Beyond the Big Three

The Air Force has a list of “must pays” beyond its “big three” acquisition programs—the F-35 strike fighter, the KC-46A tanker, and the Long-Range Strike Bomber, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on Tuesday during ASC15. “There are a whole lot of other things we have to modernize,” he said. The Air Force is slowly starting to recover funding slashed by sequestration, but those funds must be spent wisely. For example, the service is looking at ways to make space assets and systems “more resilient,” it’s reinvesting in aging nuclear infrastructure, and is recapitalizing some nuclear weapon systems. Welsh said USAF also must invest more in the cyber domain, but “we have to do it … the right way and get it in the right places.” There are other needed investments that affect the “meat and potatoes of what we’ve been doing for the last 25 years, and in particular the last 15,” he added, programs that are part of everyday operations around the world. In particular, USAF needs to ensure the success of both the “existential” T-X effort and the Combat Rescue Helicopter program. Welsh said CRH is “tied to the fabric of our Air Force” and necessary to ensure the personnel recovery mission receives the equipment to perform in the hardest environments when “things go wrong.”