What’s going on with the light-attack program?
We’ve been very consistent about the strategy from the beginning. First and foremost, this is all about allies and partners. The National Defense Strategy says that we’re going to invest and increase our relationships with current allies and partners, and build more allies and partners. And because so many are fighting violent extremism at their borders, this was our approach to say: “OK, how do we support the National Defense Strategy by building a weapon system?"
We learned in the past that if it’s good enough for us to buy, it tends to be good enough for our allies and partners. And many of the international air chiefs, tell me: “Hey, Dave, I got this going on in my country, I’ve got to deal with it; I want to join you in a fight, but I can’t afford F-16s, I’m never going to get F-35 and I need something else because my weapon systems I’ve got right now are getting older. What do you have to offer me?”
The second thing is that as we build the Air Force we need, I have no place I can go within the United States Air Force to trade away capacity to build light attack. It has to be additive. It does do some things inside the Air Force that are very helpful, but it’s not a requirement inside the Air Force. This is a requirement for our allies and partners that we’re working towards. So given those two fundamental assumptions, we opened up to industry to this experiment. And I cannot thank the two companies that joined us enough for their partnership today because they’ve been extraordinary and we’ve learned a ton.
Some countries may be better to have an unmanned option; some countries would be better to have a rotary-wing option; some countries want to do a fixed wing but turboprop; some countries want to do fixed wing but turbojet. So we were able to start experimenting with just one of those. So now what can we do to expand the experiment to look at, what is the right mix? And how do we bring allies and partners in right now with us — not just periodically parachuting in?
For us to issue an RFP would set an expectation that we’re ready to go to selection when we’re still working our way through what the strategy would be. That would be, in my mind, a bit irresponsible. I talked to both the CEOs, and we want to make sure we strengthen the partnership we already built as we go forward.