PENTAGON: F-22s are finally on their way to Europe as an answer to the increasingly grumpy Russian bear, two months after Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James first announced at the Paris Air Show they might head there.
If you telescope back a bit, it becomes clear this deployment may well have a wider strategic importance. It places F-22s on both flanks of Russia, to the north and to the south of Ukraine. It also places F-22s on both flanks of Iran, in Europe and in the Middle East. F-22s headed to the Middle East almost a year ago and have been operating to high praise from US military and independent observers.
James first mentioned the likely deployment of some of the 187 F-22s on June 15 at the air show. At the time, she said she could “easily see the day soon” when the F-22 might rotate in to Europe to help bolster NATO defense against Russia. James would not disclose how many F-22s are heading to Europe, exactly when they would arrive nor where they would be based.
At the first joint appearance in seven months of James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, I asked the general whether he could see Intelligence Community officials commanding military satellites in the event of an attack. “I personally don’t see that happening,” Welsh said, appearing to send a clear signal to the White House that the Air Force would not support sharing command of satellites in the event of war.
Welsh insisted that a “discussion” — not a debate — was underway among the White House, National Security Council, Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, Air Force Secretary, Strategic Command and Space Command. He confirmed what Breaking Defense has reported about the debate. “All the pieces are there. We just need to make sure the authorities are clear, and that’s the difficult part,” he admitted.
Since an attack on our most sophisticated spy satellites would almost certainly be among the first sign of war it is crucial that any response be coordinated between the military and the Intelligence Community. To ensure everyone actually knows what is happening — regardless of who tells whom what do to — the IC and DoD are building an integrated command center where all US military and intelligence satellites and their status would be visible and controllable.
James broke in at the end of Welsh’s answer to note that everyone sought “unity of effort.” That, of course, is the trick, as Work said in his classified speech at this year’s Space Symposium:
“To maintain our military dominance we must consider all space assets, both classified and unclassified, as part of a single constellation (emphasis added). And if an adversary tries to deny us the capability, we must be able to respond in an integrated, coordinated fashion.”