U.S. Air Force General James M. “Mike” Holmes, commander (since March 2017) of Air Combat Command, took media questions at the 2020 AFA Air Warfare Symposium. The following quotes are excerpted from that exchange:

On why the anticipated restocking of the USAF’s depleted munitions locker appears to have been truncated:

“After several years of… working hard to replenish the JDAM stocks, [the Air Force is] approaching objectives that we set…. And so.. the decision was made that … the right balance of risk was to, continue to acquire those weapons, but as we approach the objective, to start slowing down a little bit on the JDAM which is, as you know, limited in range to kind of gravity fall weapon. And, to also make sure that we’re investing in the things that we’ll need for long range fire across the joint force to the challenge of pure adversaries…. So it’s one of the places that budgeters, go to, but I don’t think we have a plan to go up and down in a sine wave, I think we’ll continue to buy toward those objectives, but we’ll balance all the weapons requirements as we do that buy.”

On the Air Force’s plans for its next-generation fighter program, known as Next Generation Air Dominance, or NGAD:

“I think we have a good acquisition strategy, I think we’ve given briefings at the right classification level to the appropriate people at Congress and in the department. I’m excited about where we are, I’m happy with where we are and, I’m just not going to talk much more about it.

“You know, the overall [approach] is that in the past… we would have built something that we’d call a fighter roadmap. In that plan we’d say hey, we’re going to figure out what our fighter force will look like for the next 30 years. As we go forward in the future what I would rather build is a capabilities roadmap that shows how we’re going to accomplish the missions for the Air Force that we traditionally have done with fighters.”

“So as you look at NGAD and you look at the following programs I wouldn’t expect it to produce things that necessarily look like a traditional fighter or in that same kind of swap between range and payload and distance that we’ve done in a traditional fighter and I think that’s what Dr. Roper’s talking about, both about the unmanned, low cost, attritable options, and how might they do those same missions and then, as we go forward into NGAD, thinking about that long range problem, what might we come up with coming out of that.”

On why the Air Force appears to have decreased its requirement for industry-provided aggressor assets or Red Air:

“The map for the original plan was based on, kind of what could we do to maximize using contract resources to improve the readiness of the rest of our force. And then every plan comes up against budgets and so now it’s a matter of, what’s affordable toward doing that and what are the tradeoffs with that readiness, with modernization, with everything else we’re going after in the budget.”

On why the Air Force continues to fund experimentation with light attack aircraft when the Service has determined that it will not procure one:

“It’s still relevant because we will continue to work with partners in a permissive environment and to help them with their conflicts with violent extremists and we’d like to kind of work out the capabilities that are useful to them and make sure that if they acquire a light attack capability that it’s something that we can partner with and work alongside. So we’ll continue to look at the communications systems and how they fit into command and control and can we offer a light attack network kind of counterpart of the light attack airplane that brings you benefits of being affordable and interoperable and something that’s easy and cheap to operate and maintain. That [what] the focus of Air Combat Command’s experimentation will be, how can we help the countries that have acquired that airplane or might still be interested in acquiring an airplane like that to make sure that they can integrate it into their system, but also that they can integrate with us in the places where we are. So it’s a partnership initiative from ACC’s perspective and from Air Force Special Operations Command, they continue to have the mission of doing some air advising with people that are out there and it provides them an opportunity to keep pilots and crews current to go out and do that air advising mission in the airplane with other people.”