US Air Force Shifts Its Power Posture to Address Near-Peer Threats

The US Army’s Air Force branch has revealed it is restructuring its future lift fleet to meet near-peer threats as it tries to shift away from the counterinsurgency posture cultivated over the past two decades in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Currently, the US Department of Defense recognizes that it must outmaneuver the regimes militarily as they seek to challenge the so-called “Rules-Based Order” – which upholds national sovereignty and liberalism on the world stage – in which it identifies China as “ accelerating threat. along with Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Essentially, the transition will see the US military take a step back, returning to 2004, pre-Iraq levels.

A step back?

As part of the US military’s “aggressive optimization,” the agency announced in late 2023 that it plans to reduce its UH-60 Black Hawk fleet by more than 150 units.

According to leading intelligence consultancy GlobalData, Black Hawk helicopters have logged more than four million flight hours since entering service in 1978, during a variety of combat missions in Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq and numerous humanitarian missions and rescue missions, including operations in Bosnia.

In its place, the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) will serve as a long-range, high-speed successor aircraft. Units will leverage FLRAA’s increased speed, range and maneuverability to engage enemy forces from areas of relative safety outside the range of long-range enemy fires.

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From GlobalData

Similarly, the force has already canceled the Future Assault Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) in favor of a more hybrid force structure that uses unmanned reconnaissance systems as cooperative aerial assets designed to increase the lethality and survivability of main manned platforms.

This marks an era of warfare characterized by faster, longer-range, hybrid roles in an era where long-range fire reaches greater distances with much greater accuracy.

Balancing insurgency and near-peer threats

According to her Armed Conflict Survey 2023the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British security think tank, warned: “At the core of the bleak outlook for conflict worldwide is the current complexity of modern wars, which often involve large numbers of different non-state armed groups (NSAGs) as and external intervention”.

The IISS indicates that there is still room for counterinsurgency methods in a modern force structure. This was a point that was reiterated in the discussions at the IMH conference – the US Army Air Forces must seek a balance.

The UK Ministry of Defense is also seeking such a balance, for which it has announced that it will begin negotiating with suppliers on the concept of the New Medium Helicopter, which the government hopes will serve as a multi-mission “Swiss army knife”.

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