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Thu, Mar 06, 2008

Pentagon Says -- Again -- USAF Doesn't Need More C-17s

Inquiry Came At Request Of Senators, Including McCain

The Pentagon's chief weapons buyer said this week that despite the Air Force putting more C-17 Globemaster III transport planes on its "dream list" to Congress, the Pentagon's position remains the same as it's been for two years -- the planes are not needed.

Reuters reports John Young was addressing reporters' questions about the Air Force's $18.7 billion "unfunded priorities" list, that included 15 more C-17s. The list is an annual attempt at an end-run around the Pentagon's official budget request. It usually works, as lawmakers look for pork to bring home to districts in which there would be economic impact.

But it might not this time. "We have no requirements base for more aircraft," Young said.

Congress already funded 18 C-17s beyond Pentagon requests in the past two years to keep production going, at the urging of the Air Force.

Allowing the production lines for a military aircraft to be shut down would be very expensive to reverse. The Pentagon's inspector general's office is trying to determine whether the Air Force has wrongfully encouraged Boeing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars maintaining suppliers for C-17 production in anticipation of congressional approval of unfunded priorities.

The Pentagon inquiry was requested by a group of US Senators, including the evident Republican Presidential nominee, John McCain. The Arizona lawmaker is on record backing the Pentagon in opposing extended C-17 production.

Instead of purchasing new aircraft, Young supports modifying much of the Air Force's current fleet of C-5 Galaxy heavy-haulers. As ANN reported, in February the Air Force scaled back plans to re-engine the entire 109-plane C-5 fleet, due to cost overruns. Under the new plan, only the newest C-5B and C-5C aircraft will get new engines, while 62 aging C-5As will soldier on with older powerplants.



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