on the C-17.
AMC Study Calls for Improved Communication, Battlespace Awareness, and Protection of Tankers; Air Force Magazine; 20 Feb 2018
US Air Force Eyes Self-Protection Systems for Aging Tankers, Airlifters; Defense News, 21 Feb 2018