With upgrades, the Air Force’s nuclear-warhead-carrying air launched cruise missile will be viable for two more decades, says Gen. Kevin Chilton, head of US Strategic Command. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chilton said ALCM “can be easily extended until 2030” with “modest investments” in upgrades. This approach is “appropriate” and will allow the US “to begin studies in about the 2015 time period to see what would be the follow-on replacement” to ALCM, he said during the July 20 hearing on the New START arms control agreement with Russia. The Air Force announced in February its intent to explore an ALCM replacement together with the Navy. The sea service is already retiring its nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles. (Chilton’s written testimony) (For more on ALCM, see The Cruise Missile Question from the February issue of Air Force Magazine)
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.