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Document created: 1 September 06
Air & Space Power Journal - Fall 2006

Filling the Stealth Gap and Enhancing
Global Strike Task Force Operations

Maj Collin T. Ireton, USAF*

Editorial Abstract: Recent US government planning and budgeting decisions have forecast the rapid drawdown and phaseout of the F-117 Nighthawk aircraft. The author refutes opposing arguments that the new F-22A will fill the gap caused by the loss of the F-117. He contends instead that the F-22A phase-in will be too slow and that its weapons suite (also used by the B-2 Spirit fleet) will prove insufficient to perform the critical roles the F-117 currently executes with distinction.

SURPRISE, GAINED THROUGH stealth, has long been recognized as a key to success in warfare. Its early application to aerial operations was inevitable: the Austro-Hungarian air force made a stab at it in 1912 with a celluloid-covered Taube that was reportedly invisible at an altitude of 900–1,200 feet. Similar aircraft first saw combat with the Luftwaffe in 1916, but poor response to weather and combat damage, as well as large variations in detection range based on lighting conditions, conspired to cripple a promising idea. The concept was shortly resurrected as radar technology matured and was linked to shooter systems. Still, the nascent technology allowed only moderately reduced signatures via shape blending and the use of radar-absorbent materials. Early low observable (LO) drones and aircraft such as the A-12 (and later the SR-71) still needed to rely on speed, overflight, and electronic countermeasures to ensure survivability. Later, ground-breaking research by German and Soviet physicists Arnold Sommerfeld and Pyotr Ufimtsev, respectively, greatly advanced the science by enhancing the understanding of radar’s reaction to simple shapes. However, American practicality embodied in Bill Schroeder’s finite, two-dimensionally surfaced aircraft models and Denys Overholser’s computer simulations was required to allow Lockheed to design the first aircraft completely reliant on stealth.1 By early 1983, the world’s first modern LO aircraft—the F-117A Nighthawk—was ready for war.2

Since then, LO technology has shown its worth a number of times. Although important to the air campaign in Operation Iraqi Freedom, it proved decisive in theaters with robust Integrated Air Defense Systems (IADS), as demonstrated in Operations Desert Storm and Allied Force. However, the battlefield continues to become more dangerous with the steady proliferation of highly lethal surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and the linking of highly capable radar systems via expansive, often automated, communication systems to ensure the sharing of target information across the shooter network. Of particular concern are China and Iran, potential adversaries interested in aggressively upgrading their defensive systems.

Recognizing these emerging threats and the inherent merit of LO technology, the Air Force made a significant investment in the B-2 Spirit bomber. When the Spirit became operational in 1997, it joined a tiny pool of limited-production strike assets dedicated to penetrating an IADS rather than beating it back. Today, the bulk of the LO force consists of about 50 F-117As and 21 B-2s, buttressed by an emerging F-22 fleet. Program Budget Decision (PBD) 720, however, demands the retirement of 10 Nighthawks in fiscal year (FY) 2007 and the remainder of them in FY 2008.3 If PBD 720 becomes law, the majority of the Air Force’s LO strike force would exit the field, leaving only a small group of aircraft for missions requiring surprise through stealth. Cutting 50 of the country’s dedicated LO strike assets while it faces potentially hostile, well-armed nations is risky—and may have profound effects. If confronted with a mature and aggressive IADS, the Air Force may discover that it has compromised combat capability by allowing a stealth gap to develop. Potentially, the United States may find itself unable to enforce its will in areas of vital interest.

Even though the service has embraced LO technology and plans to field a host of follow-on stealthy combat aircraft, nearly a decade will pass before they can replace the venerable, proven Nighthawk. Even when this new generation of aircraft reaches the front lines, many of their capabilities won’t match those currently resident in the F-117. Furthermore, the Nighthawk’s unique capabilities can help enable the Global Strike Task Force (GSTF) concept. This article contends that a stealth gap exists and that the F-117 could fill it. It also demonstrates how minimal fiscal outlays on F-117 upgrades could not only help address this problem but also support the goal of implementing the GSTF concept.

