In addition to the F-35 strike fighter, KC-46A tanker, and Long Range Strike Bomber, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh added two programs to round out the Air Force’s top five acquisition priorities. In a press briefing on Sept. 18 at AFA’s Air and Space Conference, Welsh said No. 4 would be a JSTARS replacement and No. 5 would be T-X, a replacement for the T-38 trainer. The T-X “to me, is kind of like the tide: it’s coming,” said Welsh, “and we’ve just got to figure out how fast we can get there from here.” He said he’s not worried that the T-38 will “fall out of the sky tomorrow,” noting that it’s performing well and the modifications done to it “have been very successful.” But the airplane is now better than 50 years old, said Welsh. “As soon as we have the budget space to accelerate that program, we should accelerate it, not slip it,” he said. Nevertheless, “there’re lots of things we think we need that are not going to be” in next fiscal year’s budget, he said.
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.