Snapshots of Force Modernization

Feb. 1, 1997
The data sheets that follow are snapshots of the status of the Air Force’s nine major aircraft production, development, and upgrade programs: the Attack Laser, B-2 stealth bomber, C-17 transport, C-130J transport, E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System, F-22 fighter, E-8 Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System, Joint Strike Fighter, and Joint Primary Aircraft Training System. They provide mission, cost, and schedule information current as of the end of Fiscal Year 1996. Except as specifically noted, dollar values are expressed in current dollars, meaning that no adjustment for inflation has been made.

F-22

The stealthy F-22 will succeed the F-15 as the primary provider of air superiority for US theater armed forces well into the twenty-first century. It will have the unprecedented capability to cruise at supersonic speeds without afterburner. This feature, when coupled with stealth and enhanced integrated sensors and avionics, will make the F-22 capable of defeating any projected combat aircraft or surface-to-air missile. The F-22 will be able to perform a secondary ground-attack mission after air superiority has been established.

The program still faces challenges in the areas of weight and cost, which at present is running at 105 percent of budget, though “management reserve” funds are built into the program to cover some of the overrun. Trade-offs among performance, cost, and weight continue to be made. A two-seat, B model variant has been eliminated from the project to save money.

Program

F-22A

Mission

Air superiority, with a secondary ground-attack role.

Operator

Air Combat Command.

Contractors

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor; Boeing is the principal subcontractor. Pratt & Whitney is the F119 engine contractor.

Status

Engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) 60 percent complete.

Next major milestone

Full-rate production decision in September 2000.

First flight

Rollout in April 1997; first flight in May 1997.

Planned production

432 production aircraft, to equip four wings; 12 test models.

Production schedule

Per year, beginning in FY 2001: four, 12, 24, 36, and 48 through FY 2011; 18 in FY 2012.

Initial operational capability (IOC)

November 2004.

Flyaway cost

$71 million in FY 1996 dollars.

Program acquisition cost

$70 billion (includes development and production).

Current funding

$2 billion in FY 1997.

Significant features

Stealth, supercruise, high agility, integrated avionics, data fusion, and thrust vectoring.

Performance

Range comparable to F-15E; agility comparable to F-16.

Armament

Internal: six AIM-120C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) or two AIM-120Cs and two 1,000-lb Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) in center bay; two AIM-9X short-range dogfight missiles in side bays. External: Two wing hardpoints can carry additional fuel or munitions.

Deployment

Test aircraft will be deployed at Edwards AFB, Calif.; Nellis AFB, Nev.; Tyndall AFB, Fla.; and Eglin AFB, Fla. The first operational base has not yet been chosen.

Joint Strike Fighter

The JSF will replace the F-16 and A-10 in the Air Force, the AV-8B and F/A-18 in the Marine Corps, and the A-6 in the Navy. The UK Royal Navy has committed to buying the JSF to replace its Sea Harrier aircraft, and other allied air arms are exploring participation in the program. Intended as the “low-end” complement to the “high-end” F-22 in USAF, the JSF must meet stringent cost limits and demonstrate a level of performance that gives it advantages over the F-16, particularly in stealth and range.

The Marine/UK version is to be capable of short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL). All variants are to be 70 to 90 percent common by cost, to derive the price benefits of common manufacture and field support. The Pentagon plans a competition between the baseline Pratt & Whitney F119 engine and the General Electric F120.

Program

Joint Strike Fighter

Mission

Ground attack, with a secondary air-superiority role.

Operator

Air Combat Command in USAF.

Contractors

Boeing and Lock­heed Martin were selected in November 1996 as the two design competitors.

Status

Concept exploration work under way.

Next major milestone

One contractor will be selected for EMD in 2000.

Planned production

Air Force: 2,216. Marine Corps: 600. Navy: 300. UK Royal Navy: 60.

First flight

Prototypes are scheduled to fly in 1998.

IOC

2008.

Flyaway cost

Air Force: $30 million. Marine Corps/UK: $40 million. Navy: $34 million to $36 million.

Program acquisition cost

$96 billion (includes development and production of 3,232 aircraft).