Current and Future Capabilities

Like chaff, electronic countermeasures, improved maneuverability, or expansive flight envelopes, stealth technology is just another tool that allows an aircraft to survive its approach to and egress from a target. Other methods achieve the same outcome, but all benefit from stealth. Rather than treating stealth as a strap-on package, one must give it consideration during every step of aircraft development. By all accounts, the F-15E is a superb aircraft, but no modification can make it stealthy; rather, one needs an entirely new design. This fact has spawned the next generation of LO aircraft and weapons, including the F-22, F-35, and AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) to complement our tiny arsenal of B-2s and F-117s.

Each of these systems has strengths as well as weaknesses that affect its ability to close the looming stealth gap. The F-22 is optimized for air-to-air combat but will have the ability to employ the GBU-32 (a 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition [JDAM]) and GBU-39 small-diameter bomb (SDB).4 Classified as a near-precision weapon, the JDAM can achieve a circular error probable (CEP) slightly in excess of two meters (disregarding target location error [TLE], a factor associated with the uncertainty of actual target location).5 Because of the JDAM’s predominantly “launch and leave” employment, without coordinate refinement before release, the TLE (which can exceed seven meters) is large enough to exclude it as a true precision weapon.6 In fact, all weapons aided by the global positioning system (GPS) (including the SDB) and dropped from a platform without some method of correction for TLE have the same problem. The initial version of the SDB, with its 12-channel GPS guidance package combined with the GPS Accuracy Improvement Initiative and improved TLE, can attain a CEP of only five to eight meters.7 This level of accuracy renders the SDB (with a warhead containing just 50 pounds of explosive) suitable for only a limited target set. At some time, the F-22 may overcome this limitation with high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mapping that will allow prerelease coordinate refinement—or with a later version of the SDB projected to incorporate a terminal seeker and target--recognition software. Until then, the F-22 remains incapable of delivering precision weapons.

Nor will the F-22 be able to destroy many hardened or buried targets. The GBU-32 uses a 1,000-pound Mk-83 general-purpose warhead—not a dedicated, case-hardened penetrator such as the BLU-110. Furthermore, although the SDB reportedly has good penetration capability, its ability to destroy anything other than small or soft targets with its diminutive warhead is suspect.

Perhaps the F-22’s greatest disadvantage is that it won’t be available in large numbers for some time. Although the aircraft officially became operational in December 2005, the paucity of assets ensures its primary use in the air-to-air mission, with only a modest bomb-dropping role during conflicts in the near future.8 Annual production numbers vary from source to source—and from budget decision to budget decision—but will likely stay in the neighborhood of 36 aircraft per year. The president’s budget submission for FY 2005 allowed for an end state of 276 aircraft; however, an internal Department of Defense PBD of 2004 recommends an end state of 183, and PBD 720 suggests the same number.9 In the end, the roughly 180 aircraft that we could possibly procure by 2010 will add only modestly to the United States’ stealthy strike capability.

The most substantial addition to this capability might well come from the F-35, which, unlike the F-22, can drop a variety of GPS-aided weapons as well as laser-guided bombs and comes equipped with an electro-optical targeting system.10 This system will allow guidance of these bombs for true precision-delivery capability. Aircraft can attack hardened targets with either the GBU-31 equipped with the BLU-109 penetrator-bomb body or the venerable GBU-10 similarly equipped. Like the F-22, however, the F-35 will not be available for a number of years. The first flight of the production model is slated for late 2006 with an initial operational date of 2013.11 But in light of recent acquisition-program delays with -similar manned systems, this date seems optimistic. More than likely, the F-35 will not join the existing stealth strike force in large numbers for another decade—possibly even later.

