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.
Whether the F-35 fighter will get new engines from the Air Force’s cutting-edge Adaptive Engine Transition Program is a question that needs to be resolved at the Defense Department level, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers May 17—and he anticipates an answer in the 2024 budget.