Requirements Mulled for Next-Generation Airlifter

Air Mobility Command is in the early stages of defining requirements for the Air Force’s next-generation airlifter, the C-X, and it could replace the C-17 and C-130 alike, said command boss Gen. Paul Selva. He told the Daily Report that AMC is “beginning to define what the airlift fleet looks like, not in 2020, but into the early ’30s and on into the ’40s.” If requirements demand an aircraft able to operate in contested or denied airspace, that suggests curtailing C-130 buys late in this decade, he said, so that the Air Force isn’t “buying ourselves into a legacy airplane” that can’t do the job. Much depends on how the Army shapes itself for “tactical and operational maneuver” and “the contribution that [air]lifter will make to that maneuver,” said Selva. AMC has been working with Air Force Materiel Command and the Air Force Research Lab to explore what’s possible, he said. After this “conceptual” work, AMC may still need one cargo airplane for strategic work and one for tactical tasks, but Selva said he wants a plan in hand well before the C-17 starts to retire “so we don’t collide with a sort of ‘double recap’ requirement.” The Air Force might still replace all its C-130Hs with C-130Js, but “it’s not clear” at this point “that that’s the only option,” he said during the mid December interview.