Affordable Mass: The Need for a Cost-Effective PGM Mix for Great Power Conflict

Arlington, VA | November 29, 2021 — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies is pleased to announce a new entry in its Policy Paper series, Affordable Mass: The Need for a Cost-Effective PGM Mix for Great Power Conflict by Col Mark A. Gunzinger, USAF (Ret.), Director of Future Concepts and Capability Assessments at the Mitchell Institute.

A corollary to the maxim that “you go to war with the forces you have” is that you also go to war with the munitions you have. Munitions that are vulnerable to enemy defenses, ineffective against high-value targets, or simply number too few are not a prescription for victory in a peer conflict. All these shortcomings are now true for a significant portion of the U.S. military’s PGM inventory. Moreover, these shortcomings cannot be addressed during a crisis.

Most air-to-surface munitions in DOD’s inventory were designed for campaigns of the past 30 years where U.S. forces confronted lesser regional militaries that operated weak air defenses. DOD is now planning for conflicts with peer and near-peer adversaries equipped with integrated air defense systems that are highly capable against non-stealthy aircraft and their legacy weapons. This is why the Air Force is acquiring 5th generation F-35 fighters and B-21 stealth bombers that can penetrate advanced IADS and launch strikes close to defended targets. However, new stealth aircraft alone will not be enough. Developing multiple variants of mid-range, stand-in PGMs suitable for operations in contested environments would help the Air Force take maximum advantage of its stealth forces and create effects in the battlespace that theater commanders depend on. This is a “must do” for the Air Force—the best, most advanced combat aircraft in the world will be ineffective if they lack a PGM inventory that has the capacity, survivability, and effectiveness needed to win America’s wars.

The Mitchell Institute Policy Papers is a series presenting new thinking and policy proposals to respond to the emerging security and aerospace power challenges of the 21st century. These papers are written for lawmakers and their staffs, policy professionals, business and industry, academics, journalists, and the informed public.

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