Air University Press

Wright Flyers

Wright Flyers are occasional papers sponsored by the Air Command and Staff College (ACSC). The ACSC prints and distributes a limited run of each paper. AU Press does not stock any titles in the Wright Flyers series and they are available in PDF only.

Wright Flyer Papers

  •  AFD-191127-914-019.PDF

    Artificial Intelligence for Command and Control of Air Power

    Maj Matthew R. Voke
    Computational power, data collection, and algorithm capabilities are increasing at an exponential rate. Artificial Intelligence (AI) advances demonstrate the ability to augment human thoughts and actions in countless areas, among which include the Command and Control (C2) of joint airpower. To triumph in future wars, the United States requires the capability to create multiple dilemmas across multiple domains at an overwhelming speed while preventing the enemy from doing the same. AI will provide the cognitive agility required to C2 forces in providing this capability overmatch. The side with an information advantage and ability to react with high-velocity decision-making will decide the outcome of future wars. This paper attempts to familiarize the reader with some common types and functions of AI, explores specific application areas, and recommends solutions assisting joint targeting using airpower. The development of a weapon to target a pairing system reveals specifics using an example AI creation process. Along with explaining the construction of AI models, this paper also proposes a process for preparing and validating AI for operational use and discusses essential implementation considerations. The desired end state for AI employment in the C2 of joint airpower is efficient human-machine teaming and increased cognitive agility. [Maj Matthew R. Voke / 2019 / 63 pages / ISSN: 2687-7260 / AU Press Code: WF-72]
  •  AFD-171204-630-020.PDF

    Autonomous Warplanes

    Maj Michael R. Schroer, ANG
    Military use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) has grown dramatically. RPAs are quickly becoming indispensable parts of military operations and assets greatly valued by commanders. These systems offer many benefits, including a reduced risk to human life, increased efficiency, improved time on station, and reduced cost. Current systems are limited by the need for direct human control due to the inherent slowness of human decision making and the physical delay of satellite communications. This paper identifies aspects of NASA’s rover autonomy research that may apply to military RPA development. Using NASA’s research could allow the United States to take advantage of decades of development effort and maintain the technological advantage it currently enjoys in this rapidly evolving area of competition. [Maj Michael R. Schroer, ANG / 2016 / 51 pages / ISBN: / AU Press Code: WF-54]
  •  AFD-171201-751-013.PDF

    Back to the Basics

    Maj Arthur D. Davis, USAF
    This study focuses on the current global war on terrorism as a conflict against insurgents who attack US power through asymmetric means. Of late, these individuals have selected as a primary target the military and civilian convoy operations in Iraq and, to some extent, Afghanistan. By examining past examples of the use of airpower in counterinsurgent warfare, this study sheds light on the United States’ current failings in both equipment and doctrine as it wages this type of war. The French used low-technology aircraft—World War II–vintage A-1 and T-6 fighters—in Algeria to attack insurgent forces and defend ground troops. Well adapted to the environment as well as effectively deployed and employed, these aircraft helped contain and defeat the insurgents. In Vietnam, the United States employed A-1s and T-28s—aircraft with a proven track record in this type of war and ideally suited to training the South Vietnamese air force. The United States should rethink its inventory of aircraft devoted to counterinsurgent war by considering possible replacements for the A-1. It should also reevaluate the manner of employing these assets by locating them with the ground forces they support. [Maj Arthur D. Davis, USAF / 2005 / 34 pages / ISBN: / AU Press Code: WF-23]
  •  AFD-190401-595-010.PDF

    Bolts from Orion: Destroying Mobile Surface-to-Air Missile Systems with Lethal Autonomous Aircraft

