The Air Force simply won’t consider buying any more C-17 transports if it would get in the way of buying replacements for KC-135 tankers, Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Arthur Lichte told reporters Wednesday during AFA’s Air & Space Conference. Lichte said, “We don’t want to take a dollar away from tankers” because the KC-X is such an urgent priority. Boeing has offered a C-17B, able to take off and land on even shorter strips, go further, and land almost anywhere, including pastures and beaches, but Lichte said “right now, I don’t see it fitting in.” AMC wouldn’t want to buy 10 or so of a special variant that would require unique support equipment, he said. However, all bets are off if the C-5 re-engining and upgrade program fails to pay off, in which case USAF probably would need to buy more C-17s, Lichte said. But tanker is king of requirements, he emphasized, calling it “unconscionable” to force crews to fly 50-year-old aircraft with a proven and lengthening record of age-related failures.
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.