WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Whiteman Air Force Base personnel and equipment likely will remain essential to national defense for years to come, but there are challenges and innovations to consider, retired Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers said.
Myers spoke to area media Wednesday in the University of Central Missouri’s Administration Building conference room prior to giving the first Ike Skelton Lecture as part of the Servant Leadership Lecture Series.
With the B-2s having celebrated 20 years in service, Myers said he sees the mission continuing.
“The B-2 will be part of that (long-range strike) equation for quite some time, I think, as far as we can see in the future,” he said. “There’s a follow-on systems called Long-Range Strike that may or may not look anything like the B-2, but the mission’s what’s important.”
The B-2’s long-term ability to avoid radar detection depends on moves by the United States and counter-moves by other countries, Myers said.
“For every new system, there’s a counter, and that’s the game we’ve played since time began in warfare,” he said. “It’s lucky we have something like the B-2 that can penetrate sophisticated areas like the Chinese have, like other countries have – North Korea, to some degree. … There’s a lot of things that you can do to keep the (B-2) system viable for a long time.”
Myers addressed whether the U.S. might someday use drone-operated bombers and fighters. At this point, drones are used for targeted attacks and surveillance.
“The whole notion of robotics and unmanned systems – they’ll continue to be developed. The Navy’s going to do that in terms of their ocean surveillance – they’re going to have a mix of the old P-3s (turboprops) and unmanned systems. The Air Force has a mix right now in several areas, and I think you’ll continue to see that mix grow. …
“You can imagine in several decades that you might be looking at a lot of ‘unmanned.’ Could be in commercial, too; they talk about that from time to time. … When we took off in a snowstorm from Washington yesterday, I was glad to see two pilots upfront as opposed to some computer telling me, ‘Please, be seated. We’re going to take off.’
“We’ll work through all the social issues around that, but the technology will certainly continue to advance where almost anything’s possible in that realm and probably sooner than we think.”
The Whiteman Advantage Program, designed to strengthen ties between Whiteman and UCM, represents the type of partnership that is important to the military, Myers said.
“One of the biggest needs that our military has today concerns those that are transitioning to private life, and there’s going to be a lot of them, given where the budget’s going,” he said, adding, “Here we have the perfect combination between the base, between the university.”
He said the Whiteman Advantage partnership is exactly the right thing approach.
“It’s actually what we owe … our servicemen and women, and their families. It sounds to me like we’ve essentially got a model program here for how we help those that are still serving and those that are transitioning. It’s a great model.”