The AGM-158 JASSM—an autonomous, stealthy, and precise air-launched strike asset available today—could help legacy aircraft bridge the stealth gap. The system’s GPS-aided inertial navigation is augmented by a terminal infrared seeker that reportedly can drive a TLE-inclusive CEP to the three-meter level, thus attaining true precision. Absence of the terminal seeker reduces accuracy to about 13 meters.12 The weapon can purportedly deliver its 1,000-pound-class unitary warhead—with penetration capabilities close to those of the BLU-109—approximately 200 nautical miles (nm).13

Already operational on the B-52 and B-2—and soon to be operational on the B-1, F-16, and F/A-18E/F—the JASSM will help shrink the stealth gap. However, it too has limitations. For a standoff weapon, it enjoys exceptional range, though still inadequate to reach targets deep within an enemy IADS. The threat systems resident in the IADS will dictate the release location of the weapons. One can easily imagine a theater where legacy aircraft have to deliver ordnance 50–100 nm from the edge of the IADS, which will limit the weapons to targets within the barrier SAM ring or just beyond. Additionally, the JASSM currently carries only a penetrator warhead—not a suitable choice for all targets. The AGM-158’s limited range and inability to produce desired effects against all targets keep it from providing a final remedy to the stealth gap.

The B-2, on the other hand, goes a long way toward doing so. The aircraft certainly has the range and LO features to strike nearly anywhere. Its SAR provides excellent range and range-rate information that, when combined with GPS position and velocity data, can reduce TLE. One could then send this information to weapons such as the GBU-36 and GBU-37 GPS-aided munitions to destroy a variety of targets. A near-precision weapon consisting of a guidance tail kit mounted to an Mk-84 bomb body, the GBU-36 will likely be replaced by the standard GBU-31 JDAM. The GBU-37 has a similar tail kit but mounts to the 4,500-pound BLU-113 penetrator, giving the B-2 a deep-penetration capability to complement its more-conventional weaponry. Although neither weapon is precise, the B-2’s ability to minimize TLE allows these munitions to approach true precision.14

Unfortunately, the limited number of B-2s and their periodic nonavailability due to scheduled and nonscheduled maintenance adversely affect the Air Force’s ability to use them to destroy large numbers of targets quickly and decisively. Indeed, only 16 of these bombers are combat coded, and those aircraft have a mission-capable rate of just 30.5 percent.15 Often, however, an aircraft in need of minor repair may still prove suitable for combat—but not against a robust IADS, which would require fully combat-capable aircraft.

The remainder of the current LO strike force consists of the 50 F-117s, which, like other aircraft, have strengths and weaknesses. This single-seat attack aircraft has less range than a true bomber but more than most tactical fighters, enabling it to perform deep-strike missions. Based on this author’s observations, mission-capable rates compare favorably to those of other fighters (around 80 percent), ensuring the availability of a suitable force. An infrared targeting system with a laser designator drives TLE to zero. The F-117’s two bomb bays have internal storage for a variety of weapons, including Paveway II and III laser-guided bombs, unguided cluster-bomb units, and the inertially guided and GPS-aided enhanced GBU-27, which can also guide to a laser spot. JDAM capability will be incorporated by the end of the year; however, funds for the integration of wind-corrected munitions--dispenser integration have already been absorbed by PBD 720. This flexibility in weaponry allows the jet to attack a host of targets: buildings, bridges, and area targets, as well as deeply buried, hardened targets. In fact, its ability to destroy hardened targets is unparalleled. By using two GBU-27 Paveway III precision weapons in an optimized delivery, the system can penetrate deeper than even the B-2’s near-precision GBU-37.16 Additionally, the enhanced GBU-27 (which doesn’t require laser guidance) gives the Nighthawk an all-weather, deep-penetration, hard-target defeat capability.

