2023: The Magical Year

Most of the Air Force’s big acquisition programs hit an important milestone in 2023—the T-X and JSTARS recapitalization see first deliveries, the Long-Range Strike Bomber will fly, directed energy weapons will be demonstrated, a concept hypersonic missile will be tested, “escort” unmanned combat air vehicles will be demonstrated, etc.—but what’s so magical about that year? Air Force acquisition chief William LaPLante, in an interview with Air Force Magazine, said the pileup is due to many long-deferred programs all coming due at once. “It’s not just the Air Force,” he said, noting that the Ohio-class sub replacement also fits the timeframe. “What they have in common,” he said, is that many of them are replacing Cold War systems and simply can’t be put off any longer. “We’re living off capital investments, in many of these areas, from that time, and it’s remarkable that we’ve kept some of these systems around as long as we have.” The bomber, the sub, and the Minuteman follow-on, for example, have been delayed because “we life-extended” them so long. “In each of those cases, the question is going to be asked, ‘well, can we wait even longer?'” Probably not, he said. “Each one has its own unique story, but … we have pressed the age limits on these capital investments as long as we possibly can.”