USAF rules out new F-15s and F-16s to narrow ‘fighter gap


Senior Member
Dec 17, 2009
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USAF rules out new F-15s and F-16s to narrow ‘fighter gap’
By Stephen Trimble

Delays and cost overruns for the Lockheed Martin F-35 have not changed the US Air Force's plans to deactivate about 250 fighters later this year, says Chief of Staff Gen Norton Schwartz.

The USAF, however, has begun destructive tests on Boeing F-15s and Lockheed F-16s to prove the viability for a potential service life extension programme, says Schwartz, who spoke to reporters on 30 March after a breakfast speaking event hosted by the Air Force Association.

"At 10-15% of the cost [of a new fighter] you could perform a SLEP," Schwartz says, "which would get us close to where we need to be in, we think, a more affordable way".

Schwartz also rejected buying the latest version of the F-15 and F-16 -- or "fourth-generation-plus" fighters -- despite a new two-year slip nearly 90% projected cost overrun for the F-35.

"To be sure, we do not think it prudent to utilize precious procurement dollars for anything but fifth-generation aircraft," Schwartz says.

The USAF has terminated Lockheed F-22 production with 186 aircraft in inventory after 2011, leaving only plans to acquire 1,763 F-35s over the next 30 years to modernize its fighter fleet. Meanwhile, the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review set the tactical aircraft requirement at about 2,000 fighters.

During the F-35's projection lifetime in production, however, the USAF faces a growing fighter inventory gap made even more complicated by the Lockheed's cost and schedule problems.

Last year, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported alarming trends. Twelve Air National Guard units today patrol US airspace with F-16s scheduled for retirement by 2020. As of late 2008, only one of the 12 units was scheduled to receive F-35s by 2020 to continue flying the mission.

The increasing gap in the fighter inventory prompted a US lawmaker to predict the air force's dependence on the F-35 will be a "monumental mistake".

"When these F-16s and F-15s are no longer able to fly and the F-35s still has problems because somebody hasn't figured it out, you're going to have air guard units that are not going to have planes," says Representative Frank LoBiondo, who represents a district that includes an F-16 base, during a 24 March hearing.

But Schwartz repeated the USAF's long-standing policy that buying F-15s and F-16 today is senseless because they will be obsolete long before they can be replaced by a modern fighter design.

To bridge the gap, the USAF considers it more logical to perform a service life extension programme (SLEP). But Schwartz added an important caveat. The USAF still has not determined whether the SLEP would be technically or financially viable.

"I think it's pretty clear our strategy is to pursue service life extension to the extent that that is required rather than purchase new, four-and-a-half generation while we are bringing on F-35," he says. "We do not think it is a wise to dissipate the limited pool of resources that we have available for F-35 by procuring new lesser capable aircraft that will last as long."


New Member
Feb 16, 2009
"To be sure, we do not think it prudent to utilize precious procurement dollars for anything but fifth-generation aircraft,"
5th gen fascination Huh !!!
but anyway better to upgrade the F-35 still needs to mature

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