As an added benefit, all these weapons can be brought to bear with minimal or no help from the GPS. Although this system has proven itself reliable and extraordinarily valuable to the US war machine, which has incorporated it into every new weapon, overreliance on any strength can create both a weakness and an opportunity for an adversary. Plans for GPS jammers clog the Internet, for example, and at least one Russian firm (Aviaconversia) currently markets a portable GPS jammer of unknown effectiveness. But more credible and serious threats to the GPS may exist: “Nations or groups hostile to the U.S. possess or can acquire the means to disrupt or destroy U.S. space systems by attacking the satellites in space, their communication nodes on the ground and in space, or ground nodes that command the satellites.”17 Even a partially disabled GPS would degrade or conceivably nullify all B-2 and F-22 munitions. The F-117, though, would still find and destroy its targets—whether buried and hardened or tiny and hidden—and do so with just the right weapon for the desired effect.

The aircraft’s maturity offers yet another advantage. Having flown over 1,600 combat missions since 1989, the F-117 has demonstrated its effectiveness, lethality, and survivability. Its tactics are established, and its capabilities well understood. The aircraft stands by to fill a critical role for the Air Force, forming (along with the B-2) a thin line that comprises our nation’s LO strike capability. This force will fill the gap until such time that other dedicated, stealthy strike platforms become available and mature enough to face a sophisticated IADS.

Any member of a supposedly antiquated weapon-system community knows about the scarcity of resources and plans for sustainment as well as the acquisition of new capabilities. Although funds for sustaining the F-117 haven’t dried up (several airframe improvements are under way, assuring integrity for the foreseeable future), plans and money for new weapons and capabilities are rapidly fading. This situation points to the crux of the problem: eliminating the F-117 and depriving it of upgrades will deny us the robust LO strike force we need to overcome today’s and tomorrow’s stealth gap. The Nighthawk’s unique and worthwhile advantages have enabled it to devastate our enemies. The fact that we have not replicated these capabilities in the new LO generation of aircraft guarantees not only a stealth gap but also a strike-capabilities gap—not an appealing prospect for the future.

Global Strike Task Force

In 2001 Gen John Jumper, then the Air Force chief of staff, outlined the GSTF concept and his vision of the service’s kick-down-the-door force, making the point that “the concept hinges on precision weapons and stealth capabilities inherent in the B-2 and F‑22.” General Jumper identified the key technologies that will enable successful GSTF operations: precision, all-weather weapons, stealth, and supercruise. In his concept, “B-2s, enabled by F-22s and in conjunction with standoff platforms such as the B-52, will target the enemy’s antiaccess weapons, launch sites, and [command and control] . . . just as we have done with air defense networks in recent conflicts.” The F-22s will complement the B-2s’ moonless-night operations by using stealth and supersonic cruise to shrink the enemy’s threat rings and deliver air-to-ground weapons day or night.18

Technically speaking, neither the B-2 nor the F-22 can currently deliver precision weapons. Granted, the B-2’s SAR mapping capability and excellent munitions make it more than capable of performing its role, but the F-22 will remain unable to deliver precision weapons unless we fund, develop, and field an SDB version equipped with a terminal seeker. Even then, the aircraft’s diminutive warhead will restrict its ability to destroy all but a subset of existing targets. In the meantime, the F-22 can engage only a narrow array of targets compatible with the GBU-39 and the GBU-32, thus essentially eliminating any target requiring penetration and substantial blast, buried and hardened targets, and area targets. The tiny B-2 fleet will have to handle anything else.

Consider, for a moment, the F-117 in this role. Having explored daytime operations, the Nighthawk has already completed a host of tests involving new tactics and a daytime-compatible paint scheme.19 The aircraft cannot supercruise, but just as sophisticated electronic countermeasures and enhanced tactics replaced early performance-based threat-avoidance techniques, so can the Nighthawk offset its moderate performance with advanced mission simulation and planning. Autorouting software creates minimum-risk routing and links it to an accurate autopilot, allowing the jet to worm deeply into IADS-protected territory. Linking the F-117’s ability to shrink threat envelopes intelligently with its larger payload of more diverse ordnance (mostly true precision weapons) produces a useful addition to the GSTF.

