DefenseAlert, Oct. 14, 2008 -- The Air Force is planning dramatic cuts to its fighter force in fiscal year 2010 in an attempt to find $3.4 billion to bolster other combat aircraft, munitions inventories, ISR and manpower efforts, InsideDefense.com has learned.
true approved, the US Air Force is taking a huge gamble here. The Lockheed Martin F-35A is not scheduled to enter service until at least two years after the aircraft it replaces would be retired, and there's still big uncertainty that Lockheed can stick to the F-35 program's flight test and development schedule.
This also comes almost immediately after Congress blocked the USAF's attempt to retire the U-2 fleet before the RQ-4s were equipped and mature enough to replace them. The USAF has also retired the F-117 fleet as the F-22s entered service.
[Updated] The InsideDefense.com report counts 137 F-15s, 177 F-16s and 9 A-10s will be retired early after 2010. The fleet retirements, if approved, would save $2.2 billion, $1.1 billion and $100 million, respectively. That money would be re-invested to modernize a smaller, conventional fighter force and accelerate F-35 production ramp from 48 to 110 per year, as Lockheed executives predicted a few months ago.
"There is some near-term (FY-10-14) risk taken by this move," the document states, summing up the earlier-than-expected retirements of the F-15s, F-16s and A-10s. "However, our analysis shows the FY-10 POM smaller but modernized fighter force, when coupled with a robust bomber fleet, can effectively bridge the gap until the F-35 can be produced in required numbers (ramping to 110) and the F-22 can be modified to a common configuration."