B-52 Airplane Silhouette
"The Need for the Next Special Operations Forces' Mobility Aircraft"
Author: Joseph K. Michalek, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 2011–2012
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
The proliferation of threat systems and Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2/AD) strategies make performing special operations forces' (SOF) air mobility missions increasingly complicated and limit the capability to defeat air defenses and penetrate into denied airspace. Combined with an aging inventory, ill suited to evading these threats, Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) must look to technology to defeat the more modern threat systems and anti-access strategies. The best answer to penetrate future, denied regions is in stealth or low observable (LO) technology. National strategy documents already prioritize the SOF mission and identify the need for maintaining a very capable SOF. Current fiscal realities and a cut in defense spending seem to discourage talk of funding a new capability or procuring a new platform. However, the case for improving SOF enablers and funding SOF programs is well documented in recent strategic guidance and budget priority documents. Regardless of the fiscal situation, SOF will get the support it needs from national leadership to maintain its dominance in asymmetric warfare. The U.S. needs to invest in procuring and developing the next generation LO SOF mobility aircraft.
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