Enhancing the Nighthawk’s GSTF contribution even further would require incorporating a second facet of General Jumper’s GSTF vision. Specifically, this involves “horizontally integrated command, control, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C2ISR),” in which a host of space assets, unmanned aerial vehicles, and wide-body platforms collects and disseminates information on the order of battle. We would then run this information through predictive-analysis tools to develop predictive battlespace awareness (PBA) with the goal of not only gaining a detailed understanding of the current battlespace but also predicting how it will change with respect to threats and targets: “Machine-level coordination with space-based platforms will fill gaps in the airborne platforms’ coverage.”20 A couple of technological enhancements to the Nighthawk can leverage data available in the PBA concept to enhance the aircraft’s value in upcoming conflicts. Now is the time to adapt the Nighthawk to ensure that it fits future war-fighting concepts. To fill the current stealth gap and enhance the long-term GSTF concept, we should retain the F-117.

What the F-117 Needs

In order to access data resident in the C2ISR network, the F-117 must have a data gateway—a data link. The architecture of the system is unimportant as long as it allows reception—and perhaps minimal input to the network. By leveraging threat and target information collected by ISR assets, the Nighthawk can increase its lethality and use its own predictive tools to enhance survivability. This capability represents a step beyond “real time in the cockpit” by providing imagery and text for targeting as well as route and threat information.

Before this can happen, the Nighthawk requires airborne access to planning resources resident in the existing F-117 mission-planning system. To minimize threat exposure, the aircraft presently uses computer-calculated routing (autorouting)—a ground-based system that utilizes threat data available before launch.21 Thus, in certain cases, the information used to plan the mission could be outdated; ideally, of course, routing data would draw on real-time threat information. If an airborne autorouter (threat data from the C2ISR network accessed via the aforementioned data-link gateway) were incorporated into the Nighthawk, the jet could worm its way through enemy defenses intelligently, based on current threat information. Alternatively, routing data could be generated on the ground, with information from the C2ISR network, and passed via the data-link gateway to an airborne force of F-117s. Though timely, the airborne version would likely offer only a simplified solution that might not wholly account for the routing of other aircraft. The ground-based version would take advantage of larger processors, dedicated mission planners, and knowledge of multiple, conflicting routes. In either case, airborne access to autoroute planning would greatly enhance advanced IADS penetration.

This approach differs fundamentally from the supersonic, high-altitude penetration solution offered by the F-22—but it is no less valid. Potentially, in fact, it offers more flexibility since threat avoidance through autorouting remains valid at both high and low altitude. Long-distance, supersonic flight becomes realistic only at high altitude, and, as General Jumper correctly stipulated, we need both high-altitude and supersonic flight to shrink late-technology SAM envelopes. Intelligently worming by means of a precalculated route at low altitude enables the Nighthawk to capitalize on direct as well as indirect terrain masking. Stealth, intelligent routing, and medium- or low-altitude operations will permit the F-117 to penetrate an advanced IADS during the gap years and beyond.

Breaching the IADS is only the most obvious advantage, however. According to General Jumper’s concept of PBA, time-sensitive targeting gains new dimensions. We will use reachback to complete PBA for targeting various aspects of the enemy’s ability to wage war. In the general’s vision, “targeting will entail more than a target name, a black-and-white photograph, and mensurated coordinates. Desired mean point of impact . . . analysis of second- and third-order effects, [rules of engagement] target confirmation, and collateral-damage assessment will be part of a process completed and transmitted” to attack aircraft (such as the F-117) equipped with an appropriate data gateway.22

