US Air Force details aircraft cuts

Washington DC
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The US Air Force has detailed plans to retire 227 aircraft, or four per cent of its total fleet.

"Where possible, we attempted to retire all aircraft of a specific type, which allowed us to divest the training and logistics support for that aircraft. Where that was not possible, we looked to retire the oldest aircraft first," the service said on 13 February.

Retirements include the Alenia North America-supplied C-27J tactical transport (below) and Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30, both virtually new platforms. No decisions have been made as to the ultimate fate of the aircraft, nor their retirement schedule. The USAF also will retire 102 Fairchild-Republic A-10Cs, as outlined last month as part of planned cuts for fiscal year 2013.

 

© Peter Foster

Purchases of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper unmanned air vehicles have been slashed from 48 to 24. USAF chief budget officer Gen Edward Bolton described the action as necessary not for cost reasons, but due to a lack of trained air crews. The air force maintains plans to operate 65 "orbits" of UAVs, requiring a minimum of two aircraft for each, but now expects to achieve that goal by 2016.

The air force also announced a cut in the planned buy of Lockheed Martin F-35s to 19, from initial plans to procure 24 in FY2013. The move is yet another delay for the troubled programme, but the service's total planned buy remains at a projected 1,700.

"We have restructured the F-35 programme to allow for a more realistic ramp and to address concurrency issues," said the air force.

The service also announced the cancellation of the Defense Weather Satellite System, a next-generation weather satellite.