Le Bourget, France—Marion Blakey, Aerospace Industries Association president, said here she’s “very worried” that US aerospace’s most cutting-edge technological capabilities will “wither” without more design work. Acknowledging that this is the first time in aviation history that the United States is not at work designing a next-generation fighter—and that there’s not yet a defined new bomber program—Blakey told the Daily Report at last week’s Paris Air Show that she worries that the nation will simply settle “for keeping old lines open” and not inventing the next generation of hardware. Besides the prospect that major airframe houses may not invest in keeping design shops operating, the bigger concern is that “you’re not going to attract the really sharp engineers and scientists” to the industry. “They need to see their work developed and built, in numbers,” or they will seek more interesting work elsewhere, she said. More so than almost any other concern, this is the “number one” worry of AIA members, said Blakey. She also noted that in discussions with European counterparts, they share the same concern, and collectively see the initiative—and talent—going east. “The Chinese and others are willing to invest real money” in cutting-edge work, she said.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.