With tightening budgets, Air Mobility Command is exploring ways to keep its fleet viable for many years to come, said Maj. Gen. Wayne Schatz, the command’s director of strategic plans, requirements, and programs. Officials are examining options to extend the service life of the C-17 another 30,000 flight hours—or roughly 30 more years, said Schatz at AFA’s Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept. 19. At the same time, they’ve also started working with the Air Force’s research and acquisition community on a follow-on airlifter to the C-17 and C-5, he said. AMC is also mulling options for the C-130 fleet, such as whether it makes sense “to continue to invest in older C-130Hs,” or instead “to continue the C-130J buy and recapitalize there,” said Schatz. The command must also factor joint requirements, he said. For example, the Army is looking at a new future combat vehicle that may require the Air Force to come up with a different aircraft design “with a different box size,” he said. Even though the new KC-46 tanker fleet will not be completely fielded until the late 2020s, officials already are “looking closely” at what the Air Force should do for the follow-on KC-Y and KC-Z tankers, he noted.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.