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U.S. military applies new combat concept in Korea

7th Air Force commander hints that F-35s will replace A-10s, F-16s

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Published : 2014-06-19 21:58
Updated : 2014-06-19 22:16

The U.S. military is applying a new war-fighting concept to Korea in line with its efforts to enhance cooperation among armed services and more effectively handle security challenges, U.S. 7th Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas said.

The application of the concept, called AirSea Battle, comes as North Korea continues to pose nuclear and missile threats, and China becomes increasingly assertive over a series of territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

“It (the concept) comes down to joint war-fighting at its most elemental (stages), from the acquisition process up to its application at either the tactical, operational or strategic level,” the commander told The Korea Herald. 

“So, certainly we apply that not just here in Korea, but across all our armed forces, everywhere we go.”

The U.S. has been developing the new operational concept to stop potential adversaries’ military capabilities from blocking its access to operational areas or its action within those areas. The capabilities are called “anti-access/area-denial (A2AD)” capabilities or threats.

Employing the concept, the U.S. seeks to create a joint force capable of effectively handling security threats across all domains ― air, land, sea, space and cyberspace ― so that its armed services can better counter the A2AD challenges.

China has perceived itself to be a target of the AirSea Battle concept, as it poses the greatest A2AD threats through cruise and ballistic missiles, bombers and other advanced weapons with longer ranges and greater lethality, accuracy and ability to remain operational after engagement.

AirSea Battle is comparable to the successful “AirLand Battle” concept that formed the basis of America’s war-fighting doctrine to contain enemy forces in the 1980s and 1990s. It focused on close coordination between land forces and air forces attacking non-frontline troops supporting the forward-deployed ones.

During the interview, Jouas also indicated that the radar-evading F-35 would replace the U.S. Forces Korea’s aging A-10 ground attack planes and F-16 fighters “in due course.”
Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

“I think it’s no secret that our aircraft here are getting a little old. The A-10 has been around here for a long time. The F-16s that we fly comparably are not as old as the A-10, but not much younger, either,” he said.

“(The U.S.) Air Force is committed to buying the F-35 as a replacement platform for the A-10 and F-16 and anticipate that at some point in the future, and it’s very hard to say when, that both aircraft will be replaced in due course. … It’s hard to say how long that will take. It’s going to take years.”

The U.S. Air Force wants to retire the 40-year-old A-10 “Warthog” fleet and save costs to introduce more advanced, multipurpose aircraft such as F-35s. But opposition remains from those who tout the A-10’s close air support capabilities.

Regarding the missile defense cooperation between South Korea and the U.S., the commander stressed the importance of interoperability.

As to the issue of the U.S. bringing to Korea the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense System, an advanced missile defense system, Jouas said, “I think the decision whether or not to bring in THAAD will have to be considered by both governments, but the Ministry of Defense here and certainly, our secretary of defense … clearly that’s something that they will be talking about here in the months to come.”

Jouas has led the 7th Air Force for the past 2 1/2 years, and is expected to leave the post in December or January. He has served in some 30 nations including Japan and Germany during his military career of nearly four decades.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)

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