The Air Force is not planning a larger follow-on to the shadowy X-37B reusable junior space shuttle or an increase in the number of X-37s beyond the two that it has, said Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command boss, Thursday. That’s because of funding limits and because the service is satisfied with the vehicle as-is, he told reporters in Washington, D.C. Shelton said the service’s second X-37 is “doing very well on orbit.” It’s been in space already more than one year. While Shelton couldn’t give a date when it will complete its tasks and return to Earth, he said “it’s had a very successful mission and we’re very happy with its performance.” Asked about plans to pursue the technology, Shelton said “there is no plan to do anything larger. We can sustain this capability for quite some time.” He added that “there’s no plan—certainly that we can afford—to increase the fleet size.” About the only thing Shelton would say of the classified spaceplane’s activities is that it’s not scooping up space debris. “I think it’s safe to say . . . it’s not a vacuum cleaner,” he joked.
More than 100 B-21s will be needed if the nation is to avoid creating a high demand/low capacity capability, panelists said on a Hudson Institute webinar. The B-21's flexibility, stealth, range and payload will be in high demand for a wide range of missions, both traditional and new.