I firmly believe that we should fully fund the Secretary of Defense's budget request for the A-X. I regret the mistakes that led to the cancellation of the A-12, but I believe that the A-X is absolutely critical to give both the Navy and the Air Force the kind of decisive superiority in long range attack missions they will need after the year 2000.
The A-X is a model joint program with joint participation by the Navy and the Air Force. It is being developed to replace current strike aircraft that are completing their service lives.
The A-X will replace the Navy A-6 and the Air Force F-111, F-15E, and F-117. The multi-mission capability of the A-X will provide the tools necessary to execute successfully any mission assigned. Its technology will be state-of-the-art, designed to neutralize future threats and to provide superb weapons delivery capability.
The A-X will be fast, highly maneuverable, and able to conduct a wide variety of autonomous missions. It will be able to employ air-to-air missiles, antiradiation missiles, precision guided munitions, and unguided or dumb bombs. It will have the latest survivability upgrades and will be an invaluable asset to every naval or joint commander.
I believe that we must be extremely careful not to force tradeoffs between advanced attack aircraft and our bomber force decades before we can predict the future nature of the threats we face. When we do, we must ensure that we take into account all essential variables. For example, during Desert Storm we learned that airpower can play an extraordinarily important role in hurling back aggression and in limiting casualties provided that we have an absolute and decisive air superiority over the enemy.
We also face a near certainty that the next conflict will be different from Desert Storm, and we must be ready for a wide mix of crisis and short conflicts. While long range bombers provide the National Command Authority with a first-strike capability that can deliver large quantities of ordnance over great distances, this option has never been employed for crisis control.
The most important aspect of crisis control is an immediate and sustainable strike capability in theater to illustrate resolve, to provide time for critical political decisions to be made, or to neutralize opposing offensive forces if required.
Now that we have canceled production of the F-15E, the A-X is the only practical road to an advanced medium attack aircraft that either the Air Force or Navy can deploy during the next quarter century. The Air Force and Navy can retain and improve the F-111 and A-6, but we learned from the Persian Gulf war that our existing attack fighters were less effective than we thought and had problems in survivability, range-payload, and their ability to deliver advanced conventional munitions.
The A-X will offer major advantages over both the F-111 and A-6, some of which will be as much as 42 years old by the time the first A-X squardron is active with the Navy or the Air Force. The A-6 and F-111 will average 25 years of service, and even the best mix of upgrades of the F-111 and A-6 cannot prepare these aircraft for the complex threat environment that will then exist in many Third World nations--both in terms of air defense and the need to find and kill highly mobile targets.
A carrier-based A-X will provide the capability to execute this mission effectively. If military intervention is decided upon, forces will be moved into the theater to execute the orders of the President. Because of the critical nature of any conflict, the National Command Authority should always ensure that adequate forces are in place before initiation of combat operations.
If military strike operations are required as a last resort, A-X will not be constrained by host nation limitations or overflight restrictions, nor will its operational effectiveness be limited by lack of targeting flexibility or the fatigue associated with flight times of 13 or 14 hours. Carrier-based tactical aviation, including A-X, will provide a substantial part of the response force, be able to conduct close air support, carry out medium range battle area interdiction, and provide cover and support for other combat assets.