Episode 14 – The Merge: Future of the F-35, Long Range Strike, and the Space Force

Episode Summary

The Mitchell Institute is pleased to release episode 14 of its Aerospace Advantage podcast: The Merge: Future of the F-35, Long Range Strike, and the Space Force. Join Mitchell Institute experts for a roundtable discussion to explore the present status of the F-35 program amidst increased scrutiny; a showdown that is emerging between the Army and the Air Force over the long-range strike mission; and next steps required for the Space Force to orient itself for long term success.

In air combat, the merge is when opposing fighter aircraft engage and one side emerges victorious. And we think it’s a pretty apt description for how the national security process here in DC works. There are multiple stakeholder positions in contention and people are playing for keeps. Above all, the future of our nation’s security is at stake in these debates. You’ve also got massive business deals and political equities on the line. Policy and budget decisions have seismic impacts felt for decades. “The Merge” segment of the Aerospace Advantage will explore these issues, with Mitchell Institute experts providing insights and analysis that are key to understanding the current state of play.  

Full Topic Guide

This week’s episode of the Aerospace Advantage introduces a new monthly series to the podcast, The Merge. Join John “Slick” Baum as he hosts a roundtable discussion featuring Mitchell Institute’s Dean Lt Gen (ret.) David Deptula, Executive Director Doug Birkey, Director of Future Concepts and Capabilities Assessments Col (ret.) Mark “Gonzo” Gunzinger, and Senior Fellow Maj (ret.) Heather Penney.

The F-35 has recently received some critical press, but the program is the bedrock of the U.S. military’s modern fighter capabilities. Congressional critiques of the program have missed the mark.

Long range strike is often debated within the services, but this capability has often been misunderstood. Several branches of the military claim domain on long range strike, but the Air Force offers the best cost per effect value in conducting this unique mission.

One year after the creation of the Space Force, funding and authorities still present challenges for the newest service. The Air Force and Space Force share of the defense budget leaves both forces short on cash. This needs to change. Space is provides lynchpin capabilities for actualizing operational concepts like Combat Cloud, JADC2, ABMS and Mosaic Warfare.

Time Marks

1:53 – The roundtable discussion kicks off with Heather Penney discussing the F-35 program

7:05 – Lt Gen (ret.) David Deptula responds to Congressman Adam Smith’s comments on the F-35 program

18:34 – Col (ret.) Mark “Gonzo” Gunzinger lays down the mission capabilities necessary to conduct long range strike missions

21:47 – Doug Birkey explains how cost per effect is the best way to calculate the cost of long range strike missions

32:10 – Maj (ret.) Heather Penney explains how the Air Force’s core strengths play towards long range strike missions

34:20 – Lt Gen (ret.) David Deptula describes how and why the Space Force is currently undermanned and underfunded


Host: Lt Col John “Slick” Baum, USAF, ret.

Producer: Daniel C. Rice

Executive Producer: Douglas Birkey

Guest: Douglas Birkey, Executive Director, The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies

Guest: Lt Gen (ret.) David Deptula, USAF

Guest: Maj (ret.) Heather Penney, USAF

Guest: Col (ret.) Mark “Gonzo” Gunzinger, USAF

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