The Defense Department needs to assess the cost of engines and mission-assurance activities for future evolved expendable launch vehicles before it makes decisions on future EELV buys, said Government Accountability Office auditors. DOD and the National Reconnaissance Office plan to spend about $15 billion for EELV launch services from Fiscal 2013 to Fiscal 2017 to help stabilize the US launch industrial base. This plan would commit the government to a block buy of eight common booster cores—EELV’s main component—each year, for a 5-year period. However, “critical knowledge gaps remain” that could come back to bite the Pentagon, warned the auditors in a report released Monday, but dated Sept. 15. For example, “the expected block buy may commit the government to buy more booster cores than it needs,” states the document. DOD also might “lock in higher prices” for EELV engines, cautioned the auditors.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.