Daily Report

May 26, 2011

Make It Happen

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley on Wednesday called on the 1,021 graduates of the Air Force Academy’s Class of 2011 to seek out ways to contribute to the units in which they’ll serve. “In the words of [former Los Angeles...

Weathering the Transition

Northrop Grumman has received authorization from the Air Force, along with $428 million in funding, to proceed with work on the Defense Weather Satellite System, the US military’s next-generation weather-monitoring satellite. DWSS will leverage the accomplishments of the Northrop-led program...

Bulgaria Hosts Tankers Supporting Afghanistan Operations

KC-135 tankers are temporarily operating out of Burgas Airport, Bulgaria, in support of NATO operations in Afghanistan. The tankers are expected to stay until month’s end. They are refueling cargo aircraft going into, or coming out of, Southwest Asia, said...

Missile Unit Relocating

Air Force Global Strike Command is relocating its Missile Engineer Squadron from Peterson AFB, Colo., to F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo. “The unit is small but critical, with unique deeply technical capabilities that can best be integrated day to day if...

Despite Fighter Shun, Indian Market Still Promising

India’s elimination of Boeing’s and Lockheed Martin’s bids in its medium multi-role combat aircraft competition was a “great disappointment,” but there’s still “a lot of opportunities out there” for US defense companies in India in the coming years, said Robert...

The Price of the New Generation

The price of the F-35 strike fighter compares well with that of a modern F-16 or F/A-18 loaded for bear, Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for F-35 business development, tells the Daily Report. “A fully operational,” latest model F-16E...

F-22 Down, F-35 Stretched

The Pentagon's latest Aircraft Procurement Plan states that the Air Force will keep its F-22 the "premier air-to-air fighter aircraft by spending $4.5 billion on modernization" over the next 10 years. Previous DOD estimates of that number—particularly when the Pentagon was pushing Congress to terminate F-22 production at 187 aircraft—said there was $7 billion programmed for F-22 enhancements. According to the plan, the Air Force will concentrate its procurement dollars on the F-35A, procuring 603 from Fiscal 2012 to Fiscal 2021. That leaves some 1,100 F-35s still to buy in the 2020s under USAF's program of record for 1,763 units. The service also expects to recapitalize its long-range cargo and bomber aircraft in the 2020s (see below). (2011 Aircraft Procurement Plan) (For more background on the F-22 modernization, see The New Playbook from Air Force Magazine's archives.)

The Long Wait

There will be no new long-range aircraft procured by the Air Force until the early 2020s, according to the Defense Department's latest Aircraft Procurement Plan. "Although the department is spending considerable sums on modernizing legacy strategic lift and long-range strike platforms, there will be no new procurement of aircraft in these categories during Fiscal 2012-2021," states the plan, which plots DOD's investment strategy for fixed wing aircraft out to 2041. It adds: "The picture will change in the 2020s, when the priority will likely shift to buying [them]." The plan assumes that long-range cargo aircraft like the C-5 and C-17 will be available in adequate numbers and sustained by service-life extensions, and that existing bombers will get upgrades until a new design is fielded in the mid-2020s. (2011 Aircraft Procurement Plan)

Focus on the Family

The Defense Department is predicting that its "future" fighter force—after all F/A-18E/Fs, F-22s, and F-35s are delivered and nearing retirement—will be a "family of systems" much like its next-generation long-range strike portfolio. It's too soon to characterize what the future fighter force's capabilities will be, but Pentagon officials anticipate that "a family of systems—mixes of manned and unmanned aircraft, with varying stealth characteristics and advanced standoff weapons—will shape the future fighter/attack inventory," according to DOD's latest Aircraft Procurement Plan that looks out to 2041. The tradeoffs among these attributes "are being examined now, and subsequent aviation plans will reflect the resulting acquisition decisions," reads the document. The Navy is already pursuing a "Next Generation Air Dominance" fighter concept. Air Force officials have already started looking at sixth generation concepts, but don't anticipate launching a formal acquisition program for about a decade. (2011 Aircraft Procurement Plan)