The senior-most civilian and military leaders of the Air and Space Forces crisscrossed Europe the week of July 10 carrying separate itineraries but a singular message – the importance of tight relationships with allies and partners, and the need to forge seamless “day-zero interoperability” that is “integrated by design.”
In a series of engagements that spanned Italy, Germany and several in the United Kingdom, Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., and Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond each stressed that, to confront and deter China, Russia and other threats, a seamless and multi-domain collaboration with international allies and partners is essential.
“Our next global threat may achieve parity, technologically, economically, or militarily, but the leading edge we have is each other,” Brown said July 14 in a keynote at the 2022 Global Air & Space Chiefs’ Conference in London.
“And, in order to maintain that leading edge, we need to take an integrated approach in how we manage our people, policies and processes,” he said at the conference, which is a high-profile gathering of service chiefs and senior defense policy makes from around the world.
In prepared remarks to the same conference on the same day, Raymond highlighted similar themes while also focusing on the importance of space and how the U.S. and allies are accelerating partnerships and cooperation in that critical domain.
“We recognize the character of war has changed, with growing kinetic and non-kinetic threats across multiple domains, and now explicitly against assets in space,” Raymond said. “And because space underpins the Joint Force, threats against space also threaten our ability to conduct operations in the air, on land, and at sea.
“Therefore, we must be coalition-minded from the start. We are stronger together, and we see clear advantages when we plan, train, and operate as a team. Luckily, we’re not starting from scratch on this,” Raymond said.
Kendall linked up with Brown and Raymond at the 2022 Royal International Air Tattoo, which is considered the world’s largest military air show and a long-running event in Britain. In addition to drawing an estimated 170,000 spectators, this year’s edition also included a celebration of the U.S. Air Force’s upcoming 75th Anniversary.
“These forums are valuable and serve a crucial need to bring together like-minded nations and their militaries who honor common values,” Kendall said. “In a short span of time, we met many allies, reinforced our ties and exchanged ideas on future collaboration in support of security and stability.”
Kendall also attended the Farnborough Air Show, one of the most significant events in the air and space industry.
“When we say one team, one fight — industry and our international partners are part of that team,” Kendall said. “As we work together to accelerate change, we want to tap into the intellectual capital and creativity industry brings to the table, and this includes our international partners.
“We must work together to modernize our capabilities. The firms and national programs I’ve seen on this trip impress me, and it gives me confidence that we can work collaboratively across our department and with our allies and partners to prepare for tomorrow’s fight, today,” he said.
The threats are well understood and tangible.
Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has brought large-scale warfare–back to Europe. China continues to expand and modernize its military capabilities while also lengthening its geo-political and economic reach.
Raymond described it this way to colleagues at the Air and Space Chiefs Conference – competitors, he said, are seeking “to turn the global security system on its head and rewrite the rules in their favor and according to their authoritarian view of the world. This threatens global stability and efforts for peace.”
The proper response and the official posture of the United States is a concept Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin calls “integrated deterrence,” an approach that merges the joint force, allies, and partners into a coordinated and formidable force that has capabilities in the air, land and sea, as well as space and cyber.
Integrated deterrence, Raymond said, “is a framework across all warfighting domains, theaters, and the spectrum of conflict, in collaboration with all instruments of national power, and, importantly, with our allies and partners.”
A key feature that must be present in order to succeed, Brown said, are strong bonds with allies and partners and an approach to these relationships he called “integrated by design.”
“Integrated by design is the deliberate way we work together to understand the environment, define the threat, share information, and, most importantly, employ airpower. To become integrated by design and overcome emerging global challenges, we need to relook at our approach in three areas: people, policies, and processes,” he said.
“For me, integrated by design means we start with allies and partners in mind versus building the U.S. first, then adapting to include allies and partners,” Brown said, adding, “the U.S. Air Force must take more risk to work within existing policies where we haven’t done so in the past.
“… We have to open doors to our allies and partners to address future military challenges. Just because something is difficult, or we have not normally done it, is not a good reason to avoid it.”
Brown highlighted allies and partners coming together to counter Russian aggression as an example of working together to address such challenges.
“Investments in collaboration and trust work. They worked against ISIS and are working against Russia. Now, to maintain our leading edge and the current rules-based international order, one thing is clear: the U.S. and our allies and partners, must integrate like never before,” he said.
Raymond stressed similar points and goals earlier in the trip during a stop in Italy.
In remarks prepared for a July 11 speech before the NATO Defense College in Rome, Raymond acknowledged the Space Force, and by extension, the U.S., “cannot go it alone.”
“In the face of this threat to international security, the Space Force recognizes we cannot go it alone but must instead act as a member of a coalition. Which means working through differences, establishing common goals, frameworks, and plans, as well as training and operating together,” he said.