A group of 13 Republican Senators and one Democrat Senator last week appealed to President Obama to refrain from any action that would delay or cancel the Air Force’s efforts to field a new KC-X tanker as soon as possible or a next-generation bomber in 2018. “We believe that any delay or cancellation of either program constitutes an unacceptable and unnecessary risk to our nation’s unique ability to project airpower worldwide,” wrote these Senators, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), in a Feb. 13 letter to Obama. The Senators said they were acting in response to press reports last week claiming that the Office of Management and Budget had recommended a five-year delay to the KC-X program and the bomber’s outright cancellation. (OMB and Pentagon officials later refuted such claims.) Since the tanker and bomber fleets are becoming “increasingly obsolete and unsupportable,” the group of Senators, which includes lone Democrat Sen. Tim Johnson, (S.D.), called for the “expedited procurement” of the new tanker and bomber. Interestingly, they reminded the President that the text of his own defense agenda states that “essential systems” like the KC-X “provide the backbone” of the US military’s ability to extend global power.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.