Stand-In and Stand-Offish Arsenal Planes

So-called “arsenal planes” are part of the “trade studies” determining the right mix of systems and capabilities for Air Superiority 2030, Air Force planners acknowledged at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast on Thursday. Col. Alex Grynkewich, head of the AS 2030 study, said the trade studies will look at the optimum mixes of “range, payload, survivability, and how you get a [target] cue to whatever [weapon] you’re firing off of that.” Big arsenal planes would likely not be very survivable against a modern air defense system, he said, and so would be relegated to carry standoff weapons at the periphery of a target area. Small arsenal planes would likely be used in a “stand-in … offensive counter-air” mode, carrying extra weapons for other platforms, such as the F-22 and F-35. “We’ll look at both” big and small arsenal concepts “over the next several years,” he said, doing prototyping and experimentation with the Strategic Capabilities Office, a DOD entity intended to streamline acquisition of urgently needed systems. Former senior USAF officials have said the service has been exploring stealthy unmanned stand-in arsenal plane concepts for more than 10 years.