National strategy is the art and science of development and usage of informational, diplomatic and economic powers of a country in union with its armed forces for purposes of securing national objectives during war and peace times. National strategies are a key delivery mechanism for several new and existing nations. It was first introduced in the year 1998 with the aim of assisting in developing educational settings to improve the standards and life expectancy of children. Troops in the Air Force have today become experienced exceptional at applying space, air and cyber powers to achieve operational and tactical objectives (Bush, 2002). The Air Force plays a big role in national security. Some of the critical capabilities that determines what the Air Force is able to provide for a nation include: action freedom in air, space and cyberspace; power projection; air diplomacy; global situational awareness; and military support to civil authorities. The above mentioned capabilities are divided into three parts; one that defines it, one that develops a national strategy vision and one that describes its shocks – highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each capability (Gates, 2009).

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Certain recommendations have been made to help the Air Force achieve national strategic vision. The Air Force has strong ties to technological developments. Therefore, failure to anticipate the future proves more detrimental than inaccurate predictions. The technological advancements between now and vision 2030 can cause the Air Force to develop gradually from air, space and cyber force to cyber, space and air force (Bush, 2002).

Air Force Capabilities

Capabilities of the Air Force involves the study of its potential and what the nation requires of it by 2030. A scenario-planning approach has been used to describe the national strategic challenges that some of the most powerful countries in the world are likely to face while approaching 2030. Defending a nation’s interests can double the physical distance the Air Force needs to fly to reach a particular region. Therefore, new approaches and innovative ideas become a necessity. Five critical capabilities are derived from the analysis of the current Air Force – power projection; action freedom in air, space and cyberspace; air diplomacy; global situational awareness; and military support to civil authorities (Gates, 2009).

Power Projection

Power projection is the ability of a nation to apply its economic, political, military or informational elements of national power to effectively and rapidly deploy forces to respond to crisis to enhance regional stability. Since some countries are likely to face terrorism; humanitarian disasters; and resource, peer and small-scale conventional conflicts in the near future, success can be critically proven only with a flexible power projection (Crane, 2000). It mostly occurs in instances where certain countries operate at greater distances from targets, hence increased demand in power projection options the Air Force provides. Air, space and cyber are key elements of power projection. Therefore, the success of a mission can be enhanced through the deployment of air, space and cyber force capabilities on a single system (Bush, 2002).

There must be visionary changes in the structure and development programs of the Air Force as it moves towards the future. The changes emphasize on the integration of space, cyber, and manned and unmanned power projection capabilities. This indicates that forces should provide proposals that fully integrate air, space and cyber capabilities. The Air Force must present operational and strategic options together with the capability to operate in environments meant to deny access to striking forces. This technique can play a major role in the success of Air Force battles (G Bush, 2009).

If the Air Force can adopt the vision as described above, success of the implementation process would be exposed to vulnerability to future shocks such as high impact or low probability, factors usually hard to predict once they occur. There are three major potential shocks that embody the concerns to the future of power projection. First, aerial refueling, nuclear deterrence and long-range strike platforms must be recapitalized. Second, changes must occur in the security, political and economic circumstances of a nation mainly due to increase in costs. Third, dramatic increase in the cost of fuel based on petroleum products and decline in the availability of fuel and thus peak oil prices are expected by 2030 (Barnett et al., 1984).

The Air Force must start to fuse air, space and cyber capabilities into existing and future systems. The service must refine a power projection capability that is flexible and adaptable to any situation. Defensive and offensive cyber capabilities must also be fused into air and space platforms to help encounter the problems projected into the future (Bush, 2002).

Freedom of Action in Air

Freedom of action in air is the degree of dominance of the air medium, allowing air, land and water force operations at a given place and time without any interference of the enemy. It also denies the enemy freedom of action. All the five capabilities are complementary to each other. Access to air, space and cyber is critical to national security. Its objective focuses on limiting access to the air domain at places and in any way that can put a nation at the mercy of its enemies (Sokolovskii et al., 1963). Air superiority has two main important roles; provides access to the air domain for forces and restricts access to adversaries.

Visionary advances in air superiority are of significance, especially in areas of human performance and autonomous systems augmentation. Augmenting human performance through increased efficiency of man power and reduced human needs can foster cost savings and improve capabilities. This especially proves useful as weapons grow increasingly complex and dependent on advanced machine/man interfaces. Improvements in man/machine interfaces enhance performance, speed, range, decision making, information processing, and sensor capabilities (Bush, 2002). On the other hand, two shocks or downside developments are likely to pose a challenge for air superiority. First, the proliferation of airborne and surface-based dews. Second, holding targets using hypersonic and maneuverable space delivery techniques poses risks. For high speed and altitude systems, surface-based dews could be an effective measure of point-defense. Reduction in purchases is recommended to help counter the projected problems (Graham, 1982).

