Counting on Birds in the Bush

The Air Force is debating as part of ongoing budget drills whether to skip a generation of technology in some areas—assuming greater risk—to live within its budget topline, Secretary Michael Donley said last week at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. Donley said a gamut of programs is on the table, ranging from highly classified projects to open endeavors and some that are “a mixture.” He also said this discussion will spill over into the Nuclear Posture Review, suggesting that the 2018 bomber is in play. Within the Pentagon, there’s a preference for “general-purpose” systems like the F-35 rather than “niche” systems, he said, although he didn’t specify whether the F-22 is considered a niche system. “What we are debating,” Donley explained, is not just the continuing relevance of the legacy fleet, but “the one that’s behind it” and systems that “provide leapfrog technology beyond that.” So, he said, the question is: “Do we need delivery on that capability in the next five to ten years? Or could we take more risk, skip the second program, and go to the third?”