April 26, 2007

Interview : Gen. Michael Wooley ,Air commandos’ unblinking eye

Air commandos’ unblinking eye
April 02, 2007


As the commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command (AFSOC), Lt. Gen. Michael Wooley oversees the ISR collection and synthesis activities of 12,900 active-duty, reserve, Air National Guard and civilian intelligence professionals around the world.

A command pilot with more than 4,000 hours in the air, Wooley has commanded the 3rd Air Force, RAF Mildenhall, England, and formulated strategy on northeast Asia as the chief of policy and strategy at Yongsan Army Garrison, Seoul, South Korea.
Like the rest of the military, AFSOC has the mixed blessing of using Iraq and Afghanistan as incubators for new ideas, figuring out what works and what does not. From those lessons, Wooley must determine the next steps for programming and staffing the air commandos.
Q Last fall, your deputy said that AFSOC’s MH-53 helicopters will begin retiring in 2008, when you will have only a few CV-22s. How will you close the lift gap?

A First, AFSOC is getting out of the rotary-wing business. People often assume that the CV-22 is a replacement for the MH-53. It is not. In fact, it’s not even categorized as a rotor-wing airplane; based on speed, it’s more akin to a fixed-wing airplane. It is a transformational beast for us that has wonderful capabilities we want to exploit in the worst way. We want to get it into the hands of the user as quick as we can.
What Maj. Gen. Don Wurster was referring to was a lift shortage in the aggregate. We have been working with the Air Force to recapitalize our fixed-wing mobility fleet. With the MC-130P, the Shadows, we are very close to putting something out on the street; we have folks that are lining up to bid on the request that we’re going to put out there. We have put a proposal out there. They know the requirements. Of course, time is of the essence, so we’re not looking for an airplane that’s on paper, we’re looking for something that’s flying. And there are several of them flying today that could meet the requirements.

Q Traditionalists might say AFSOC should retake the combat search-and-rescue mission from Air Combat Command (ACC). But if you’re getting out of the rotary business, isn’t it logical to leave it with ACC?

A You bet. It is a core mission of the Air Force, but it is a core mission that in Air Force Chief Gen. Michael Moseley’s mind — and I am of the same opinion — belongs in ACC at this particular time. We’ll see what happens. I am not lobbying to change the rescue mission. The worst thing that we could do is create more turmoil than we need to.

Q Has AFSOC been asked to look at replacing its Predator UAVs with Warriors, which the Army flies?

A There really needs to be an executive agent for UAVs to get us out of chasing which is better — Predator, Warrior, Shadow. We really are all over the map. I applaud Gen. Moseley’s concept of the Air Force standing up and volunteering to take up the executive agency for UAVs and the medium- and high-altitude regime. Somebody needs to really takcontrol, and it makes sense that the Air Force would lay out a good solid road map and get us on it, so we could do the things that we need to do and get the right equipment out on the battlefield for all of us.
I think the Joint UAV Center of Excellence is a key in this whole thing. One thing that we did when we stood up the Joint Center of Excellence was ensure it was joint, so that’s why there’s an Army two-star running it. That’s healthy and the right thing to do.

Q What are you learning in Iraq about fighting an insurgency?
A You have to be able to adjust, you have to be very, very agile, you have to have ISR assets. We use the term “unblinking eye.” That is very, very important in this particular case.
I think one of the things that we are learning with this unblinking eye is that right now, we’re looking through a soda straw, unblinking. We need to continue to open up that aperture and look over bigger swaths of countries, bigger swaths of continents, with unblinking eyes. Ultimately, we have to be able to get down into that soda straw and go from big to small, small to big, at will.

