Hybrid Air Warfare and Integration of Artificial Intelligence into the Domain

Date: Issue 122 - May 2023 Update: June 24, 2024

Air warfare is evolving as technology is moving forward to offer more autonomous/robotic systems to replace humans. The United States Air Force (USAF) recognizes that future conflicts will likely take place across multiple domains (land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace) and therefore focuses on developing a more integrated and synchronized approach to its military operations. One of the key capabilities of the integrated multi-domain warfare approach is to focus on developing more networked and collaborative systems where different assets (manned and unmanned) can share information and work together seamlessly. 

The USAF's main tactical warfighting capabilities are currently consisting of 4th gen (F-16C/D, F-15E/EX), 5th gen (F-35A, F-22), and, in the near future, 6th gen NDAG (Next Gen Air Dominance) fighter aircraft and other logistical support assets such as C-5, C-17, KC-46, KC135R, etc. Moreover, on the unmanned side of the systems, the USAF has a diverse fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that provide a range of capabilities across different mission areas. The USAF's current UAV capabilities include MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk. The MQ-9 Reaper is a long-endurance UAV that can operate at high altitudes and is primarily used for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions. It is also equipped with weapons systems and can perform surgical strike missions. The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance UAV that is primarily used for ISR missions. It is equipped with advanced sensors and can operate at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet. Not much is publicized, but still, the operational RQ-170 Sentinel is a "stealthy" UAV that is used for ISR missions. It is designed to evade detection and has advanced sensors for gathering intelligence.