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The Air Force Wants to Kill Old F-15s, F-16s, and A-10s

·2 min read
Photo credit: Ethan Miller - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ethan Miller - Getty Images
  • The U.S. Air Force is proposing to reduce costs by cutting its fighter fleet by just over 100 jets.

  • The service’s lack of modern fighters, and the cost of new planes, is forcing it to look at a smaller fleet.

  • The cost reduction would go toward procuring two new fighters in the 2030s, including the Air Force’s secret new fighter jet.

The U.S. Air Force is considering shrinking its fighter fleet by 117 jets in order to cut costs and help pay for new planes. An internal proposal would kill older jets like the F-15 and put the money toward two new fighters: the Air Force’s secret new fighter jet, and a 4.5-generation fighter that will replace the F-16.

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Under the proposal, the Air Force would retire 421 older fighter jets through 2026, according to internal documents that Air Force magazine obtained. The jets on the chopping block include all of the service’s 234 F-15C/D Eagle fighters, 124 F-16 C/D Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters, and 63 A-10C Thunderbolt close air support jets.

Photo credit: USAF - Getty Images
Photo credit: USAF - Getty Images

At the same time, the Air Force would induct 84 brand-new F-15EX Super Eagles and 220 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters. The service would see a net reduction in its overall fighter fleet of 117 airframes. The Air Force last reduced its fighter fleet by about 250 airframes in the early 2010s.

The cost savings would be plowed into two new fighter designs. The mysterious, hotly anticipated Next Generation Air Dominance Fighter (NGAD) would replace the F-22 Raptor, while the Multi-Role Fighter (MR-X), would step in for the F-16 and supplement the more expensive F-35A at the lower end of the fighter tier. The MR-X would likely be a non-stealthy fighter that’s cheaper to purchase and operate on an hourly basis than the F-35A.

The Air Force is actually trying to balance several competing factors. For starters, the service’s fighter fleet is on the old side (the average age is 29.18 years), and older planes cost more to keep flying. Plus, the Air Force’s F-35A costs considerably more to fly than the Air Force—or anyone else, for that matter—ever anticipated ...

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