Time to Put Up or Shut Up?

With the F-15 fleet investigation still in progress, the Air Force’s top uniformed acquisition official believes a decision will have to be made on the future of the Eagle’s replacement fairly soon. Lt. Gen. Donald Hoffman, the military deputy for Air Force acquisition, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Thursday that the Air Force stands by its 381 requirement. However, the Administration has limited the service to 183 funded airframes. Now, the service is approaching the end of its hard-won multiyear procurement, meant to stretch the production line somewhat and faces the end of the line. “You will see in the ’09 process, we’re going to have to go one way or the other here,” Hoffman said. The Fiscal 2009 budget will have F-22 funding—for either an extension for long lead items or funding to begin shutting down the line. (The Lockheed Martin F-22 program manager said much the same last month.) Hoffman was careful to caveat that by saying the shutdown would start with sub-vendors, two or three tiers down in the procurement process. Current funding provides for airframe production through Fiscal 2010. There’s a move afoot in Congress to get information from the Pentagon about independent studies that called for more than 183 Raptors, but it may have come too late.