Mind the Gap

The US military still faces a looming capability gap in moving Army medium-weight weapon systems by air within a combat theater, the Government Accountability Office warned in a report Thursday. GAO said “only” the C-17 is currently capable of transporting heavier equipment, such as armored Strykers and MRAPs, within theater, as these are “too large and bulky” for C-130s. Yet, C-17s cannot transport these vehicles “into austere, short, or unimproved landing areas,” according to GAO. While the Air Force-Army joint future theater lift concept to replace older C-130s will address this shortfall, JFTL fielding is not expected until 2024, based on current planning, said GAO. This means that C-17s may have to be used more in tactical heavy lift roles to mitigate—but not fill—this gap between 2016 and when JFTL is available, potentially impacting the C-17’s “primary role as a strategic airlifter,” said GAO.