    Mr. Donald Brown
    Modern mobile surface-to-air missile (SAM) capabilities are far more lethal and sophisticated than the Iraqi integrated air defense system the US demolished in 2003, and are being used by potential adversaries as one component of anti-access/area denial (A2/D) strategy. This research explored the possible advantages autonomous unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could offer for the suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD) mission. The research was conducted by surveying existing literature on advanced surface-to-air missile systems, SEAD, remotely piloted aircraft, and artificial intelligence. This was used to create four future scenarios envisioning how autonomous aircraft could be used for SEAD. Lethal autonomous UAS are controversial and the concept of machines making lethal targeting decisions is not to be taken lightly. Arguments abound about the legality and morality of lethal autonomous engagement and the United Nations is actively debating the issue. Artificial intelligence needs to advance before machines can make lethal engagement decisions. Fully autonomous UAS that execute SEAD without man-in-the-loop control is too much technological and political risk, but the US should pursue developing flexible levels of autonomy to enable human-machine teaming followed by developing swarms to provide an advantage for SEAD. Increased investment in autonomous UAS is necessary to ensure the US maintains an edge over potential adversaries advanced SAMs in future A2/AD conflicts. [Mr. Donald Brown / 2019 / 84 pages / ISSN: 2687-7260 / AU Press Code: WF-64]
  •  AFD-191115-620-018.PDF

    Bridging the Gap: How an Airborne Mobile-Mesh Network Can Overcome Space Vulnerabilities in Tomorrow’s Fight

    Maj Travis Patterson
    The US Air Force’s heavy reliance on space capabilities makes it vulnerable to potentially crippling asymmetric multi-domain attacks in the near future. While Air Force leaders have identified the importance of maintaining dominance in the space domain, their goal of attaining resilient and survivable systems in the future is not immediately attainable. Peer competitors and potential adversaries already possess several operational and developmental capabilities, which place critical US space assets on the losing side of a cost-exchange battle. An option to mitigate many of these risks exists in an airborne mobile-mesh network hosted initially by the Air Force’s high-altitude ISR platforms. Both the U-2S Dragon Lady and RQ-4B Global Hawk provide an excellent foundation upon which the Air Force can field and operationalize an airborne mobile-mesh network in the battlespace to augment critical space capabilities. Compared to the extreme cost of vulnerable satellites, such a network could be cost-efficient and provide improved resilient capabilities to the Joint Force without requiring drastic changes in operational tactics, techniques, and procedures. This research proposes that the US Air Force rapidly field a mobile-mesh network using existing technology and platforms, and then continue to build the network and processing capabilities over the next decade. The Air Force’s vulnerabilities in space have the potential to impact combat operations in every domain across the globe. It is time to capitalize upon research and investments already made and make the first step toward a truly connected and networked force. [Maj Travis Patterson / 2019 / 48 pages / ISSN: 2687-7260 / AU Press Code: WF-71]
  •  AFD-171130-588-337.PDF

    C-130 Programmed Depot Maintenance

    Maj John A. Daniels, USAF
    The current USAF process for establishing C-130 programmed depot maintenance (PDM) intervals does not account for the wide range of aircraft variables within each aircraft MDS. This paper develops an analytical model that C-130 maintainers can use to forecast when a C-130 aircraft requires PDM. The model is based on five unique aircraft variables: (1) aircraft age, (2) total flying hours, (3) average yearly flying hours, (4) mission profile (expressed as a severity factor), and (5) operating location of the aircraft. Interviews with C-130 SPO personnel, combined with use of the C-130 Service Life Data Base, provided the required data for developing the C-130 PDM interval model. The C-130 PDM interval model developed in this paper allows maintainers and operators to predict the optimum time between C-130 PDM activities. It eliminates the requirement to base PDM intervals on aircraft MDS. As a result, there is a potential for significant savings by deferring PDM for a portion of the C-130 fleet. Finally, the PDM interval model developed in this paper may be applicable for other Department of Defense aircraft for which MDS is used as the determinant of PDM intervals. [Maj John A. Daniels, USAF 1998 / 33 pages / ISBN: AU Press Code: WF-1]
  •  AFD-171204-699-004.PDF

