The four-star general who supervises U.S. Northern Command and North American Defense Command warned that the continental U.S. is no longer immune from attacks from enemies such as Russia and China.
Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, speaking at the 140th National Guard Association last weekend, said the U.S. “homeland is no longer a sanctuary,” asserting that Russia and China are probing U.S. defenses. He stated, “We’re in a changing security environment. We used to think about the sanctuary we had with oceans and friendly countries to our north and south, but that’s changing with adversaries that are actually able to reach out and touch us now.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has implemented a new National Defense Strategy, which regards foes like Russia and China as primary threats rather than viewing insurgent forces similar to those found in Iraq and Afghanistan as the most serious threats.
O’Shaughnessy continued, “We have to think about our defense in different ways than we have in the past. That means we need to fundamentally re-think when we say homeland defense how we’re going to do that against a peer competitor … A good example is the new AESA radars we’re trying to put in the F-16s, and we’re making progress.” That was a reference to Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, when the Air Force chose in 2017 to upgrade 72 Air National Guard F-16 Falcons. The APG-83 helps the F-16 to detect, track and identify more targets faster and at longer ranges. Northrop Grumman stated the radar is capable of operating in hostile electronic environments.
One threat to the U.S. comes from Russia, whose hypersonic glide missiles allegedly have the capability to fly an arced trajectory high into the atmosphere on an intercontinental ballistic missile, evading missile defense systems.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein told Military Times, “It’s probably dangerous for us to think we can physically be a sanctuary when we’re in competition below a level of armed conflict, and we have a couple of new domains that our adversaries are operating in: cyber and space. … Our competitors have studied the way we fight and the way we operate and are investing in and training in ways to take those advantages away from us.”