Freedom of Action in Space

Freedom of action in space is the degree of control useful in engaging, maneuvering and employing space forces, and denying the same to adversaries. The space offers benefits of significance to the force. However, it also creates vulnerability. Some countries employ a variety of measures to assist in using space for all responsible parties in consistence with the right of self-defense to protect their space systems. It is a national priority in such countries, and thus to achieve it, the Air Force must realize space superiority. Operationally, responsive space is a concept of great importance to the force. It is defined as a means of creating a more affordable, reliable and responsive lift capable of fulfilling both the current and future requirements (Bush, 2002).

In the coming years, visionary space will no longer be a medium through which kinetic effects are delivered. However, at the end of the next decade, challenges might cause weaponization, hence altering the paradigm in existence. Denying access to countries dependent on space capability can cause degradation in the military and civil operations, and thus deterrence in other domains of the nation. In the future, the Air Force is projected to depend on making significant steps in four major areas: the service increasingly maintaining watch over space; achieving lower operation and production costs for space operations; the service expanding its partnerships to drive in cost-effectiveness; and development in technologies to improve space resilience. Improvement on the four areas can help develop a responsive space nations require (Builder, 1989).

However, space is susceptible to unpredictable shocks with striking effects. Currently, space elevator has remained a theoretical possibility whose deployment in the next two decades is unlikely. Space can help prove its sensitivity to costs, enabling nations to significantly reduce expenses incurred in putting assets into orbit. As a recommendation, the Air Force must improve the surveillance of space, mitigate vulnerability in space and guarantee access to the space domain to achieve low operational and production costs (Bush, 2002).

Freedom of Action in Cyber

Freedom of action in cyber is a global domain found in the information environment. It consists of an information network on technology infrastructures such as computer systems, internet, telecommunication networks and processors existing interdependently. Cyber has recently been acknowledged to be important to military operations. However, for several decades now, the government, the private sector and academia has made efforts to secure cyber. Even so, cyber capabilities will be harder to maintain and achieve in the near future. Therefore, the Air Force must prepare today for any future cyber threats. Cyber superiority must be attained to ensure reliability of all the information used to control decision making (Graham, 1982).

Obviously, the visionary cyber space of 2018 will dramatically differ from that of 2030. Increased changes in computing powers and focus on cyber-attacks can make cyberspace a hostile and challenging environment. In the future, cyber is anticipated to evolve into a weapon. However, due to the expanding nature of cyber technology, it is inevitable that adversaries will use the platform to make major leaps. Shocks include; decryption of encrypted data, developing penetration-proof operating system, blocking a country’s access to the internet to isolate it from the rest of the world, and implanting malware into an aircraft through its radar system. These shocks are expected to occur unexpectedly and rapidly. Operationalizing the cyber space is a recommendation to help solve the issues mentioned above (Barnett et al., 1984).

Global Situational Awareness

Global situational awareness is defined as the understanding of the tactical, operational and strategic environment gained through use of air, space, cyber, and sea and land information system. The Air Force is a major contributor to a nation’s global situational awareness (Bush, 2009). It conducts reconnaissance and analysis for making sense of information that has been turned into intelligence products. Surveillance is the persistent watch of an area while reconnaissance is the observation of a specific target. Currently, the Air Force has few visionary surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft with the capabilities of covering the distances required. In the future, space and cyber surveillance will increasingly become important as the Air Force will globalize sensor systems (Crane, 2000).

Surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities face many threats or shocks into the future; they are susceptible to large scale shock. If an adversary employs a nuclear weapon capable of producing powerful electromagnetic pulse, it would cripple the surveillance and reconnaissance system of a particular area. Therefore, it would deter critical information to both current and future military operations. It is recommended that the Air Force plans for surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to help overcome likely threats (G Bush, 2009).

Air Diplomacy

Air diplomacy is the employment of non-kinetic air power to defend national interests. It is the peaceful conduction of relations among political bodies, their principals and accredited agents. A nation conducts diplomacy to protect its citizens, propagate culture, promote economic interests, isolate adversaries, promote friendship and enhance national prestige. The forms of diplomacy fall into two categories: threat-based and incentive-based. The Air Force is uniquely trained, tasked, equipped and organized to provide strategic power projection through air, space and cyber. All the efforts are geared towards achieving air diplomacy (Bush, 2009).

