Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Wednesday she expects the service to announce changes to its space launch procurement program later this year. “We are heavily reliant on the [Russian-made] RD-180” engine, James said, “and our desire is to get off that reliance.” Despite indications from some Russian officials that the supply chain for the engine might be interrupted as a result of heightened US-Russian tensions, James said no interruption has occurred yet. She also pointed out the Air Force maintains a two-year stockpile of engines. USAF is currently working through both near-term and long-term options, she added, to include possibly speeding up purchases of the US-produced Delta V program, even though James said that could mean incurring greater costs. “We are working to get US entrants into the program,” she said, and USAF planners are examining how a new US-built engine program would look and whether it would be a public-private partnership or government driven. James said she expects more details on this effort to come out in the “coming months.”
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S. The bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.