The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a new report today that for the first time reveals how US Air Force plans to deal with a fighter shortfall that is expected to reach 200 jets by 2025.
The GAO report summarizes two mandatory reports the USAF delivered in March to Congress. There are four options:
1. Extending the service life of and modernizing about 300 F-16 aircraft
2. Increasing annual F-35 procurement above 80 aircraft per year
3. Procuring new upgraded variants of legacy aircraft such as the F-16 and F-15
4. A combination of options 2 and 3
The fact that the USAF has even considered resuming F-16 and F-15 orders could be very significant. Two decades of USAF leaders have consistently upheld the all-stealth rule for combat aircraft.
The USAF reports, however, do not endorse the non-stealth procurement option, according to the GAO. Modernizing and extending the service life of 300 F-16s could provide the same capability as buying new jets, but at 10-15% of the cost, GAO says. On the other hand, the GAO notes that the service life extension program for the F-16 only restores the aircraft’s original threshold of 8,000 hours, rather than truly extending its lifetime.
USAF considers new F-15s and F-16s to beat fighter shortfall
By Stephen Trimble on 11 August, 2010 in Uncategorised
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