Sticking with 2018

There remains a lot of discussion about the Air Force’s next Long Range Strike platform—especially whether it’s even feasible to make the Quadrennial Defense Review-prescribed date—but so far, service acquisition officials claim they are sticking to an approach that delivers a subsonic manned aircraft in the 2018 timeframe. “We’ve had an analysis of alternatives and studies and they close in on an optional manned subsonic bomber,” said Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, USAF’s uniformed acquisition deputy. There will always be opinions on things such as engines or speed and that will be “part of the drill” as the program takes shape, he suggested but added, “The answer is not on the table.” The program is “still a work in progress,” he said. Funding streams will take more shape as part of the Fiscal 2010 budget, with the 2010 program objective memorandum under construction right now. One thing the Air Force is not taking off the table, however, is the option of removing the pilot. “We are not precluding the option of the unmanned,” Hoffman said, noting it is an attractive alternative. A second or third increment of the LRS might end up being “remotely manned” by operators in ground stations.