Current funding

$599 million in FY 1997, of which $263.8 million supports the USAF version.

Significant features

The STOVL version will be capable of supersonic speeds; all versions will make heavy use of off-board sensors to reduce weight; lowest-cost stealth combat aircraft yet.

Range

Classified, but more than 600 nautical miles combat radius.

Armament

Internal: two 1,000-lb JDAMs and two AIM-120C AM­RAAMs. External: more than 12,000 pounds.

Deployment

Bases now operating the F-16 and A-10 will likely receive the JSF.

B-2A

The Air Force’s B-2A Spirit is the first aircraft to combine stealth with large size and long range. It is USAF’s only penetrating nuclear bomber, as the B-52 serves as a standoff cruise missile platform and the B-1B has been removed from the nuclear role. The B-2A program has been capped at 20 production aircraft, and consideration of additional buys has been tabled for now, but Congress has funded conversion of the first test aircraft to operational standard, for a force of 21 airplanes. IOC for the B-2A with nuclear weapons was established last year, and IOC with conventional munitions is expected early this year.

Tests last fall with the Global Positioning System–Aided Targeting System/GPS-Aided Munition proved highly successful. The GATS/GAM provides the B-2A with an interim precision bombing capability until the arrival of the JDAM in 1998. Continued B-2 funding focuses on test, development, and adding more conventional weapon capability. All B-2s will eventually be fitted to the all-up Block 30 configuration. Improvements being considered beyond the Block 30 include a communications/navigation and weapons upgrade.

Program

B-2A Spirit

Mission

Long-range area and precision strike.

Operator

Air Combat Command.

Contractors

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor, with Boeing as a principal subcontractor.

Status

Eight in service, three in testing, two in production, and eight being converted to more advanced configurations.

Next major milestone

Delivery of first Block 30 aircraft in fall 1997.

Planned production

20, plus one converted test aircraft, for a total of 21.

Production schedule

Block 30 deliveries per year, beginning in FY 1997: four, five, eight, and four.

IOC

Limited operational capability (conventional) on January 1, 1997. Full IOC in spring 1997.

Flyaway cost

$997 million in FY 1996 dollars.

Program acquisition cost

$42 billion (includes development and production).

Current funding

$624 million in FY 1997.

Program completion

The last aircraft in Block 30 configuration is to be delivered in mid-2000.

New features

The Block 10 aircraft includes capability for B83 and B61 nuclear weapons. Block 20 adds the GAM. Block 30 adds virtually all standard bombs and cluster bombs, including JDAM and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM).

Performance

Able to reach any point on the globe with one aerial refueling; certified for four-G turns.

Armament

All internal: Typical load is 16 GAMs or Mk. 83 bombs.

Deployment

All B-2As are to be based at Whiteman AFB, Mo.

C-130J

The Air Force is acquiring C-130J aircraft to replace its aging C-130E and H intratheater transports and special-mission aircraft. Lockheed Martin developed the C-130J with its own funds and is underwriting most of the test effort as well. The C-130J offers electric flight controls, new engines and propellers, and performance about one-third better than previous models. Con­gress has added funds to accelerate production for special-mission variants. USAF requested one for Fiscal 1997, but nine were funded for USAF and four for the Marine Corps.

As of mid-1996, there were 687 C-130s of various types in the active-duty USAF, Guard, and Reserve inventories, but they will not be replaced on a one-for-one basis. The Intratheater Lift Analysis completed last summer determined that the C-130 force can shrink, though a final figure has yet to be stated. The C-130J has also been ordered by the UK and Australia.

Program

C-130J Hercules

Mission

Intratheater lift, Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC), gunship, electronic warfare, weather, and special operations.

Operator

Air Mobility Command.

Contractor

Lockheed Martin.

Status

Flight test, to be concluded in fall 1997.

Next major milestone

Delivery of first USAF aircraft in October 1997.

Planned production

No total has been established, though USAF estimates a need for at least 400 aircraft over the next 20 years.

Production schedule

If Congress continues adding funds at present rate, production should average about nine C-130Js for USAF per year.

IOC

USAF will accept its first C-130J in October.

