No Promises on Top Three

Even though the Air Force has “done our best” to “protect” funding for the F-35, KC-46 tanker, and Long-Range Strike Bomber, if sequester returns, those programs will still be under “tremendous stress,” Air Force acquisition chief William LaPlante told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces panel Wednesday. LaPlante said USAF “can’t promise” the top three will remain “protected … if Congress doesn’t repeal” sequester. LaPlante said the LRS-B will most likely be developed under a cost-plus-type contract rather than a fixed-price-type, because of the unknowns ahead. Even so, USAF is sticking by its fiscal year 2010 quote of $550 million for 100 airplanes—which he said would be about $580 million in today’s dollars—because the cost was made a “requirement” that companies “had to design to.” The cost also will be contained because USAF hasn’t changed the requirements since 2010, and didn’t “put too much in” to the specifications that would make the jet unaffordable. LaPLante also pitched for Congress to fund the B-2 Defensive Management System, which he said was crucial to the bomber being able to fly “in contested environments.” He said B-2 “availability is actually getting better” because of reliability investments in the bomber’s stealth features.