Gen. Gregory Martin (Ret.), former Air Force Materiel boss, speaking Sept. 14 at AFA’s Air & Space Conference about the state of the defense industrial base, noted that from the end of World War II to the late 1960s, the Air Force was “really churning stuff out fast,” developing and fielding new aerospace technologies at a blistering pace. He said that when he was flying F-4Cs in 1971 an eight-year old Phantom was considered to be over the hill. Since then, production lines have steadily shrunk and unit costs have gone skyward. Hoffman said USAF must look at long production runs and stay focused on aircraft block improvements, determining ahead of time what is likely to break. He extolled successful sustainment efforts like the KC-135R re-engining effort and now upgrades to create the C-5M Super Galaxy. Although USAF is “still flying F-16s” and “still building them,” he said the Air Force has a steep hill to climb to recapitalize and close the aircraft age gap. He said that even if USAF procures between 80 and 100 new fighters a year, it would still be flying 40-year-old fighters.
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.