The Air Force may have to cut up to 25,000 airmen and as many as 550 aircraft over the next five years if sequestration spending caps continue, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Nov. 7. “While we hope to build a viable plan to slow the growth of personnel costs over time and to reduce infrastructure costs when able, the only way to pay the full sequestration bill is by reducing force structure, readiness, and modernization,” said Welsh, who testified Thursday alongside the other service Chiefs on the impacts of sequestration on the force. Welsh once again cautioned that vertical cuts may be inevitable. He also said the Air Force would have to cut flying hours from its operations and maintenance accounts by as much 15 percent if the spending caps remain in place. That would mean many USAF units will not be fully mission capable within three-to-four months, he noted. Welsh also said USAF has no plans to once again furlough civilians; however, he said it will cancel—and significantly curtain—major exercises while reducing its initial pilot production goals. “The real and projected impacts are great,” he emphasized. (Welsh’s written testimony).
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.