A new Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment monograph suggests that the Air Force should cut in half its buy of F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to pay for the kind of force the service will need by 2028. Author Thomas Ehrhard, now special assistant to the Chief of Staff, believes the service will need the money it saves for other higher priorities like a B-3 bomber. Ehrhard considers the F-35 a “middle-weight” aircraft that lacks the capability to meet high-end challenges and that “is over-specified and overpriced for low-end challenges.” The B-3, on the other hand, will be “a critical and indispensible element … for decades to come,” Ehrhard writes. He advocates buying more than 100 at a rate of 12 per year, starting with a manned version but progressing to unmanned “to turn it into a truly global surveillance-strike asset.”
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.