In the next two decades, visionary air diplomacy will become an important aspect of the Air Force capabilities for three relatable reasons: entitlement spending will consume the federal budget; declining and stagnant defense budget will make acquiring new weapon systems more difficult; and airpower’s flexibility, speed and range will make air diplomacy an attractive option (Gates, 2009). However, the future of air diplomacy not only lacks procedure, tactics, organization, doctrines and techniques, but also the nation’s susceptibility to geo-strategic, economic and political shocks. There are two major shocks with the greatest potential effect on air diplomacy: demand for soft-power capabilities and change of power from soft to hard. Building on the foundation of existing and future strategic guidance, approaches, plans and programs related to diplomatic actions are some recommendations to overcoming the likely shocks (Gates, 2009; Bush, 2009).

Military Support to Civil Authorities

Military support to civil authorities refers to the management provided after a disaster has occurred. Increasing importance of military support to civil authorities has become evident during the analysis of various study scenarios. The scenarios are based on the proliferation of nuclear weapons, offensive cyber capabilities, and advanced technologies and strategic challenges overseas. Man-made disasters may include radiological, chemical and biological materials. The Air Force plays an important visionary role in providing air component response capabilities to threats such as proliferation of nuclear weapons, natural disasters and terrorism. The Air Force contributes to developing a domestic response mechanism that is more resilient and thus renewed focus on military support to civil authority to better serve the nation (Builder, 1989; G Bush, 2009).

In the event of a large-scale disaster, troops from the affected areas are deployed to war zones. The remaining forces are used to provide the necessary military support to civil authority. The time needed to bring in troops from other states of a nation can undermine the purpose of designating military support to civil authority as an important Air Force capability. Development of air component to national response capabilities for focus on airlift is recommended to help solve the forecasted issue (Builder, 1989).


Preparations for future challenges in the next two decades require a research plan that is multi-phased. First, a nation’s vital interests such as energy supplies, nuclear deterrence, commerce, regional stability and freedom of action in air, space, cyber and sea, must be identified. The world’s future scenario should then be analyzed; failed state, peer competitor, jihadist insurgency and resurgent power all in relation to a nation’s important interests and Air Force’s core roles. The resultant analysis can lead to synthesis of the core roles of the Air Force into the five capabilities designed to meet the 2030 national strategic challenges. The five Air Force capabilities include: power projection, freedom of action in air, space and cyber, global situational awareness, military support to civil authorities and air diplomacy (Bush, 2002; Sokolovskii, 1963).

Power projection effectiveness can be increased in the 2030 threat environment through the integration of air, space and cyber capabilities, focusing on strategic implications. Integration of these capabilities is expected to multiply in the coming years. For effective execution of the global situational awareness, the intelligence community of the Air Force must conduct surveillance and reconnaissance. Air diplomacy is the employment of power through deterrence, humanitarian assistance and power projection, taking advantage of inherent power capabilities. Even today, freedom of action in air, space and cyber encounters direct threats. The Air Force must therefore develop resilience in space and cyber systems for the creation of an effective deterrence system. Military support for civil authority is mainly focused on the management of natural and man-made disasters (Sokolovskii, 1963; Crane, 2000).

In the future, nations will rely on the Air Force to provide action freedom in air, space and cyber; air diplomacy; global situational awareness; power projection and military support for civil authority to meet strategic challenges nations are bound to face. Maintenance of these five capabilities requires ongoing investment and attention from the affected nations. Therefore, focusing on these capabilities guarantees that the Air Force makes and will continue to make a huge contribution to national security as nations move towards 2030 (Crane, 2000).


Examining the most important functions of Air Forces in each scenario, within the next decades, is necessary. The Air Force capabilities include military support to civil authorities, air diplomacy, global situational awareness and action freedom in air, space and cyber. Speed and range are the two main features that distinguishes the Air Force from other services. In the world today, globalization has led to geographic diffusion of nations’ interests, and strategic shifting of security concerns towards the role of air, space and cyber. In the growing world, speed and range have become important aspects of Air Force capabilities.

Limiting funds, manpower and service capabilities threatens the Air Force’s ability to provide distinct strategic options. The Air Force must focus on defeating adversaries as one of the most dangerous scenario. The increasing challenges and their complexity require forces to create integrated and comprehensive air, space and cyber capabilities concept. The Air Force is tied to technological advancements more than any other service. It is, therefore, important to note the trends leading to changes in security environment. With the current changes, Air Force service might evolve from air, space and cyber capabilities to cyber, space and air capability come year 2030.

Rapid changes in technological advancements require the Air Force to prepare for a future where competitors would find themselves at war, but in the space and cyber domains. By 2030, certain powerful nations will ignore all conflict potentials between them and nations with great powers. Non-state actors and rogue regimes will become the adversaries such nations will have to defeat and deter. In order to prepare for the role of Air Forces in the future, it must focus on the five capabilities discussed in this paper.




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