Hour draws near for Air Force program cancellations

The budgetary fate of key Air Force programs will be determined shortly with word filtering out in a matter of days on which programs are put on hold or terminated, reports Aviation Week.

The final 2010 defense budget reaches the desk of Defense Secretary Robert Gates on April 2 and, following a detailed review, will be released officially on April 21, DOD sources said.

Plans for a new U.S. Air Force tanker and the latest version of a future bomber to supplement the stealthy B-2 force are still being financially well supported in negotiations over the 2010 budget. But, for the Air Force at least, senior civilian acquisition officials believe that no other big-ticket earmarks will be tolerated.

Air Force programs mentioned as likely victims of cost cutting are additional C-17 production, funding of the last 40 F-22 Raptors and the F-35s Alternative Fighter Engine, said a longtime Air Force acquisition official.

A joint tanker buy is still seen by some as the only way out of the bureaucratic tangle that awarded and rescinded the program at different times to both Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. Yet Air Force Secretary Michael Donley tells Pentagon acquisition officials that he still wants to start another tanker program with new requirements.

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