The Air Force's future vision is given in Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century Air Force. Global Engagement is a strategic plan for meeting the Air Force's challenge of dominating air and space as a unique dimension of military power in the 21st century. The Air Force identifies six core competencies--air and space superiority, global attack, rapid global mobility, precision engagement, information superiority, and agile combat support--and is committed to ensuring these components through innovation. Air and space superiority will allow all U.S. forces freedom from attack and freedom to attack, while the Air Force's ability to attack rapidly anywhere on the globe will continue to be critical. Rapid global mobility will help ensure that the United States can respond quickly and decisively to unexpected challenges to its interests. The Air Force's precision engagement core competency will enable it to reliably apply selective force against specific targets simultaneously to achieve desired effects with minimal risk and collateral damage. Air- and space-based assets will contribute to U.S. forces' information superiority, and agile combat support will allow combat commanders to improve the responsiveness, deployability, and sustainability of their forces.
To better understand the potential offered by advanced technologies, the Air Force conducted its Expeditionary Force Experiment in September 1998. In that scenario, a rogue nation attacked a U.S. ally that requested U.S. assistance in halting the invasion. An air expeditionary force was deployed in response, and the experiment tested the ability to exercise coherent command and control through the use of forward and rear (continental U.S.-based) joint air operations centers and to plan and execute combat missions en route to the area of hostility. Under the experiment scenario, a much smaller number of command and control military personnel and much less equipment were deployed to the combat area, with the rear joint air operations center housing the bulk of these personnel and equipment (as well as the joint force air component commander).
In the area of information superiority, the Air Force will focus on future global battle management/command and control systems to allow for real-time control and execution of all air and space missions, exploit unmanned aerial vehicle technology (especially in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and communications applications), and expand its defensive information warfare efforts.
The Air Force has established six new battle laboratories to implement its vision. The mission of these battle labs is to identify and validate innovative ideas that improve the ability of the Air Force to execute both its core competencies and joint warfighting. The concepts validated in the labs will be assimilated into Air Force organizational, doctrinal, training, and acquisition efforts. The six labs are concentrating on the following areas: unmanned aerial vehicles, information warfare, air expeditionary forces, space capabilities, battle management command and control, and force protection.
(SOURCE: Department of the Air Force. 1996. Global Engagement: A Vision for the 21st Century, Department of the Air Force, Washington, D.C.; Air Force Experimentation Office EFX Public Web Site