Report: Shrinking USAF fighter fleet gets even smaller? [Updated]

Big news this morning from InsideDefense.com.


EXCLUSIVE: Air Force Plans Massive, Early F-15, F-16 Retirements to Save $3.4 Billion

DefenseAlert, Oct. 14, 2008 — The Air Force is planningdramatic cuts to its fighter force in fiscal year 2010 in an attempt tofind $3.4 billion to bolster other combat aircraft, munitionsinventories, ISR and manpower efforts, InsideDefense.com has learned.

If 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.

More from the InsideDefense.com article:


“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.”

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6 Responses to Report: Shrinking USAF fighter fleet gets even smaller? [Updated]

  1. Royce 16 October, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

    That’s a 16% cut in the fighter fleet, by my count. And the savings won’t be enough to reach that 110 aircraft target judging by the FY2009 budget docs. It does show a much bigger commitment to JSF than I thought they had.

  2. Stephen Trimble 16 October, 2008 at 2:32 pm #

    I thought Dan Crowley had lost his head back in June when he predicted that the USAF WILL increase the ramp from 48 to 110, which is actually just restoring the ramp to its pre-2006 level. Crowley is Lockheed’s VP and GM for F-35. So it does appear that the USAF is indeed serious about its long-term commitment to JSF. But, as you point out Royce, it will require more cuts than just this, and where will they come from? Amazingly, simply cutting F-22 and C-17 when their production contracts expire next year would not solve their problem, since they are not even in the budget! NGB also isn’t in the budget, so they can’t take money away there either. There’s also little chance in the current political climate the USAF can get away with canceling KC-X or taking away from the manned or unmanned ISR aircraft accounts. It has to come out of reduced operations for the legacy FIGHTER fleet. So this may just be the beginning.

  3. eg 16 October, 2008 at 3:00 pm #

    Losing the aircraft in the short term might help availability rates since there will be fewer aircraft competing for spares. But, increased flight hours on the remaining aicraft will increase fatigue and attrition.
    The question becomes, what are they going to do with the manpower? Losing the skilled NCO’s will have an impact later in the legacy fleet and when the JSF comes on line.

    This is starting to look like the USAAC that flew the mail in 1934.

  4. backlinks 8 February, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Very nice site!

  5. Kathy Best 10 November, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

    I saw something about that subject on TV last night. Great post.

  6. generalforum 12 January, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Why do they “retire” fighter jets? Why can’t they upgrade them? Surely it’s a waste of money.

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