Flyaway cost

For WC-130 version, $55 million. For EC-130 version, $70.5 million (all variants, conversion costs included). For cargo version, $50.2 million.

Program acquisition cost

No estimate; final production not yet determined. Because the C-130J is a “nondevelopmental item,” USAF paid no development cost.

Current funding

$450 million for Guard/Reserve special-mission aircraft in FY 1997.

Program completion

Production potential through 2020.

New features

Better engines, “curved” six-blade propellers, fly-by-wire avionics, “glass cockpit” displays, and two-person flight crew (vs. three).

Performance

The C-130J’s Alli­son AE 2100D3 engines, coupled with the Dowty six-blade propellers, generate 31 percent more thrust and 18 percent better fuel efficiency. Takeoff roll is one-third shorter than C-130H, time to climb to 20,000 feet is one-third faster than C-130H, cruise altitude is 29,000 feet vs. 24,000 feet for C-130H, and range is improved to 2,404 nautical miles vs. 1,745.

Deployment

Harrisburg IAP, Pa. (EC-130J), Keesler AFB, Miss. (WC-130J), Tinker AFB, Okla. (ANG C-130J).

C-17A

The C-17 is Air Mobility Com­mand’s newest strategic airlifter, capable of carrying outsize and oversize cargo while landing and operating on smaller and more austere airfields than can be used by the larger C-5 Galaxy. After an exhaustive but successful operational test in 1995, the C-17 program, which had been on probation, was cleared for a further 80 airplanes, in addition to the 40 then in the pipeline. The Air Force has negotiated a seven-year agreement to buy C-17s; the deal saved slightly more than $1 billion.

While there has been discussion of procuring additional C-17s to replace the aging C-5, neither USAF nor AMC has any plans to do so for now. Congressional talk of “capping” production of the C-17 has evaporated in light of its performance in the field. McDonnell Douglas is seeking export orders from Japan and several NATO nations, and a commercial variant may be developed.

Program

C-17A Globemaster III

Mission

Strategic inter- and intra­theater lift.

Operator

Air Mobility Command.

Contractor

McDonnell Douglas.

Status

In production. As of November 1996, 30 aircraft delivered.

Next major milestone

Completion of seven-year multiyear production contract in 2003.

Planned production

120 aircraft, though the Air Force’s last strategic lift study called for 140 C-17-equivalents.

Production schedule

From FY 1997 through FY 2003: eight, nine, 13, 15, 15, 15, and five.

IOC

Established in 1995 with 12 aircraft at Charleston AFB, S.C.

Flyaway cost

$172.8 million per aircraft for remaining 80 airplanes.

Program acquisition cost

$42.5 billion, including development, test, procurement, and military construction.

Current funding

$2.33 billion in production for eight aircraft in FY 1997, plus $87 million for research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E).

Program completion

The last of 120 aircraft is to be delivered in 2003, though export potential exists for as many as 50 additional aircraft.

New features

The C-17 features glass cockpit with head-up display, three-person crew (including load­master), and ability to back up on the ground and operate from much small­er ramps and airfields than the C-5.

Deployment

Four squadrons of 12 aircraft each will be deployed at Charleston AFB, S.C., and McChord AFB, Wash. An additional six will be deployed with the Air National Guard at Jackson, Miss., and eight will be based at Altus AFB, Okla., which is the airlift “schoolhouse.” Approximately 10 will be routinely in test, depot, or reserve.

Joint Primary Aircraft Training System

The JPATS is the planned basic-trainer replacement for the Air Force T-37B and the Navy T-34C. Beech Aircraft Corp. was selected in June 1995 as the JPATS prime contractor, offering a single-turboprop, two-seat variant of the Swiss Pilatus PC-9. After legal protests from other competitors, the award was upheld in early 1996, and work began on the project, which is to yield 711 aircraft: 372 for the Air Force and 339 for the Navy. Beech is to select a subcontractor this spring for the groundbased training system (GBTS), which includes courseware and simulators. Air Force and Navy undergraduate pilot training have been merging into a joint operation over the last few years, and JPATS will supply a joint aircraft to further harmonize the system.

