Hardworking Airlifters: C-130 transports supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are still pushing a very hard operations tempo, the Air Force’s senior mobility general said last week. Gen. Arthur Lichte, commander of Air Mobility Command, told reporters Feb. 22 during AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium that Hercules aircraft continue to perform the bulk of tactical airlift in theater, including flying missions that enable ground commanders to reduce the number of truck supply convoys needed, thereby reducing risks to convoy troops. While there is less cargo going into theater now than during the opening stages of the Iraq war, C-130s play a critical role in delivering time-sensitive cargo in small packages, Lichte said. The smaller Joint Cargo Aircraft will be ideally suited for serving in this role when it comes online, he noted. Currently the Air Force plans to install new digital cockpits on 222 of its H-model Hercules platforms under the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program. However, a large number of combat-delivery E-model C-130s remains on flight restrictions, he said. “We’d like to get rid of all the E models, period,” Lichte said, noting that dollars are a big part of the equation. If the cost of fixing up one of these old aircraft is even close to a C-130J’s price tag, there’s a good argument for getting new aircraft, he said. Conversely, the Air Force may not be able to afford new Js to replace all of the Es and may be forced to pump more money into the latter. That said, Lichte confirmed that the Air Force is working with Lockheed Martin to see about purchasing several more J models a year for the foreseeable future under a new multiyear procurement arrangement. But this option would only be pursued if the savings were significant, he said.
In a nighttime ceremony contrived to continue concealment of many of its features, the new B-21 bomber rolled out of Northrop Grumman's Palmdale, Calif. plant Dec. 2. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the aircraft's advanced technology represents "deterrence, the American way."