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Air Force takes combat air acquisitions priorities to Hill

Over Fort Worth, Texas, an F-35 Lightning II test aircraft AA-1 undergoes a flight check. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

Over Fort Worth, Texas, an F-35 Lightning II test aircraft undergoes a flight check. The F-35 is among the services' top combat air acquisition priorities briefed to the House Appropriations Committee March 25. (Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- As airpower takes on an increasingly critical role in the joint fight, Air Force and Navy officials testified before the House Appropriations Committee March 25 here to outline the services' top combat air acquisition priorities. 

Lt. Gen. Mark D. "Shack" Shackelford, the acquisition deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force, and Navy Vice Adm. David Artchitzel, the principal deputy for research, development and acquisition, discussed the futures of their respective services' fighter and bomber fleets. 

General Shackelford compared and contrasted the two fifth generation fighters, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lightning II. Each model possesses unique complementary and essential capabilities that together provide the necessary speed, stealth and maneuverability to maintain superiority across the spectrum of conflict, he added. 

"F-22s from today's production line will be equipped with upgraded radar for enhanced ground mapping capability, while the F-35, through the Cooperative Avionics Test Bed, provides unprecedented risk reduction in a major weapon system not seen in any legacy program," the general said. 

F-22s can find, fix, track and target enemy air and surface-based threats, ensuring air dominance for all joint forces. General Shackelford said the F-22s are in year six of a 13-year planned two-part modernization. 

The general continued that the F-35 was designed from the bottom up to be the Air Force's premiere surface-to-air-missile killer and is "uniquely equipped for the mission with its cutting edge processing power, synthetic aperture radar integration techniques and advance target recognition." 

Using "smart" Joint Direct Attack Munitions and eight small-diameter bombs, the aircraft will have the capacity to find and fire upon still and moving ground targets. The system can also convey data to the pilot's helmet visor to facilitate target detection. 

"This is the timeless paradox of deterrence," General Shackelford said. "The best way to avoid war is to show your enemies, and potential enemies, that you have the ability, the will, and the resolve to defeat them." 

General Shackelford said B-1B Lancers' new technology provides the joint force commander massive firepower potential coupled with a significant loiter capability well-suited for the inconsistent tempo of today's ongoing operations. 

The general said most models will feature enhanced air-to-ground communications, critical for a combatant commander's multifaceted air dominance strategies. 

"We realized the B-1B's potential by integrating the Advanced Targeting Pod to the platform's sensor suite," the general said. "This allows combatant commanders to deliver urgent and immediate combat capability." 

In 2007, the Air Force and corporate partners responded to the Air Force Central Command's urgent operational needs with a full complement of Sniper-equipped B-1B bombers to support operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Prior to that, the B-1B modification incorporated a series of color multifunction displays that show an array of fused data at all crew stations. 

"We are building a 21st century Air Force -- prepared to succeed -- strategically, operationally and tactically," General Shackelford said. "Our highly capable and lethal aviation programs provide global vigilance, reach and power, critical both today and for the future of the joint force." 

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