With these two simple, technology-based upgrades, the Nighthawk would reach new heights of lethality. Armed with timely threat data and a plethora of laser-guided and GPS-aided weapons, the F-117 could bring to bear true precision-delivery ability via proven and flexible tactics on almost any IADS. Imagine for a moment the following scenario: A force of F-117s launches to join a strike package of B-2s with F-22 escort. As they fly to a prestrike tanker, a higher-headquarters, time-sensitive target comes to light. Headquarters staff examines it, determines the rules of engagement, and conducts a collateral-damage assessment. Concurrently, F-117 mission planners choose the appropriate ordnance from the variety already airborne within the Nighthawks’ bomb bays and plan the most survivable route—low or medium altitude—consistent with the threats and desired effects. Meanwhile, national assets confirm the electronic order of battle (noting new threat locations and identifying the truly active SAM systems) and submit the data to the C2ISR network. With several new threats located and others assessed as dormant, Nighthawk mission planners replan the strikes and introduce new routes and the time-sensitive target-data package to the network. Instead of receiving a verbal update on the electronic order of battle, the pilots get new routes to their original targets. One pilot, just finishing prestrike aerial refueling, receives the time-sensitive targeting order, route, target coordinates, photos, and desired mean points of impact. The rest of the package departs to conduct the planned strike while the lone Nighthawk descends to low altitude and joins the new data-linked route to the designated high-priority target. In this example, timely, accurate data increases flexibility and drives survivability and lethality to new levels.


Possible adversaries such as China and Iran are aggressively upgrading their IADS with advanced SAMs and state-of-the-art communication systems. The Air Force’s approach to defeating such systems makes extensive use of LO technology, which has proven successful in recent operations. The current mainstay of the LO strike force consists of the service’s fleets of limited-production F-117s and B-2s—fewer than 100 combined. But PBD 720 proposes to eliminate the F-117 in the next couple of years; moreover, small numbers and low mission-capable rates compromise the highly capable B-2. Although the Air Force has embraced stealth technology and plans a host of new weapon systems to make up for these shortfalls, most remain in the developmental stage. Although operational, the F-22 will not be available in large numbers for some time; even then, the aircraft’s small, inflexible air-to-ground weaponry impedes it. Similarly, the JASSM’s range and unitary warhead limits its target set. As a whole, the systems in development are excellent long-range solutions to the present stealth gap.

But the possibility of confronting an aggressive and well-armed adversary in the short term, combined with the imminent demise of the F-117, will create a stealth gap and hamper US power projection. The Nighthawk’s excellent LO characteristics, good range, GPS independence, diverse weapons with a surfeit of available target-based effects, bunker-busting ability, and true precision capabilities are unmatched in either the current or future inventory. Instead of retiring the F-117, the Air Force would do well to consider the advantages of incorporating it into the developing GSTF concept for the long term. The jet not only lends required weapons and target flexibility currently unavailable in General Jumper’s vision but also promises unsurpassed flexibility. With just a couple of current-technology upgrades, the Nighthawk could leverage the envisioned GSTF C2ISR network to enable airborne time-sensitive targeting and enhanced IADS penetration. Because any serious approach to the GSTF concept demands utilization of the Nighthawk’s unique, worthwhile capabilities, we should plan for this event, defer PBD 720’s proposed retirement of the Nighthawk, and upgrade the F-117 to fill the stealth gap.

*Special thanks to Mr. Steven Chisler of the 40th Flight Test Squadron, Eglin AFB, Florida, for providing much of the source material.

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1. Curtis Peebles, Dark Eagles: A History of Top Secret U.S. Aircraft Programs (Novato CA: Presidio Press, 1995), 136–67.

2. Briefing, Diana Filliman, Washington, DC, subject: F-117 Sustainment: Performance-Based Logistics, 15 November 2005.

3. Pamela Hess, “Air Force Cuts F-117, B-52, Adds F‑22s,” 11 January 2006, National Guard Association of the United States, http://www.ngaus.org/ngaus/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000000821/UPI%20Reports%20PBD%20720%20Air%20Force%20Cuts.pdf#search=’pbd%20720%20f117.

