Historic: USAF Allows Defense Company to Choose Next Plane

In a move that Defense One described as “unprecedented,” the U.S. Air Force plans to allow a defense company to choose the USAF’s new electronic-attack jet.

According to industry sources and Pentagon officials, this is the first time in the 70-year history of the Air Force that a defense contractor has been allowed to choose the type of aircraft that will make up a small fleet of new jets.

In order to update an expensive military project, the 42-year-old EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, the Air Force plans to transfer 10 electronic packages mostly made by BAE Systems and installed by L3 Technologies, to new and more reliable 14 Compass Call aircraft. These will have state-of-the-art, highly classified electronics that will allow airmen to disrupt electronic communications from the sky.

The EC-130H, which the new aircraft would replace, was used extensively in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 15 years.

“We made this decision after looking at all the options — laying out pros and cons, looking at a variety of different methods that we thought we could work our way through this,” said Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force military deputy for acquisition, reported Defense One.

But industry watchdogs are skeptical of the decision, warning that  this move cedes an important military function to a private company, and a defense contractor choosing the aircraft could lead to cost overruns and wasted money. They cited examples of other programs built around lead systems integrator (LSI) that have record delays and exploding costs, like the Army’s Future Combat Systems and the Coast Guard’s Deepwater programs.


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