Asking the Right Questions

Those impatient for the Air Force to get going on a sixth generation fighter need to be patient and wait for the Air Dominance 2030 study to figure out what’s really needed, Pentagon acquisition chief William LaPlante said in an interview. “It’s very early right now, but I think we are successfully … putting the right pieces together across the Air Force, from the operators to the … science folks at AFRL [Air Force Research Laboratory] to the folks in industry,” and “we’re lining up a series of activities that will be resourced,” such as prototyping and experimentation, LaPlante told Air Force Magazine. The question to be answered, he said, is “what does the kill chain even look like in 2030, 2035? Which is … a different question than … what follows F-35?” The latter can only be answered “by doing this,” he said of the program. The F-22, he added, has a service life profile “that … looks like it’s almost to 2050,” so there’s time to figure out the next steps in air dominance. Even though the F-22 has been operational for a decade, replacing it is “not imminent, but it is something we need to think about.” Though people, “both in industry and the press, …want to make the discussion about what’s the next plane … we have consciously said that is not what this is,” he explained. The Pentagon has not said when it expects to produce conclusions from the Air Dominance 2030 study, of which USAF is only one element.