After I pestered Lockheed Martin Vice President Steve O’Bryan over F-35A numbers at yesterday’s press conference, the company asked their analysts in Fort Worth to provide a complete explanation.
As you may recall, I asked O’Bryan how Lockheed could continue to say that the US Air Force will order 1,763 jets after the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) slashed the number of theater strike wings to 10 or 11. Assuming a standard 72-aircraft wing, that adds up to only 720 to 792 combat-coded jets, far below Lockheed’s official number for the F-35.
I’ve received an email from Lockheed’s analysts this morning, which I excerpt below.
I assume all the strike wings are F-35. This would meanreplacement of all F-16s, A-10s and F-15Es with F-35. As of now, it isreasonable to assume all the A-10s and F-15Es would reach their life during theUSAF buy of F-35s (~ 2035) with no other tactical strike platform to replacetheir full capability other than F-35.
For air superiority, I’m assuming 2 wings of F-22s and theremaining 4 are F-35s. (In reality, there are only 1 2/3 wing equivalentsF-22s.)
This leads to 14-15 wings of F-35s. The table below useshistoric USAF bottoms-up approach for force structure requirements. As you cansee, with 15 wings, the requirement is over 1,700 F-35s. This is certainly inthe noise of 1,763 when we are talking about aircraft procured 25 years fromnow.