Members of the Texas and South Dakota Congressional delegations called on Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne May 21 to ensure that the B-1B bomber fleet is properly supported and maintained by providing the necessary funding for it in the service’s Fiscal 2010 program objective memorandum. “We understand that the B-1s are not receiving sufficient spare parts and are suffering from a shortage of qualified maintenance technicians,” write Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.), and Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) in their missive to Wynne. South Dakota and Texas are home to the nation’s two B-1 bases. What they don’t want is for the service to entertain the notion of reducing the size of the B-1B fleet again, as it did in 2002, to free up resources to sustain the remaining aircraft, they say. Instead, they want USAF to commit to providing “the necessary maintenance support” for the remaining 66 B-1s in the fleet. Heavy usage in the war on terror, combined with the shortage of parts and mechanics, has led to the B-1’s mission-capable rates declining, while its rate of accidents is increasing, they state. (Already this year, there have been two B-1B ground accidents, one of which caused the loss of an airframe.) So concerned are the lawmakers by the “seriousness of this situation,” that they request a meeting to discuss the B-1B situation with Lt. Gen. Raymond Johns, the lead on the Air Staff for strategic plans.
The F-35 Joint Program Office has officially announced plans to issue multiple sole-source contracts to Pratt & Whitney to upgrade the fighter’s F135 engine—a widely expected move after Pentagon officials indicated they would do so earlier this year instead of developing an entirely new engine.