Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James speaks at an AFA-sponsored Air Force breakfast Feb. 12, 2016. Photo by Lyndsey Akers
Because the Air Force has opted to slow the A-10 attack jet’s phased retirement, it will buy contractor logistics support for a number of other legacy platforms in order to shift some seasoned maintainers to the F-35 program. That could work against the service in the long run, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at an AFA-sponsored Air Force breakfast Friday. “It’s definitely more money,” James said, unable to immediately peg the difference in cost between organic and CLS. She said it will be a “temporary approach” as “we very much want to get back to having airmen do this important maintenance,” but “it’s a risk.” As CLS companies “gear up to provide this maintenance support for us ... they could, in effect, directly or indirectly, pull our own airmen into the private sector and that could exacerbate our issue. I hope not, but we’ll see.” James said the No 1. thing she worries about in regard to achieving full operational capability with the F-35—targeted for around 2030—“is the issue of the experienced maintainers.” Achieving FOC on time is “going to require even more maintainers,” for which USAF doesn’t yet have a source, she added.
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