    Center of Gravity Analysis and Operational Design

    Maj Jacob Barfoed, Royal Danish Air Force
    Center of Gravity Analysis and Operational Design: Ensuring a Logical Linkage among National Strategic Objectives; Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic Instruments of Power; and the Military Campaign Combatant commanders already use the center of gravity (COG) concept when analyzing their operational environment; however, this analysis is normally performed after the president has established the strategic objectives for the US government agencies. This defies the purpose of analyzing the strategic COGs: determining the adversary’s vulnerabilities to available instruments of power. This paper recommends that strategic COG analysis be done at the National Security Council level. [Maj Jacob Barfoed, Royal Danish Air Force / 2009 / 31 pages / ISBN: / AU Press Code: WF-38]
  •  AFD-171130-083-330.PDF

    Center of Gravity or Center of Confusion

    Maj Seow Hiang Lee, Republic of Singapore Air Force
    Despite its crucial role in campaign planning, the center of gravity (COG) concept remains poorly understood and inconsistently applied. This research paper seeks to understand the common sources of confusion that can occur when the COG concept is employed. It investigates the extent to which these inconsistencies can be resolved and the implications for the employment of the concept when these inconsistencies persist. To address these core questions, the paper first highlights the confusions that are caused by an incomplete reading of Clausewitz`s theoretical framework that underpins his magnum opus On War. The analysis then proceeds to distill the additional sources of confusion that can lead to disagreements during the employment of the concept. This paper discusses the contentious issues of inconsistency in definitions, misunderstandings regarding the nature of the COG concept, divergent services` perceptions, and finally, inconsistencies that are caused by the inherent unpredictability of war. The ideas are then applied historically to help understand the anomalies that arose during the Persian Gulf War. Unlike previous studies which purport that much of the confusion can be easily removed by having clearer and more unambiguous definitions, the findings suggest otherwise; the sources of confusion are multifarious, and some may not even be amenable to complete resolution. The implication of having these enduring inconsistencies is neither to jettison the concept nor to return to a reductionist concept of the COG but to confront nonlinearities by applying the principles of systems thinking, superior leadership, and decisive action that is supported by a flexible feedback system. [Maj Seow Hiang Lee, Republic of Singapore Air Force / 1999, 43 pages ISBN: / AU Press Code: WF-10]
  •  Chinese Security Cooperation Activities: Trends and Implications for US Policy

    Chinese Security Cooperation Activities: Trends and Implications for US Policy

    Daniel T. Rowland
    Like most governments, the People’s Republic of China engages in security cooperation activities on a global scale. These activities range in scope from military exercises to technology and information exchanges. This work seeks to examine the PRC’s goals and objectives of these trends and activities and to ascertain the implications to the United States.
  •  AFD-171201-109-025.PDF

    Cleared to Engage

    Major Michael H. Johnson, USMC
    The importance of close air support (CAS) has markedly increased over the last five years in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Ground forces have increasingly relied on the effects that airpower provides and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. This has occurred while CAS doctrine and execution have undergone radical changes. While the fundamentals of a serviceperson with a radio calling in air support have remained relatively constant since World War II, the level of mission complexity has steadily increased. Digital communications, precision-guided munitions, collateral damage considerations, effects-based operations, and a “joint” battlefield have placed increased requirements on terminal attack controllers and CAS aircrew. CAS has been a heavily debated topic within the services for decades. CAS doctrine and training issues have affected aircraft procurement, interservice relationships, and the application and effectiveness of airpower on the battlefield. This has produced numerous Congressional inquiries and service introspection on how to “get it right.” While much progress has been made since 2001, the services must continue to make CAS more effective. On the modern battlefield, the joint application of firepower is a reality, not a concept. It is time to “engage” the doctrinal and training challenges facing our services in order to increase the effectiveness of our aviation forces in the CAS arena. [Major Michael H. Johnson, USMC / 2012 / ISBN: / AU Press Code: WF-36]
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