Bombers and Freight, the Unpaid Eight

The Air Force is facing a funding shortfall in Fiscal 2013 because it must continue operating five C-5A transports and three B-1B bombers that it planned to retire, but has to retain due to this fiscal year’s defense authorization act. “The Congressional language directed 36 combat-coded B-1s, so that does leave a hole for about three B-1s’ worth of operations and maintenance,” Col. Jon Thomas, program integration division chief in Air Force headquarters, told reporters on Jan. 10. “We’re a little bit concerned about that,” he added. The total shortfall for just the B-1s is estimated at $50 million this fiscal year, said Thomas. For the C-5As, Air Force planners are considering several courses of action and “each one has a different cost,” he explained. The defense legislation allows the Air Force to retire its remaining C-5As, 26 airframes in all, but not until 45 days after completing a new study of the US military’s mobility needs, said Thomas. For Fiscal 2013, that means the Air Force is stuck paying to keep five C-5As in the air.