I bet USAF is just ecstatic about this

The Air Force cut list, announced by SecDef Robert M. Gates one day ago (via Air Force Magazine’s Daily Report).

  • F-22: End the buy at 187 aircraft.
  • F-35:  Accelerate the buy in 2010 to increase the number of test assets available; in the end there will be about a dozen fewer aircraft.
  • Air Force Fighters: Retire the oldest 250 fighters in Fiscal 2010 (Air Force request).
  • Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter: Terminated.
  • New Tanker: The KC-X program will go forward; request for bids expected this summer; Gates is still adamant on not having a split buy.
  • Transformational Satellite: Terminated; instead will purchase two additional Advanced Extremely High Frequency communications satellites.
  • Airborne Laser: Terminate the second aircraft, relegate the existing asset to research only.
  • C-17:  End the line; the 205 now in service or on order are sufficient.
  • 2018 Bomber: Postponed.

This budget ensures that the oldest inventory in USAF history will continue to get even older.

I figured CSAR-X would be postponed rather than axed, since it is kind of essential to have something to rescue downed airmen over the next 20-30 years… But other than that, the only major surprises are the death of TSAT and ABL.

TSAT was supposed to be the big-bandwidth backbone of the future milcom network, and I figured it would survive solely because DoD is going to need lots of milsat bandwidth to stream the live sensor imaging that the current and future fleet of UCAVs will be making available.  Now the burden will be shouldered by the less expensive, less capable AEHF.  Which isn’t all bad news, as AEHF still offers a sixfold improvement in data transfer rate over current milcom assets.  The unasked question is, will it still make sense to flood the sky with an ever-increasing number of UCAVs if your ability to see their output is constrained by your network?

ABL also seemed like a keeper; what could be more useful in a world of rogue state nuclear proliferation?  The ability to take out ballistic missiles from hundreds of miles away (while they are at their most vulnerable in the launch/boost phase) seems like a slam dunk.  Granted the current 747 platform is a little unwieldy, but the goal of the program was always to refine it in successive iterations into a smaller, more nimble airframe.

Another important item is the retirement of 250 fighters next fiscal year.  This means that the equivalent of 3.5 air expeditionary wings (or 5 CVBG air wings) will be permanently retired, with no planned replacement.  Besides being BRAC by other means, that is going to have a definite effect on future capabilities.

It’s going to be scary out there the next few decades.

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2 Responses
  1. There have been ads up supporting the F-22 at my local metro stop for months — obviously, the campaign has failed…

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    My thoughts are that SecDef Gates has just guaranteed that the United States will fight a major war against a near-peer adversary within the next 30 years. He will be long since retired, and not feel any sense of responsibility for helping put the country in a situation where such a war looks like a winnable proposition for the other side.
    I simply hope that he is right. That, for the next 30 years, America will only fight small brush wars against asymmetric opponents. The consequences of him being wrong are too horrific to dwell on for very long.