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Pacific Air Forces Target Keeping Up With Industry

Bad lessons from the past could be repeated without commercial innovation.
Lt. Gen. James Jacobson, USAF, deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, describes the command’s pursuit of technology at TechNet Indo-Pacific. Credit: Tony Grillo photo

Lt. Gen. James Jacobson, USAF, deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, describes the command’s pursuit of technology at TechNet Indo-Pacific. Credit: Tony Grillo photo

Technologies such as software-defined systems, rapid data delivery and virtual training are vital for the Air Force to stay ahead of adversaries striving to exploit the same capabilities, said a theater service deputy commander. The biggest challenge may be for the Air Force to keep abreast of industry innovation as its opponents might.

These technology issues were part of a presentation by Lt. Gen. James Jacobson, USAF, deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, on the third and final day TechNet Indo-Pacific, held in Honolulu April 11-13. Gen. Jacobson emphasized the conference theme of “From Data to Dominance” as he discussed Air Force requirements in the final day’s opening Keynote Breakfast.

Gen. Jacobson’s own theme was that the Air Force needed industry to help it keep up with private sector innovation. This is vital for the service to input the newest technologies it needs in these challenging times.

And the current situation is not without parallel. The general recounted how the Doolittle Raid of 1942 relied on joint operations with kinetic results, and it was built around innovative thinking and adaptation. It struck a major blow against an Asian power seeking to dominate the entire Indo-Pacific region, and from the ashes of that war emerged a rules-based order that prevails today. Now, however, that order is being challenged by two countries predominantly in Asia that seek to overturn it in a path to world dominance.

“The order that emerged from World War II is under threat,” Gen. Jacobson pointed out.

The pace of technology change is unlike any since the period of 1880 to 1930, and another parallel emerges with militaries that didn’t pay attention to changes back then ultimately paying a steep price when global war broke out a few years later, he said. “The pace of technology is literally relentless, and it is as cool as it gets if you’re on the outside. If you’re charged with defending the country, it’s disruptive,” he declared.

As an example, Gen. Jacobson offered how the situation has changed just since he joined the Air Force. “When I joined the service, we were a hardware company then. We’re a software company now,” he stated.

And data is at the heart of today’s innovations. “Data integrity and speed matter,” he said. “The source shouldn’t.”

That extends throughout the military. “Every service and coalition partner understands that the foundation of their systems and their decisions’ effectiveness is data, and it must be delivered at the speed of relevance,” he added.

One of the most important technology innovations is virtual training, and Gen. Jacobson called for greater use of it across the board. “Realistic training is critical to us today,” he said. “There’s an environment out there that is much more realistic and lethal—virtual.” He championed practicing in this virtual environment that would provide greater realism and faster results.