Going Suboptimal Before Optimal

To meet intra-theater airlift requirements, the Air Force would like to acquire 57 additional combat-delivery C-130J transport aircraft on top of the 70 that the Congress has already funded, Sue Payton, Air Force acquisition executive, told a Senate oversight panel March 12 in written testimony. USAF also wants dozens of modified C-130Js to support combat search and rescue helicopters and special operations forces, other senior service officials have said. But since the Air Force’s C-130J multiyear procurement contract with Lockheed Martin ends in Fiscal 2008, “we will be using suboptimized additional procurements through annual contracts to procure future aircraft until a new MYP contract can be negotiated,” Payton wrote. USAF has not requested funds to buy any combat delivery C-130Js in Fiscal 2009, but it does want to buy six of the special-mission C-130Js next year. As of February, Payton said USAF has fielded 63 C-130Js, including 10WC-130Js for weather monitoring and 7 EC-130Js for information and psychological operations. The Air Force continues to expand the envelope of its combat-delivery C-130Js in operations in Southwest Asia. On March 6, for example, a C-130J dropped leaflets over Afghanistan to encourage Afghan citizens to reject anti-government violence. This is the first leaflet drop for an active duty C-130J, according to a USAF release.