The Long Wait

There will be no new long-range aircraft procured by the Air Force until the early 2020s, according to the Defense Department’s latest Aircraft Procurement Plan. “Although the department is spending considerable sums on modernizing legacy strategic lift and long-range strike platforms, there will be no new procurement of aircraft in these categories during Fiscal 2012-2021,” states the plan, which plots DOD’s investment strategy for fixed wing aircraft out to 2041. It adds: “The picture will change in the 2020s, when the priority will likely shift to buying [them].” The plan assumes that long-range cargo aircraft like the C-5 and C-17 will be available in adequate numbers and sustained by service-life extensions, and that existing bombers will get upgrades until a new design is fielded in the mid-2020s. (2011 Aircraft Procurement Plan)