THE United States Air Force has set up a highly confidential strategic planning group tasked with "fighting the next war" as tensions rise with Iran.
Project Checkmate, a successor to the group that planned the 1991 Gulf War's air campaign, was quietly reestablished at the Pentagon in June.
It reports directly to General Michael Moseley, the US Air Force chief, and consists of 20-30 top air force officers and defence and cyberspace experts with ready access to the White House, the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
Detailed contingency planning for a possible attack on Iran has been carried out for more than two years by Centcom (US central command), according to defence sources.
Checkmate's job is to add a dash of brilliance to Air Force thinking by countering the military's tendency to "fight the last war" and by providing innovative strategies for warfighting and assessing future needs for air, space and cyberwarfare.
Checkmate's freethinking mission is "to provide planning inputs to warfighters that are strategically, operationally and tactically sound, logistically supportable and politically feasible". Its remit is not specific to one country, according to defence sources, but its forward planning is thought relevant to any future air war against Iranian nuclear and military sites. It is also looking at possible threats from China and North Korea.