The Air Force’s airlift plans are in chaos because of cost issues on the C-5 reliability enhancement and re-engining program, a senior Pentagon official said Wednesday. “The truth is, we bet on the C-5M [the RERP-ed version] and that’s looking more and more like it was a bad bet,” the official said. However, by current law, the Air Force must complete the test phase of the RERP and may not retire any C-5s until that happens, in Fiscal 2010. The official, who had previously argued against extending C-17 production as unaffordable, said “I don’t see how we can end the C-17 production now, until we have some fidelity” on C-5M cost, he added. (See below for other arguments on tankers vs. airlifters.) The official advised a close watch of an upcoming Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on the airlift question. “If [Sen. Carl] Levin gets his back up about this, we are in for a really rough ride,” he forecast. Levin (D-Mich.) is head of the Armed Services Committee, but he also sits on the Governmental Affairs subcommittee holding the hearing today.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.