Deliveries from space are going to happen, and the Defense Department must be ready to capitalize on the capability when it happens, the commander of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command told the Defense Writers Group in Washington, D.C., Aug. 2.
Air Force Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II said he is looking to space to enhance the American military’s global mobility and move at the speed of war.
Air Mobility Command needs rapid access to space, the general said, and he is working with private corporations to examine the ways forward. “I just had a visit with SpaceX and Virgin Orbital,” he said. “They tell me they can get around the globe in 30 minutes with a Big Falcon Rocket.”
Using the rocket, the command could deliver 150 metric tons for less than the cost of a C-5 Galaxy transport jet delivery, he said.
Space is a new frontier for transportation, and private companies are developing technologies that are driving the costs of launches down, the general said. “What happens if we pre-position cargo in space?” he asked. “I don’t have to use terrestrial means [to deliver it]. I can position it in space and have an automatic vehicle go up and come back down.
“I want to get around the globe quickest so I can affect that adversary,” he continued. “It is in its infancy stages, … but I want to put mobility people in Space Command so they can learn space and I want space folks in Mobility Command. If we don’t do this and we stay in the air domain, Air Mobility Command will become irrelevant.”
Concepts ready in five years
The general said he believes that the concepts can be ready within the next five years. “Within five years after that, it will be happening,” he told the defense writers.
AMC has a future concept section that is looking closely at the capability, Everhart said, and Air Force personnel are already looking to develop a concept of operations for mobility in space.
Air Mobility Command is an integral part of U.S. Transportation Command and is a crucial enabler for all services and combatant commands. The United States is a superpower because the American military can deploy anywhere in the world and sustain those forces.
Air Mobility Command is a $46 billion enterprise with 1,100 aircraft and 124,000 total- force airmen, including civilians. “The world is our [area of responsibility],” the general said.
The big grey planes with the American flag on the tail are a visible sign of U.S. capabilities, Everhart said. “I call it grey-tail diplomacy,” he added. “The American flag on the tail tells our friends we’re there to help and tells our enemies to watch out.”