DAYTON, Ohio–The U.S. Air Force is examining how artificial intelligence (AI) will aid military forces in rapid targeting in the Indo-Pacific theater.

While Operation Desert Storm in 1991 had 40,000 to 50,000 aim points, a campaign against China could involve more than 100,000 aim points, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, has said. Deptula was a principal planner of Desert Storm’s air campaign.

“If you look at the high-end fight in the Indo-Pacific, there will absolutely have to be some level of automation, some level of ability to maintain target custody at a scale that will require either automation or some level of artificial intelligence to be able to keep up,” Steven Wert, the Air Force’s program executive officer (PEO) digital at Hanscom AFB, Mass., told reporters last week during the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s (AFLCMC) annual industry days conference here.

In addition to his PEO digital position, Wert is the co-lead for Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall’s third operational imperative–moving target indication at scale, which was the subject of an offsite classified briefing for AFLCMC industry day participants on the morning of July 31.

“Much of that in the Air Force is not automated today,” Wert said last week during the question and answer session with reporters when asked about a timeline for the integration of battle management and ground moving target indication (GMTI). “There has been quite a bit of analysis done looking at Long Range Kill Chains. You go from sensing to sense making, to being able to maintain custody, to being able to identify a target, but you end up with just a lot of manual process.”

The Air Force requested about $26 million in fiscal 2024 for the Long Range Kill Chains Prospect

research and development effort to use all domain data to improve targeting (Defense Daily, June 29).

Last September, at the direction of Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, service acquisition chief Andrew Hunter appointed Brig. Gen. Luke Cropsey as the Air Force’s first integrating PEO for command, control, communications and battle management. The integration of Long Range Kill Chains is under Cropsey’s purview and “will involve nearly every program executive officer in the Air Force,” Wert said last week.

Space and the Air Force’s future Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) are to be key components of Long Range Kill Chains.

The U.S. Space Force wants to transfer $243 million in fiscal 2024 to the National Reconnaissance Office to build a Long Range Kill Chain satellite payload (Defense Daily, March 23).