Program

Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS)

Mission

Primary undergraduate pilot training, as well as support of USAF navigator and naval flight officer training.

Operator

Air Education and Train­ing Command.

Contractor

Beech Aircraft Corp.

Status

In development.

Next major milestone

Critical Design Review and design lock-in were slated to take place in December 1996. Selection of the GBTS contractor is due in April 1997.

Planned production

711 aircraft, of which 372 will be for USAF.

Production schedule

From an initial 12 in 1998, the services plan to ramp up to a peak production rate of 43 airplanes per year in 2002.

IOC

The first USAF unit will be operational in 2001, and all projected USAF units will be equipped with JPATS by 2011.

Flyaway cost

$3.4 million per airplane for 711 aircraft.

Program acquisition cost

About $7 billion, though the Pentagon expects this figure to be lower due to savings from streamlined acquisition methods. The Air Force’s share for production is $1.75 billion.

Current funding

$67 million for procurement and $64.5 million for RDT&E in FY 1997.

Program completion

The Air Force is to receive its last JPATS in 2011; the Navy receives its last airplane in 2017.

New features

The JPATS offers better climb and turn agility than the T-37, as well as a modern glass cockpit with color multifunction displays and a zero-zero ejection seat.

Deployment

First operational aircraft arrive at Randolph AFB, Tex., in June 1999; at Laughlin AFB, Tex., in May 2001; at Vance AFB, Okla., in June 2004; at Columbus AFB, Miss., in September 2006; and at Sheppard AFB, Tex., in November 2008.

Attack Laser—YAL-1A

The Attack Laser aircraft (YAL-1A) is a new initiative by the Air Force to develop a rapidly deploy­able theater ballistic missile defense system. The system employs a high-energy laser mounted on the nose of a new-manufacture 747-400 freight­er, and it will be able to detect, track, and shoot a ballistic missile in the boost phase at a range described only as “hundreds of kilometers,” depending on the size of the missile. USAF foresees an intermediate role for the Attack Laser in theater ballistic missile defense—the second step in the sequence of direct attack, boost-phase intercept, midcourse intercept, and terminal-point defense. In a typical en­gagement, the YAL-1A crew would have 40 to 100 seconds to locate, track, and fire on a missile, keeping the laser trained on it for an average of five seconds to cause a booster explosion. It is also to have capability against low-flying cruise missiles.

USAF sees high deterrent value in the YAL-1A because it would cause the missile and its warhead to fall back on the launching nation. The Attack Laser will also provide an additional layer of protection to ensure that terminal defenses are not overwhelmed and will increase surveillance coverage by providing a 360° infrared sensor capability. A deploy­able aircraft will be built during the concept phase. With a crew of six and capability for 30 shots at $1,000 each, the Attack Laser is regarded as a highly cost-effective tool for protecting theater assets and personnel.

Program

YAL-1A Attack Laser

Mission

Boost-phase ballistic missile defense.

Operator

Air Combat Command.

Contractor

A Boeing-led team including TRW and Lockheed Martin.

Status

Concept development.

Next major milestone

EMD is to begin in 2002.

Planned production

Seven aircraft.

Production schedule

One prototype aircraft will be built during the concept phase, one in the EMD phase, and five in production. The two developmental aircraft will then be retrofitted to production standard.

IOC

2006, with three deployable aircraft.

Flyaway cost

About $750 million per aircraft.

Program acquisition cost

About $5 billion.

Current funding

$57 million in RDT&E was approved by Congress for FY 1997, though the Air Force awarded a $1.1 billion contract to the Boeing team to get started.

Program completion

The seventh YAL-1A is to be deployable in 2008.

New features

The Attack Laser will offer the first operational directed-energy weapon and the only boost-phase missile defense system. It is also expected to be a pathfinder for future directed-energy weapons.

Deployment

No home base has been chosen, but the first several aircraft will undergo testing at Edwards AFB, Calif.