Q Do you have the ISR assets to get away from that soda straw and look across countries and continents?
A One thing we are trying to do is plant the idea with industry and folks in the think tanks that we need different ways to use different mediums. Near space — from 60,000 feet to 300 nautical miles is what we’re calling near space — putting something up there to start going from small to big, then getting into pure space assets for even greater capabilities.
But it’s not any one thing. It’s the whole architecture, the enterprise. The processing, exploitation and dissemination of all of those things that we learn from the soda straw on up is becoming more and more important and cannot be delinked from all of the ISR things we do.
If you look at the thousands of hours of full-motion video that went into that pattern-of-life development when we were doing that Zarqawi thing, there is a great example, the famous white pickup truck. Is there one guy that gets in the white pickup truck all the time, or is it two guys all the time? Is there a dog in the back of the pickup truck all the time or occasionally? Do they both smoke? Do they smoke with their left hand or their right hand? Do they hang their elbows out the window, or do they have the window up? Do they flick their cigarette out the window, or do they put it out in the ashtray? All of those things are of great value when you’re looking for patterns of life, working the problem set we’re faced with today.

Q How do you avoid fighting the last war?
A The things that go unnoticed but are so very, very important: the databases; the computing capability; the ability to take great bits of data and churn it down to something that’s useable, into products, whatever they may be, just a list of coordinates or things that you gain from watching this full-motion video, analyzing the video. Connecting the dots. We have made great strides as a country, as an Air Force and as a combatant command in Special Operations Command to connect the dots.

Q What do you need but don’t have?
A I personally don’t understand why the industrial base is not doing more, why the think tanks aren’t doing more work, because there is certainly a need for innovations in ISR platforms, when you think about all the things that are going on. I go back to Gen. Moseley and some of the things that he has said, that the limiting factor in our airplanes today is the human in the cockpit. We need to drive toward a day where oil in the engines is the limiting factor for how long you could keep a platform on station to do a particular job.
You’re seeing some work now being done in that regard. This summer, we’ll demonstrate the capability to refuel a UAV. We are marching down that road.
But in terms of the Buck Rogers kind of stuff, we could use some help from the industrial base — not only from just a production standpoint to give us an increased capability, but technology that would allow us to go to the next level.

Q Will the Air Force seek to build its next long-range bomber and gunship on the same airframe?
A It’s something we’re really looking at. We have made the overture that we don’t think that the next-generation gunship would be a mobility platform, because that will be the next area where we take a technological leap, the first being the CV-22 for us. So the gunship is where we want to take our next technological leap. The next airplane will not have a big 105mm or 120mm cannon. It won’t have belt-fed munitions, potentially; it could potentially have airborne lasers.
The one thing that I do know in my vision for the next-generation gunship is that it’s got to be able to fly day-night, in all weather, with that technological suite of weapons. That’s another lesson, if you want to go back to the lessons learned: This is not just a night fight. This is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week fight. We don’t want to tie our hands with another night fighter.

Q When will a decision be made?
A A new weapon system takes a long time — the analysis of alternatives process, scenario development, what are the requirements for the plane. I think at this point it’s too early to say when the decision will be made. The given is that we are so small in terms of the Air Force’s overall budget that we have to partner with the Air Force, with Air Mobility Command, with Air Combat Command and find out where those efficiencies are. We’re constantly in dialogue and seeking ways to leverage “OPS” — other people’s stuff.

Q Which is more likely: a common platform or two different planes?
A In my heart of hearts right now, I think there’s money to be gained combining the two.

Q Has anything come of your command’s research into using a lighter cargo aircraft instead of the MC-130?
A We’re keeping our ear to the ground on the Joint Cargo Aircraft. It’s got great promise for us. It fits a niche that we know we have in a nonstandard squadron of airplanes that you would have a small single-engine airplane, a medium turboprop airplane and then a little larger turboprop, not C-130 size. So you would have three smaller airplanes where you could get into shorter runways, smaller teams, smaller footprint, if you will — all of those things.

Q What plane would work best for you, and how many would you need?
A If you look at it in terms of the utility in training other air forces, you may not want a one-size-fits-all-airplane. In Africa, you may want an airplane that fits into the African scenario. In Indonesia, the Philippines, it may not be the same airplane. We like them all.
As we’re looking across the spectrum, we know we would want to have a handful of them — and I don’t know what a handful is — for each geographical combatant area. So count them up on your fingers when you get a definition of a handful and that would be your answer, but right now, we don’t know. It depends on what airplane is selected. But we would want to add on to the Air Force order.

Source: http://www.c4isrjournal.com/— Gayle Putrich

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