USAF considers new F-15s and F-16s to beat fighter shortfall

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.


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17 Responses to USAF considers new F-15s and F-16s to beat fighter shortfall

  1. bobbymike 11 August, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Might not be a bad idea. F-15SE’s and the newest F-16 models give quite a lot of capability for “day two” and onward strikes and COIN and other more “permissive environment” airspace scenrarios.

  2. Royce 11 August, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    I have a hard time believing that the USAF leaders will devote resources to new F-15s and F-16s given their commitment to the F-35. They’ve already had to give up on the idea of more F-22s, and buying more F-16s and F-15s now means fewer F-35s later. If anything, I’d expect them to use the fighter gap to push for a faster ramp up of F-35C production.

  3. Aussie Digger 11 August, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    USAF aren’t buying the F-35C, the Navy is….

  4. Mark Brueschke 11 August, 2010 at 5:03 pm #

    Could this be a hedge incase the economy and the defense budget get bad enough the F-35 is cut further or canceled?

  5. goal_keeper 11 August, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    Honestly, very disappointed that more F-22′s has not been seriously considered. Even by Gates. The facts are overwhelming and the Raptor is in production and getting cheaper. I see no logic in ignoring all options but the F-35.

  6. elgatoso 11 August, 2010 at 7:18 pm #

    USAF considers new F-15s and F-16s to beat fighter shortfall
    NO ,they don’t

  7. PMS 11 August, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    The hedge or the “plan B” – whatchamacallit! ;)
    In a view of this I also wonder whether the development of the Boeing’s Silent Eagle has only been started with Saudi Arabia in mind…

  8. Bjørnar Bolsøy 11 August, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Bets are on increased F-35 production. There appears to be no alternative. Similarity the Norwegian’s are accepting an *inital* batch of somewhat less capable Block 3 jets rather than Block 4, which was originally foreseen.

    B. Bolsøy

  9. johnny 11 August, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    I will eat my shorts if the AF buys new legacy fighters. Not going to happen.

  10. alloycowboy 11 August, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    If they order a mix of single seat and two seat F-16′s they can use them for the agrressor squadrons later and for for transition aircraft to the F-35 and F-22. This way the won’t loose some many of expensive stealth fighters in training excersices.

  11. F14RIO 12 August, 2010 at 12:39 am #

    #2 is the ONLY option! Want to really reduce the F35 unit cost and build more sooner – Certify and source a second manufacturer (Boeing’s F15/18 line) and compete the annual bids. Just like the 80′s competition between Pratt’s F100 and GE’s F110 that drove down cost, increased capability and enhanced R&M, competing F35 airframes will do the same thing. Some historical information – there were three F14 RIO’s that were involved from 1995-1999 establishing the JSF requirements – I was one of them. It has been interesting and at times humorous reading comments over the years by aviation enthusiasts, Bill Sweetman and the APA bubbas. Although the APA guys do do some great threat comparative analysis.

    I agree with goal_keeper – should still be building F22′s.

  12. Royce 12 August, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    Yup. I got confused there.

  13. Atomic Walrus 12 August, 2010 at 5:19 pm #


    Interesting idea about dual production lines, but I think you’d actually ensure higher costs through duplication of overhead and reduction of the volumes needed to accelerate the learning curve. The Great Engine War was about the air force trying to exert control over what they considered to be an unresponsive supplier. I suspect there are better ways of doing that (such as withholding performance payments) than adding cost to an over-budget program.

  14. Jetcal1 12 August, 2010 at 5:39 pm #

    Don’t forget the Navy has the same problems, which led to the following Ares post:

    I wonder what the current body count on the A-7D and A-7E is at AMARC? Can you say “Short term interim regeneration”? I thought you could.

  15. Ethan 22 August, 2010 at 3:19 am #

    Hey F14RIO,

    Thanks for your service. What squadrons were you with? I agree with you, the F-22 should continue to be built for the USAF. As for the Navy, I am concerned about two facts. The F-18E/Fs lack the range and speed of the F-14.Sure it is an old argurement but fact is, when a Super Hornet goes nose high, it bleeds enegry and speed that it cant get back. The other issue is the fact that the Air Wing has shrunk. 48 Hornets and 4-6 Prowlers is not enough striking power to justify the CVNs. 15 years ago there were 60 odd strike aircraft alone, not including the VS and VQs. I think more aircraft need to be added to the CVW. The USAF would in my opinion be wise to purchase new built F-15Es, which in the F-15K standard are excellent aircraft, be it for threats from the PRC or missions like OIF or OEF.

  16. tony 8 November, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    From Aug 2004 until May 2010 I was working on the F-35 @ Lockheed/Martin , Ft. Worth, TX.
    Is has become another A-12, WAY over cost, Way behind schedule and Many of the so called partners have oppted out or reduced the number of birds they HAD planned to buy.
    I have been in the Aircraft bussiness since I graduated from Penn State back in May of 66 and the only other HOSES UP program that I worked on that is in as much trouble as the F-35 was the A-12. It was cancelled and it might not be a bad idea if the DOD killed this project. As I write this message, the costs are still going up and the aircraft has ONCE AGAIN been grounded.

    Tony G.

  17. car auto repair 11 November, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    Debian is the most light weight, so you’d probably end up with the best performance (it’s the only one that doesn’t run a GUI by default), but Ubuntu is the easiest to set up.

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