Air Mobility Command chief Gen. Ray Johns said Tuesday that his command will seek to bring all its C-17s up to the current production-line standard, the Block 18. Johns told reporters attending AFA’s Air & Space Conference that this will vastly simplify the process of assigning C-17s to missions, since they will all have similar capabilities in range and other performance. Early aircraft will get the extended-range fuel tanks, new computers, and other improved features now standard and planned for the 222nd and last USAF C-17. Johns said the C-17 has a 30,000-hour service life, and, once the fleet has been brought up to the Block 18 standard, AMC will begin to explore fleetwide upgrades that might be included in a pre-planned product improvement program.
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.