I’ll Take “Future Fighters,” Alex

The Pentagon is wrestling with a lot of questions about what it wants in its next generation of combat aircraft, Defense acquisition, technology, and logistics chief Frank Kendall said Friday. At a Pentagon press conference to discuss progress in acquisition management, Kendall said he would apply some lessons from the F-35 as the Air Force contemplates the Penetrating Combat Aircraft and the Navy launches its F/A-XX; the next steps in air dominance. First, he doesn’t think there will be another joint program, although the services will work together and he expects a lot of commonality of systems and subsystems. The Pentagon has already put “potential primes” to work on concepts, but there are “still more questions than answers about what type of aircraft we’re going to buy.” Those include manned versus unmanned, range versus payload, “how sophisticated an aircraft we’re going to want this to be,” and “where it fits in the spectrum of things, relative to the current fleet, relative to the F-35 in particular.” There is “an appetite for increased range, and there’s an appetite for increased payload, which is always the case,” he said, but the issue of range is becoming more acute, “given some of the missile threats that we’re seeing. And it’s not the missile threats to the aircraft themselves” that give pause, but “the threat to our bases and aircraft carriers.”