Defense Industry Daily has the scoop on a no-holds-barred report from the Lexington Institute on the USAF’s effort to end the production of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
DID rightly points out that the Air Force is working to increase the availability and the lifespan of the C-5 fleet and that a new tanker decision will likely add a new aircraft that can moonlight as a cargo transport, but the fact is that the C-17 fleet is getting far, far more work than expected and that it will continue for as long as we can tell.
The Lexington report puts it this way:
Policymakers have decided to stop building the plane. They say they have enough C-17’s to meet strategic airlift needs for the foreseeable future. Even though their stated requirement for how much airlift is needed hasn’t changed since a “Mobility Requirements Study” was conducted in 2000. Perhaps you remember what it was like back then. No global war on terror. No shift to expeditionary warfare. No plans to return troops in Europe to the U.S. No big hurricane evacuations. The good old days….
While Murdoc suspects that “dumbest weapons decision of the decade” might be a bit strong (after all, there are a lot of dumb decisions to pick from…) it is a fact that you can never have enough air transport capacity.
I’d be less skeptical of this decision if the service wasn’t scrambling to pinch pennies everywhere it could to order a couple more F-22 fighters. It certainly appears that Priority #1 in the USAF is to increase the number of F-22s, and while I believe this is a worthwhile goal it shouldn’t come at the expense of everything else.
The transport fleet might not be sexy, but the US military doesn’t win anything anywhere without it. It’s true that, while we don’t need F-22s to fight the current crop of low-tech enemies, we’ll need them against a serious military force if a major war comes. But the C-17 fleet is not only critical in the battles we’re fighting today, it’s vital to simply keep the Air Force running day-to-day.
For more C-17 and an incredible pic, see Masters of the Globe