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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rotorcraft Report: Heard in the Hallways: Is the USAF In the Fight?

That is the question on many minds inside and outside the Beltway.

First, Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April faulted the Air Force for failing to get more unmanned surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan to support combat operations there. (A spokesman later explained the secretary meant to fault all the services in his comments — which he chose to deliver at the Air War College.)

Then last month he ousted Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and the service’s chief of staff, Gen. Michael Moseley, after gaffes involving nuclear and missile security.

At press time, Congressional auditors had overturned the service’s selection of the Northrop Grumman-EADS team over Boeing to supply new aerial refueling tankers. That is the second major acquisition scuttled by USAF missteps, the first being the Combat Search and Rescue-X helicopter bidding. Now critics complain the Air Force is stonewalling a deal with the Army to develop joint requirements for a new, intra-theater combat heavy lifter — which may or may not be a rotorcraft, depending on the color of the uniform worn by the person with whom you speak. The deal called for Army and USAF requirements to be meshed by July 1, according to insiders, but the blue-suiters are still wrestling with what they want to field.

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