Aircraft projects unveil potential rift between services

The director of Army aviation said Friday the Air Force is not “collegial” in its approach to the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program, which the two services are sharing.

Despite the joint nature of the program, the Air Force may not be a good team player, Brig. Gen. Stephen Mundt indicated.

“If you ask Stephen Mundt now, I would say they are not being collegial,” he said at a Pentagon media roundtable. “If you ask them we have a joint program.”

As a contract award decision is nearing on the program, the JCA has not been devoid of simmering tension between the Army and the Air Force over who should control the program.

In recent weeks, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley said in several forums, most notably a meeting of the adjutants general, that the Air Force could pull out of the program if the aircraft that suits it best is not selected, according to several sources.

The Army and the Air Force have a joint program office, and both Army and Air Force representatives have a say in the aircraft selection, noted Mundt. Following the press conference, he stressed that, in talks with him, the Air Force always says it is a joint program.

In another sign of a growing turf war between the two services, Mundt was also sore about the Air Force flexing its muscle to become the executive agent for all medium- and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (flying at altitudes of 3,500 feet and higher). Moseley sent a memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff arguing that the Air Force is organized, trained and equipped for the role of executive agent.

But the Air Force’s move did not sit well with the Army, which uses a series of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles. “We were flat caught off guard,” said Mundt.