[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Real Clear Defense.]
By Dan Goure
Real Clear Defense
Too much attention in defense circles of late has been focused on the need for new, revolutionary platforms and weapons systems. The reality is that transformative changes in military technology are few and far between. They bring challenges regarding operating concepts, logistics, training, and sustainability.
The Department of Defense (DoD) has maintained its technological preeminence and military dominance for nearly a century based largely on its ability to continually upgrade and modernize existing systems. Much of the current U.S. force structure is based around capabilities first developed decades ago. Current plans for the continuous improvement of the F-35 joint strike fighter’s hardware and software could allow it to maintain its dominant position in the air for the rest of the century.
The example of the Air Force’s continual reliance on the B-52 strategic bomber is instructive. First flown in 1962, the 76 H-models are expected to be in service until mid-century. Over that time, virtually every system on the B-52 has been replaced, often multiple times. The decision to turn the B-52 from a penetrating strategic delivery platform to a multi-purpose standoff weapons carrier also added to its lifespan.