E-8C Joint STARS

The Joint STARS is the USAF–Army system for detecting enemy vehicle movements within a theater of operations. A synthetic aperture radar mounted in an underbody “canoe” aboard a Boeing 707 provides imagery of moving ground objects hundreds of kilometers away. This information is passed to a ground station where a commander can see, in near–real time, where the enemy is advancing, as well as to keep an eye on his own units as they move near the forward edge of the battle area.

Two developmental versions, designated E-8A, were used with great success in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Development continued, and a more advanced aircraft, designated E-8C, is the current production standard. NATO Allies are considering purchase of Joint STARS aircraft under a program that may mirror partnership on the AWACS program. Though an open-ended production program has been suggested, USAF plans currently call for a total of 19 aircraft, one of which will be a designated test airplane.

All Joint STARS systems are mount­ed in used and refurbished Boeing 707 airframes, but the two used in the Gulf War have so many hours on them that the systems in the aircraft may be transferred to fresher airframes. In addition, worse-than-anticipated corrosion on all Joint STARS–intended 707s has pushed up program costs by more than 15 percent. Linkages to unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites are being added to all Joint STARS, as well as the ability to more directly designate targets for aircraft and ground fire.

Program

E-8C Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS)

Mission

Theater surveillance and target designation.

Operators

Air Combat Command and the US Army.

Contractors

Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor for the Joint STARS system; E-Systems maintains the airframe.

Status

In production.

Next major milestone

IOC in September 1997.

Planned production

19 aircraft.

Production schedule

Due to cost growth, USAF has reduced acquisition to one aircraft in 1998 and 1999, two each year until 2002, and one in 2003.

IOC

Three aircraft will be operational with the 93d Air Control Wing at Robins AFB, Ga., in September 1997.

Flyaway cost

$266.2 million.

Program acquisition cost

$9.6 billion.

Current funding

$816.4 million in FY 1997.

Program completion

The nineteenth and last operational Joint STARS is slated for delivery in 2005.

New features

Compared with the developmental E-8A, the E-8C has a more comprehensive and jam-resistant radio suite and additional consoles with more off-the-shelf computer equipment. USAF plans to put the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System on the aircraft, as well as an ultrahigh-frequency satellite terminal. An infrared countermeasures suite is also contemplated.

Deployment

Robins AFB, Ga., will host all 19 operational Joint STARS, but most are expected to be deployed almost constantly. Two will remain at Robins for training, and two will be in the depot at any given time, leaving the others free for operations.

E-3C Sentry AWACS

The E-3C AWACS RSIP represents the second major overhaul of the AWACS fleet since its inception in the 1970s. This second refit will give AWACS the ability to see stealthier targets, such as cruise missiles, or see the same targets further away. Ranges are classified, but an AWACS of current vintage could, from a point above Connecticut, track all the air traffic over New York city and Boston.

The RSIP will increase the radar’s range and power as well as replace many of the electronic systems aboard the aircraft with modern modular units for improved reliability and maintainability. The upgrade is being planned and developed jointly by USAF and NATO, and the UK is purchasing eight RSIP kits, plus spares.

Though consideration was given to replacing the E-3C airframe with a new-manufacture Boeing 767, this was deemed uneconomical. Costs given are for the RSIP effort only and do not include acquisition cost of AWACS aircraft or basic systems.

Program

E-3C Sentry AWACS Radar System Improvement Program

Mission

Theater aerial radar surveillance and control.

Operator

Air Combat Command.

Contractor

Boeing.

Status

Operational test and evaluation under way.

Next major milestone

Production decision expected in September 1997.

Planned production

33 aircraft.

Production schedule

USAF plans two per year in 1998 and 1999, four in 2000, five in 2001, six in 2002, seven in 2003, and six in the outyears. A test aircraft has already been modified.

IOC

As delivered.

Flyaway cost

$14.6 million per aircraft.

Program acquisition cost

$850 million for 32 aircraft, including US share of development and test costs.

Current funding

$36 million authorized in FY 1997.

Program completion

Expected in 2004 to 2005.

New features

More powerful radar, ability to discriminate among targets with smaller radar cross sections, modern line-replaceable units, and updated displays. Airframe life extension is funded separately in a program known as Extend Sentry.

Deployment

Unchanged.