USAF Leadership Exploring RD-180 Options

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Wednesday she expects the service to announce changes to its space launch procurement program later this year. “We are heavily reliant on the [Russian-made] RD-180” engine, James said, “and our desire is to get off that reliance.” Despite indications from some Russian officials that the supply chain for the engine might be interrupted as a result of heightened US-Russian tensions, James said no interruption has occurred yet. She also pointed out the Air Force maintains a two-year stockpile of engines. USAF is currently working through both near-term and long-term options, she added, to include possibly speeding up purchases of the US-produced Delta V program, even though James said that could mean incurring greater costs. “We are working to get US entrants into the program,” she said, and USAF planners are examining how a new US-built engine program would look and whether it would be a public-private partnership or government driven. James said she expects more details on this effort to come out in the “coming months.”