The Air Force plans to increase the number of bases from which it can operate in the Indo-Pacific so it can disperse forces in wartime, according to a general responsible for logistics and force protection.
Brigadier General Michael Zuhlsdorf, deputy director for engineering resource integration, logistics and force protection, declared Tuesday during a webinar hosted by the Mitchell Institute, a nonpartisan aerospace research organization based in Arlington, Va., that Air Force bases in the region “will grow in visible increments over time, probably 10 to 15 years.”
Zuhlsdorf did not directly respond to a reporter’s question about the number of additional bases from which the force could operate.
“The total number keeps changing based on the resources that we have…we are working on a number of different airfields, and based on the resources, that number will change,” he said.
According to Zuhlsdorf, World War II-era airfields throughout the Pacific offer high availability of real estate.
“We are going to take advantage by investing in them and giving life to some of those bases,” he stated. “We’re going to breathe life into some dormant bases that are out there.”
The Air Force will work as a team with allies and partners such as Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the Philippines and Japan, the general said.
“Ultimately, with this resilient foundation…we have to make sure that we set the stage for our airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines…the guardians that will be on the front lines…are well cared for and have the tools they need to succeed. In that kind of environment, frankly, an environment that we haven’t faced for a long time,” he said.
In the absence of a similar threat in recent decades, the Air Force has focused on the effectiveness and concentration of forces at large established bases, Zuhlsdorf said.
“We haven’t had that threat that is now present with our close peers, whether it’s [China] or Russia or whoever is out there,” he said. “We have concentrated a lot of resources on some specific bases.”
He said the plan is to build a robust infrastructure to support Agile Combat Employment. ACE is the ability to quickly move aircraft to a network of smaller airfields to avoid being targeted by missiles in the event of war.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is looking for ways to make established bases more resilient, such as improving missile defense, camouflage and dispersing forces at those bases, Zuhlsdorf said.
“We have to reinforce the existing bases that we have, from the point of view of the facilities and the infrastructure and the command and control and the anti-air defense of the air bases,” he said.