I'm on the hook to write a round-up of major US acquisition programs for Flight International's World Air Forces annual update this year.
To focus my thinking I jotted down a list of the biggest contracts and a key question. Here's what I came up with. Feel free to suggest additions or substractions, or just tell me I'm dumb. I can take it.
In reviewing the list, it strikes me the real action for the next few years won't be in new acquisitions, but inevitable budget fluctuations for the programs already on contract (ie JSF, Super Hornet, F-22, C-17, etc.)
So here goes:
KC-X: The mother of all acquisition programs. If a contract awarded to either side triggers a stalemate between the competitors' rival factions in Congress, is there any way to avoid a scenario that results in a compromise requiring a split-buy?
CSAR-X: The re-re-competition has started. Key question: Is it possible for Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky to prevent a contract award to Boeing in perpetuity, or can the US Air Force muster the political will and credibility to enforce its contract decisions?
CRT-X: Re-capitalization of the HC/MC-130 fleet. Can the 50-year-old box-size of the Lockheed Martin C-130J remain operationally relevant for the first wave of C-130E/H fleet replacements, or does the USAF wait for the wider and larger Airbus A400M to get back on schedule?
BAMS: In a time of tightening procurement budgets, will the US Navy remain committed to a program that is arguably a new, unproven capability, rather than a required replacement for an existing system?
Joint Heavy Lift/AJACS: What's the better investment: Boeing's cheaper "80% solution" C-17B that the warfighter can have in 2012, or the 100% solution with an 11-digit development price tag that the warfighter can have nine years later?
EPX/ACS: Where's the room in the budget?
Core Component Jammer: Will the new Boeing/Northrop Grumman partnership create a new industrial monopoly for arborne electronic attack, with the same team serving as the sole supplier for the Pentagon's escort and stand-off jamming roles?
A-10 prime re-compete: Can Boeing consolidate its victory for the A-10 re-winging contract to snatch the A-10 fleet away from the Lockheed Martin/Northrop Grumman incumbent team?
STUAS/Tier II: Small Tactical UAS for navy and US Marine Corps. Has the need for this capability been mooted by the "interim" acquisitions of the Boeing/Insitu Scan Eagle?
CVLSP: Common Vertical Lift Support Platform. How does this program avoid the sad fate of the CSAR-X stalemate?
Small Diameter Bomb Increment II: Can Raytheon catch-up to present a legitimate technical alternative to the Boeing/Lockheed Martin team?
JAGM: Joint Air to Ground Missile. No good question. I'm still wondering what the heck went wrong with the Joint Common Missile.
Counterinsurgency aircraft: Will this seemingly logical requirement in an age of insurgency and terrorism ever get off the ground?
[UPDATE: QF-16: Air superiority target. Who could forget?]
[2nd UPDATE: AMF JTRS . I am so ashamed. This is a really big one. Airborne-Maritime/Fixed-site Joint Tactical Radio System: is this just offering the finest in late-1990s cellular technology at 10x the price?]