4. “F-22A Raptor Advanced Tactical Fighter Aircraft US Air Force, USA,” Airforce-technology.com, http://www.air force-technology.com/projects/f22 (accessed 23 November 2005).

5. Briefing, Rick Hyde, Washington, DC, subject: JDAM, 15 November 2005.

6. Dr. Cerrato, chief JDAM engineer, conversation with the author.

7. “Small Diameter Bomb / Small Smart Bomb,” Global Security.org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/sdb.htm (accessed 26 November 2005).

8. “AF Officials Declare F-22A Operational,” Sunburst 48, no. 50 (16 December 2005): 8, http://www.holloman .af.mil/sunburst/2005/12December/December16web.pdf.

9. Christopher Bolkcom, F/A-22 Raptor, CRS Report for Congress RL31673 (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, Congressional Research Service, 3 March 2005), 2–7, http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL31673.pdf; and Hess, “Air Force Cuts.”

10. “JSF (F35) Joint Strike Fighter, International,” -Airforce-technology.com, http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/jsf (accessed 25 November 2005).

11. Ibid.; and Robert Wall, “F-35 In-Service Dates Slide,” Aviation Week and Space Technology, 13 June 2004, http://www.aviationnow.com/avnow/search/autosuggest.jsp?docid=366670&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.aviationnow.com%2Favnow%2Fnews%2Fchannel_awst_story.jsp%3Fview%3Dstory%26id%3Dnews%2F06144wna.xml.

12. “JASSM Launch & Leave: Subsonic Cruise Missile Design” (Eglin AFB, FL: Air Force Armament Team News Connection, 1999), http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/docs/990000-jassm.htm (accessed 27 November 2005).

13. “Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM),” Defense Update, 6 November 2005, http://www.defense ‑update.com/products/j/jassm.htm (accessed 27 November 2005).

14. “Global Positioning System Aided Munition (GAM) [GBU-36/B & GBU-37/B],” Federation of American Scientists: Military Analysis Network, 26 December 1998, http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/gam.htm (accessed 1 December 2005).

15. Adam J. Hebert, “Long-Range Strike in a Hurry,” Air Force Magazine 87, no. 11 (November 2004): 30, http://www.afa.org/magazine/nov2004/1104strike.pdf; and Bruce Rolfsen, “Battling Wear and Tear,” Air Force Times, 26 December 2005, 18.

16. Maj Hobart Alford, chief of weapons, 9th Fighter Squadron, conversation with the author.

17. Tom Wilson, Threats to United States Space Capabilities [prepared for the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization], 2001, GlobalSecurity.org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/space/library/report/2001/nssmo/article05.pdf (accessed 21 February 2006).

18. Gen John P. Jumper, “Global Strike Task Force: A Transforming Concept, Forged by Experience,” Aerospace Power Journal 15, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 30–31, airchronicles/apj/apj01/spr01/jumper.pdf.

19. Laura Pellegrino, “A Nighthawk in Raptor’s Clothing,” Air Force Link, 9 December 2003, http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?StoryID=123006171 (accessed 5 December 2005).

20. Jumper, “Global Strike Task Force,” 29–30.

21. Federation of American Scientists, “Air Force Mission Support System (AFMSS),” 9 January 1999, http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/equip/afmss.htm (accessed 6 December 2005).

22. Jumper, “Global Strike Task Force,” 30–31.


Maj Collin T. Ireton Maj Collin T. Ireton (USAFA; MS, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University) is an experimental flight-test pilot with the 410th Flight Test Squadron in Palmdale, California. Previously, he flew F-117s operationally and served as an assistant director of operations for the 9th Fighter Squadron at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. Major Ireton also served as an experimental flight-test pilot in the A-10 and F‑16 aircraft and as the developmental flight-test flight commander for the A-10. He spent two overseas tours as an operational F‑16 pilot and has amassed over 2,500 hours in 28 different types of aircraft. Major Ireton is a graduate of Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, and the USAF Test Pilot School.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University

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