Aviation Week Profiles US Air Force Modernization Programs Written 9 September 2022


An artist's rendering of a B-21 Raider. | Credit: U.S. Air Force graphic; USAF; Public Domain

Aviation Week reports on the US Air Force’s major modernization programs. The Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider “will be the U.S. Air Force’s next generation, long-range stealth bomber, replacing the company’s B-2 Spirit and the Rockwell B-1B Lancer. The Air Force and Northrop now expect the public rollout of the bomber to take place this year, ahead of its first flight next year. Six of the aircraft are in production at the secretive Plant 42 complex in Palmdale, California, and the first airframe recently completed loads calibration testing.” The most important “modernization project in the Air Force’s tactical aircraft portfolio is also its most secretive, with limited on-the-record information about the sixth-generation fighter that will replace the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.” The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are all in the running to develop the new fighter aircraft. The US Air Force remains committed to the F-35 Lightning II program and is intent on procuring upgraded engines for the aircraft. Orders for the F-15EX Eagle II have been reduced to 80, and there are plans to request $321.9 million in 2024 for procurement of the T-7A Red Hawk trainer. The US Air Force plans to make a decision on further procurement of the KC-46A Pegasus by next spring and is to accelerate development of “its next-generation ‘KC-Z,’ with a preliminary analysis of alternatives planned to start in 2024 – well ahead of its original schedule of 2030.” Production of the LGM-35A Sentinel ICBM is expected to begin in 2026, and the US Air Force expects to introduce the Lockheed Martin AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile and several new cruise missiles in the coming years.
Full Story (Aviation Week)