If knowledgeable defense analyst Loren Thompson is right, the Air Force’s effort to produce a single widebody aircraft to replace its trio of older intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets is a dead duck. The Quadrennial Defense Review relegated the E-10 multimission aircraft program to a single test aircraft. Now, the Lexington Institute’s Thompson writes, “Insiders say even that will disappear in the 2008 budget.” Earlier this year, Lt. Gen. Stephen Wood, USAF point man for strategic plans and programs, described the situation as a “strategic pause.” According to Thompson, USAF’s entire ISR program is in dire straits. (Read our February article outlining Air Force plans for ISR.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.