Big Bow Wave Coming

The Air Force recognizes that its budget plans call for across-the-board recapitalization efforts in the 2020s, and that this poses a huge financial challenge, but that only means it must start as soon as possible, top Air Force planner Maj. Gen. James Jones said Tuesday. “There is a big bow wave out in the ‘20s. And we know that, which is why we need to move out on things like the JSTARS recapitalization,” Jones told defense reporters at a Pentagon press roundtable. In addition to a replacement for the E-8 Joint STARS, the Air Force plans large buys of KC-46s, F-35s, Long-Range Strike Bombers, T-X trainers, and a new combat rescue helicopter in the 2020s, considerably more big-ticket programs simultaneously in production than at any time since the early 1980s. Buying some of those items now, rather than keeping as much force structure, definitely results “in some near-term risk,” Jones said, but “we have to start that recapitalization now so that we don’t keep shifting things out into the future.” If that choice was made, “it only gets worse,” he said.