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The Air Force Blue Horizons Study

  • Published
  • USAF Center for Strategy and Technology, Air University, Maxwell AFB, AL

In 2007, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Programs (AF/A8) tasked Air University to conduct a series of long range studies, now called Blue Horizons, looking 20 years into the future. Conducted by CSAT, these provide a vision for what the Air Force must do today to prepare for future challenges. The last major internal study of the future,
Air Force 2025, was conducted at Air University in 1996; 260 officers worked through research leading to a multi-volume report outlining alternative futures and technologies required for those complicated and dangerous worlds.

The Blue Horizons study answers questions similar to those addressed in the Air Force 2025 study. These include: What are the emerging technologies that will shape the US Air Force and the conflict arena in which it must operate in beyond 2025? What could air, space and cyberspace power look like beyond 2025? Who will have access to emerging technologies that can make a difference? How soon will these important technological achievements become fielded systems?

These annual studies serve as an input for the development of Title X wargames, future technology exploration activities, Strategic Planning Guidance, Quadrennial Defense Review scenarios and the development of service requirements.

2007: Extrapolate strategic trends, identify capabilities to advance or disrupt air and space power, and evaluate capabilities’ strategic impact

2008: Develop a prioritized list of concepts and their key enabling technologies that the U.S. Air Force will need to maintain the dominant air, space and cyber forces in the future

2009: Identify changes to AF Culture, organization, and education necessary to address disruptive technological change

2010: Determine how the Air Force should posture itself to best deter attacks using nanotechnology, biotechnology, directed energy, nuclear weapons, and attacks in space and cyberspace in the 2030-2035 timeframe from nation-states, groups and individuals

2011: Technology review and update to reaffirm the validity of previous disruptive technology assessment (2007 study focus) for use in future studies

2012: Assess required capabilities for the USAF to conduct Global Strike in the 2035 timeframe given cross-domain capabilities against any target, anywhere, anytime

2013: Investigate two AF futures strategic environmental assessment (AFSEA) identified world-order scenarios to evaluate major threats and opportunities for the USAF

2014: What combinations of technologies and integrating concepts will enable the USAF to project and maintain sensor and weapons effects over time at range in 2040?

2015: How should the Air Force project power in highly contested environments by 2040?

2016: What competitive strategy and associated capabilities, capacities, technological investments, and integrating concepts should the AF pursue to prevail in the highly contested environment of 2040?

2017: How can the AF exploit the dimension of time to prevail in 2040?