U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall on Oct. 18 stressed the need for the service to develop and sustain well-oiled supply chains for future conflicts and retire aging systems with little relevance in such conflicts.

“Any future great power conflict will be a war of logistics,” he said in an address to the National Defense Transportation Association (NDTA)/U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) fall meeting. “Our ability to deter, to prevail if conflict occurs, and to prevent the unthinkable option of escalation to nuclear weapons, all rests on credible logistics systems. Just like in the [World War II] Battle of the Atlantic, we must have effective logistics operations if we want to have a chance of keeping the peace, and of winning, should that effort fail.”

While Department of the Air Force leaders have said that U.S. forces will have to address the threat of “logistics under attack” in future conflicts, it appears that the service is unlikely to create a new Vanguard program in the near future along that line of effort (Defense Daily, Sept. 21).

Last year and early this year, the Air Force was considering the naming of new air and space Vanguards to follow the Skyborg low-cost attritable aircraft program; the Golden Horde collaborative, swarming munitions effort; and the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) program for improved positioning, navigation and timing (Defense Daily, Feb. 5). In June, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) named a fourth Vanguard, Rocket Cargo, an S&T effort to explore the feasibility of delivering 100 tons of cargo anywhere on the globe within an hour. AFRL is concentating on completing the Vanguard development efforts or transitioning one or more of them toward fielding.

At the NDTA/TRANSCOM fall meeting on Oct. 18, Kendall signaled lawmakers that they will need to agree to retirements of aging systems forecast to have little relevance in future conflicts.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned as [Secretary of the Air Force], it’s how hard it can be, politically, to retire legacy systems and excess capacity that has little or no relevance to the pacing challenges that we face,” he said. “We can protect the status quo, or we can protect America. I don’t see this as a hard decision, but I’m not running for reelection. I am very willing to work with the Congress to find creative ways to move forward, but we must move forward.”