Monday, October 5, 2009

PACAF Concludes 2nd Pacific Vision Exercise

Defense News


PACAF Concludes 2nd Pacific Vision Exercise

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI — The second of the Pacific Vision (PV-2) exercises, described as “seminar-style war games,” focused on roles and missions and was intended to spark strategic debate on the challenges U.S. forces may encounter in the Pacific theater.

The three-day operation, ending Oct. 31, involved U.S. Air Force and Navy integration based on an air and sea battle “operational concept with long-range conventional threats to surface ships and land bases,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Thomas, director of Public Affairs, Pacific Air Forces.

Pacific Vision is a new U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) war-gaming exercise series providing “indepth analysis of PACAF’s strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement to meet future challenges,” said Thomas.

The exercises involved the RAND Corp., National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and Systems Planning & Analysis. PV-1, held Aug. 18­22, looked at a 2016 scenario using current air assets and those expected to be in place at that time. Thomas emphasized this was “not a procurement exercise,” but instead was based on what PACAF currently has and what is “in the pipeline for the near future.”

Control variables were in place with one team comprising “aggressive space/intel representatives” while the other was more “traditional air operations.”

PV-2 was different from PV-1 “in that it was focused more on roles and missions and was intended to drive strategic-level discussions. It was more of a seminar discussion format rather than force-on-force approach,” said Thomas. The PV war games have been such a success PACAF plans to continue them, with the next scheduled for May. Though no specific country is mentioned as a potential adversary, China and North Korea are discussed in a PV press release.

“While the China-Taiwan relationship is going well, the U.S. is facing stalled talks with North Korea, transnational terrorism, and the improving military capabilities around the Pacific Rim,” said the release.

The release said the overall U.S.-China relationship has been improving, as were military­to-military relations. “Exchanges reduce misunderstanding and help avoid miscalculation. As well, visits provide opportunity to enhance cooperation between militaries, foster mutual understanding and further develop lines of communication.”

The release did not mention the recent damage to military-to-military relations between China and the United States after the release of a $6.4 billion arms package to Taiwan.

PV has helped determine future requirements. According to the press release, the U.S. military needs greater intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, citing the placement of Global Hawks in Guam in 2009, more investment in base hardening, citing NATO during the Cold War, and continued investment in relationships with nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The ‘Strategic Triangle’ of Alaska-Hawaii­Guam is critical, but we can’t just rely on our existing bases,” the release said.

Additional requirements include adequate electronic warfare capability, and reduced dependence on and vulnerability of satellites. China demonstrated its growing anti-satellite capability in January 2007 when it shot down a weather satellite.

Much of the credit for PV’s success is given to Gen. Carrol “Howie” Chandler, PACAF commander, who assumed command in November 2007.

“Pacific Vision is a very important analytical program that shows the fresh dose of leadership and vision that Gen. Chandler brings to the job,” said Tom Ehrhard, senior defense analyst at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & Budgetary Assessments.

Regarding the recommendations, Ehrhard said these are “common-sense initiatives” and long overdue.

“PACAF has not been an influential player in PACOM due to long-standing Navy dominance. They also have not gained much traction on the Air Staff due to the Air Force’s long-standing lack of attention to the Pacific. B-52s were stationed in Guam against Air Force [Air Staff and ACC] objections, for example,” said Ehrhard.

The Pacific is becoming a more “contested region that requires greater Air Force-Navy cooperation, and certainly a greater land-based air­power presence in order to retain crisis stability and deterrence,” he said. “We want to look at all avenues to ensure we do not present an attractive target to any adversary,” said Thomas.

“In my view, Pacific Vision represents a very important departure from what has been Air Force sleep-walking in the Pacific,” Ehrhard said.