The Air Force provides the essential capabilities that make America’s joint operations possible and has been involved in nearly every military operation overseas since 1991. As the Pentagon delves into the details of the 2014 budget, getting the Air Force budget right is critical to ensure that the nation can count on its indispensable role in a time of shrinking resources.

Our adherence to the idea of a joint force has led to a roughly equal cut of spending among the services. This is not the optimum allocation of scarce resources in coming years if our national strategy is to maintain global presence and communications, as well as to fight cost-effectively and be capable of defeating modernized militaries. Keep reading →

ORLANDO: America’s new long-range bomber program is “underway,” will involve somewhere between 80 and 100 planes and will be delivered sometime in the mid-2020’s.

“And that’s about all we’re saying,” Air Force Secretary Mike Donley told reporters. It’s been known for some time that the bombers will not fly alone but will be part of a family of systems that may include UAVs and other systems. Keep reading →

ORLANDO: He didn’t use the word sequestration — perhaps because the Air Force is still trying to explain the C-27’s “divestiture” — but Gen. Norton Schwartz told the Air Force Association’s winter conference today that “we fully expect we will be making further tough [budget] calls.”

It wasn’t completely clear whether Schwartz was referring to sequestration — it didn’t sound like it — but it was clear he was signaling to his mixed audience of airmen, industry types and Air Force supporters that while the service is well served by the administration’s new strategy and the tilt to the Pacific and Middle East that doesn’t mean the fiscal pain is over. Keep reading →

The value of the European defense giant Finmeccanica has plunged by about one-third in the last week as senior company officials face corruption allegations. The Financial Times reports that “a widening corruption investigation” helped push the value of the company “down to new 13-year lows on Monday.”

The company told investors last week that it would probably lose €200 million this year. On top of that gloomy news, one senior company official — the director of external relations — “stepped down” after news reports claimed he was being investigated in connection with a corruption case involving Italy’s civilian air traffic controller. The company said he denied any wrongdoing and had stepped down until the investigation is complete. The company’s chairman, Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, is also under investigation.

A board meeting is likely in the next week, the FT reported. The Italian government owns roughly one-third of Finmeccanica, which comes in at number 8 of the Defense News Top 100 defense companies. The company sells the C-27 Joint Cargo Aircraft to the Defense Department with program prime, L-3 Communications. The U.S. Air Force oversees the program. Keep reading →

UPDATED WITH PENTAGON RESPONSE Capitol Hill: Faced with a torrent of counterfeit parts that pose a serious risk to the lives of American servicemen and to the performance of sophisticated weapons, Sen. Carl Levin pledged today to push for new laws and policies to help curb the problem.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, held what could almost be called a marathon hearing (it started at 9:30 and ended after 3 with a few breaks) on the topic which included results of a sting operation run by the Government Accountability Office to demonstrate just how easy it was to buy counterfeit parts from Chinese firms. Keep reading →

Washington: The Army is aiming to corral costs across the service’s fixed-wing fleet and has tasked its new aviation program office to do just that.

The service’s new Fixed Wing Program Office will be the sole office in charge of buying and modernizing aircraft in the service’s 350-plane fleet, according to a service statement released today. Keep reading →

U.S. troops will start pulling out of Afghanistan this summer. This raises the basic question — is the Afghan military ready to take over and would it survive the departure of much of the U.S. military.

The plan is still to end the “combat mission,” whatever that means, in 2014, leaving behind trainers, advisers and other specialists. Afghan forces are ready to begin taking major responsibility for their country’s own security, U.S. officials say. Indeed, it would be disastrous for the Afghan army, police and air force should the U.S. stayed longer than currently planned. Keep reading →

Paris: It’s a helicopter, but it’s not ungainly. It’s a helicopter, but it has two forward-facing propellers. It’s a helicopter but it flies as fast as some planes.

It is the X3, a very high-speed helicopter built by European defense giant EADS. It’s already set one speed record, zooming at 279.6 miles per hour (232 knots or 450 km per hour). A remarkably attractive helicopter, the X3 is described quite completely by this paragraph from EADS: Keep reading →