The Air Force Is Having Trouble with Its 'Base in a Box'

The concept will allow the U.S. Air Force to operate from discrete airfields, dispersing airpower to less vulnerable locations.

187th Fighter Wing participates in Operation Dacian Viper
U.S. Air National Guard photo taken by Tech. Sgt. Jeffery Foster

The Air Force’s “Base in a Box” plan is in trouble, according to Military.com, the victim of “vague deadlines and insufficient oversight." Also known as the Deployable Air Base System, or DABS, the meme-prone system would be critical for keeping the Air Force flying in a conflict with a so-called “peer” or “near peer adversary." Think Russia or China.

Created in response to a militarily resurgent Russia, the DABS system is supposed to be up to 24 sets of equipment designed to allow the U.S. Air Force to fly from airfields across Europe. The equipment is kept in air-portable shipping containers that contain everything from portable mess halls to spare aircraft parts. In a crisis, a DABS set would be put aboard C-17 Globemaster III transports, hauled to a friendly military or even civilian airfield, and unpacked by airmen to create an instant airbase.

image
A shipping container loaded with supplies and equipment is loaded onto a U.S. Air Force M915 tractor trailer.
Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen

is primarily meant to push airpower out of traditional American mega air bases in Western Europe to air bases in friendly Eastern Europe where the U.S. doesn’t have a permanent presence. DABS could be sent to Poland, for example, if Russia threatened attack. This would be a relatively inexpensive—and less inflammatory—option than placing permanent U.S. military bases directly on Russia’s doorstep while still supporting regional allies.

Another possibility is using DABS to relocate American airpower if U.S. bases in Europe and the U.K. came under air and missile attack, putting them out of commission. Many of these bases are well known to Russia and could come under attack by special forces, cruise missiles, or artillery. Using DABS, American aircraft could redeploy to municipal airports and undamaged friendly air bases, allowing American airpower to remain in action. DABS might even be set up to operate fighter jets from stretches of highway. In 2016, U.S. Air Force A-10 Warthogs practiced takeoffs and landings from a .

, the $797 million program is in trouble due to mismanagement. The Air Force was supposed to have five out of 24 kits ready to go right now, but the first kit won’t be available until 2020 or 2021. The Department of Defense inspector general cites a lack of a single manager to oversee the project, and a lack of coordination between agencies involved.

“Base in a Box,” DABS, or whatever it might be called will be important for the future of the Air Force. The ability to move beyond existing superbases—not only in Europe but in the Middle East and East Asia—will be critical for U.S. airpower, relevant not only in austere or political volatile locations but against any adversary with the ability to detect concentrations of warplanes and project long-range firepower.

Source:

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Military Aviation