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PACAF commander describes command’s focus at AFA Symposium

  • Published
  • By Capt Candice Dillitte
  • Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Pacific Air Forces commander, provided an AOR update and highlighted PACAF’s evolving focus during a media roundtable at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, March 2, 2017.

According to O’Shaughnessy, the Pacific theater has changed dramatically in 2016 and the rate of change continues to accelerate in 2017. With increasing adversary capability, capacity and assertiveness, PACAF shifted to being first and foremost a warfighting command who’s Airmen must be postured and prepared to fight on a moment’s notice.

“As we look at this theater, we find our indications and warnings,” O’Shaughnessy said. “Whereas before we might have had a long period of time where we could start to see things happen, because of the operational environment, our indications and warnings may not always give us the time as we have been allotted in the past. As a result, it puts even more emphasis on the importance of the forward deployed force being ready.”

O’Shaughnessy discussed how regional security throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is directly tied to an international rules based order.

“If you think about the region as a whole, there’s some amazing success stories of nations that have risen and had great prosperity,” he said. “When we look back, we see the success of this region resulting from stability and freedom of navigation. As we look forward, we must make sure that we are postured to ensure that this freedom is never hindered.”

According to the general, being a warfighting command provides credible assurance for our allies and partners, which are critically important in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. Additionally, that credible warfighting capability and joint military options relies on air superiority.

The general highlighted the importance of the command driving change and developing innovative new ways to ensure U.S. Pacific Command’s air component is read to respond.

“We’re rethinking the way we are going to fight,” said O’Shaughnessy. “We’re changing the way our Airmen are thinking, making sure they are ready to fight at moment’s notice, and we’re changing our operational concepts.”

The general went on to describe the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept of operations, a key effort in expanding PACAF’s combat capability.

“ACE uses operational maneuver, adaptive basing, assured command and control (C2), protection of the fielded force, and it puts it all together to ensure the ability to seize, retain, and exploit the initiatives to meet the objectives of the Joint Force Commander,” he said.

For example, the general described how a small cadre of F-22A Raptors would deploy with a C-17A Globemaster III providing self-contained C2, mission planning, maintenance, munitions, fuel and logistics support. This team would be capable of rapidly moving through the region, coordinating missions with Air Operations Centers literally on the fly and offering the Raptors a mobile “pit stop” wherever needed. Ultimately, ACE ensures survivability in a contested environment and enables U.S. Airmen to fight from a position of advantage.

“These [concepts] aren’t things we’re just talking about,” he said. “They’re things we are practicing and making sure we have the ability to operate in an environment that might be contested.”

O’Shaughnessy also discussed the importance of bringing the F-35 Lightning II to the Pacific theater and PACAF leading fifth-generation fighter integration in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

 “We’re excited about bringing the F-35 to the Pacific,” he said. “One of the things that the F-35 brings is that it’s not just the airframe, but a fusion center of all of the information it senses and can distribute to friendly forces.”

“In about two weeks, Headquarters PACAF will host a joint and combined symposium,” O’Shaughnessy said. “We’re bringing in our joint friends like the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Marines, as well as our allies and partners. We’re bringing in Australia, Japan and Korea to discuss how we can best interoperate.”

With more than a decade of experience operating fifth generation aircraft, specifically the F-22, PACAF is uniquely qualified to share knowledge with joint and combined partners who are or will soon fly the F-35.

 “I think it’s important that we send the very best that we have to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” he said. “We understand the advances that our potential adversaries are making and we understand that we need to maintain a competitive advantage. We never want to fear a fight. We always want to overwhelm and I think the F-35 is a critical part of maintaining that competitive advantage.”