News

Superiority essential in air and space
Released: Jan 22, 1997

(Editor's note: This is part of a series on the Air Force's core values and core competencies.)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force is committed to complete integration of air and space. That vision is reflected in the core competency of "air and space superiority" that the Air Force's senior leadership recently defined.

Core competencies represent capabilities the Air Force brings to the nation to support the national military strategy and are part of the Air Force's new strategic vision, "Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force."

The other Air Force core competencies are global attack, rapid global mobility, precision engagement, information superiority and agile combat support.

Air and space superiority combines two core competencies from the Air Force's earlier strategic vision, "Global Reach, Global Power." The air and space link is now even stronger in Global Engagement.

"Air and space superiority prevents adversaries from interfering with operations of air, space or surface forces and assures freedom of action and movement," said Sheila E. Widnall, secretary of the Air Force. "The control of air and space is a critical enabler for the joint force because it allows all U.S. forces freedom from attack and freedom to attack.

"With air and space superiority, the joint force can dominate enemy operations in all dimensions: land, sea, air and space."

Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, Air Force chief of staff, noted that while air and space superiority is lethal against enemy forces, it saves American lives.

That view was echoed as recently as last fall when the Air Force received a letter from a man whose brother served as a Marine during Desert Storm in 1991.

"I believed at that time and continue to believe that the greatest threat to [my brother's] safety was from air attack," said Brit Ferguson of Stephenville, Texas.

"This danger never materialized," he continued, "and he came home safely because of the absolutely outstanding job that the U.S. Air Force did in rapidly gaining and then maintaining overwhelming air supremacy."

This core competency from the "Global Reach, Global Power" strategic vision, now modified to include space, fits comfortably into Global Engagement.

"Gaining air and space superiority is not just operationally important," Fogleman said, "it is also a strategic imperative for protecting American lives throughout a crisis or conflict. It is the precursor for dominant maneuver and the basis of full-dimensional protection."

Strategic attack and interdiction, Fogleman said, are "crucial to the outcome of any battle. They're not possible without air superiority. Effective surface maneuver is impossible without it. And so is efficient logistics.

"The bottom line is that everything on the battlefield is at risk without air and space superiority. Moreover, if air dominance is achieved and joint forces can operate with impunity throughout the adversary's battle space, the joint force commander will prevail quickly, efficiently and decisively."

The Air Force secretary added that defense against ballistic and cruise missiles is an increasingly important element of the air and space superiority core competency.

"The proliferation of cruise and ballistic missiles threaten Americans and America's interests and is one of the developments that accelerates warfare along the air-space continuum. The Air Force is moving aggressively to counter this threat."

Although the global and theater missile threats are now addressed separately, Fogleman said, over time they will merge into a common missile defense architecture, becoming a single counter air and space missile defense mission.