air craft military Aircraft Military

US Air Force’s Ambitious Plan: Procuring 72 Fighters Annually to Strengthen Defense Capabilities

This year, the Air Force has directly approached Congress for its requested 72 fighter aircraft for the upcoming fiscal year. According to the general overseeing the service’s long-term strategy, this won’t be the final occasion. The Air Force’s top leadership has been asserting for years that the service needs to procure 72 new fighters annually to decrease the average age of its planes and keep pace with technological advancements.

The generals caution that if the service doesn’t purchase an equal number of new fighters each year, it won’t have sufficient replacements for aging and retiring aircraft like the F-15C.

Target out of reach The Air Force hasn’t requested the full amount deemed necessary by its leaders, and for years, Congress has been authorizing the acquisition of fewer fighters than the service desires, sometimes significantly fewer. In March, the proposed budget for FY2024 was presented, breaking tradition by seeking funds to procure 48 new F-35As and 24 new F-15EX Eagle IIs.

During an online forum hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, Lt. Gen. Richard Moore, Air Force deputy chief of staff for plans and programs, stated that this wouldn’t be a one-time occurrence, indicating a change in the service’s approach to budget planning. “This year, for the first time since I’ve been in this business, there are 72 new fighters in the Air Force budget,” Moore remarked. “We are very enthusiastic about it… I definitely believe we will see more of it.”

Expectations versus reality In recent years, the Air Force’s initial budget requests have typically not encompassed everything it sought, and instead, the service maintained a list of unfunded objectives. For FY23, they initially requested 57 planes, including 33 F-35As and 24 F-15EXs. In that year, the seven F-35As were part of the service’s $4.6 billion list of desired items. The final count of fighters approved by Congress reached 67, consisting of 43 F-35As and 24 F-15EXs.

Planning for future requirements Moore affirmed that the Air Force is shifting away from this strategy as it strives for more reliable planning of future needs. “Some of the things we’ve discussed in recent budget cycles are now part of the base budget,” explained Moore. “They are not part of the priority list without funding; they are not a wish list. Seventy-two fighters are a great example.”

The Air Force’s wish list for fiscal year 24 amounted to just over half of the previous fiscal year’s value, and it did not include any additional fighters. It did, however, request nearly $633 million to expedite the delivery of the Boeing E-7A jet, which would replace the E-3 Sentry, and around $64 million to purchase a dozen conformal fuel tanks for the F-15EXs, enhancing their range and capabilities.

More fighters for the USAF Moore further added that whether or not the Air Force would increase its request for 72 jets depends on Lockheed Martin’s capacity to produce more F-35s. “As we reach a sustainable fleet size for the F-15EX, we will assess the capabilities available in the F-35 world or other alternatives,” he said. Moore emphasized that the Air Force currently benefits from two active fighter production lines and expects this to continue in the coming years.

The Air Force plans to acquire a total of 104 F-15EXs by the end of the current fiscal year (FY25). As per annual budget documents, the Air Force intends to purchase 48 new F-35s by the end of fiscal year FY28.

Limitations in the defense industry Moore acknowledged that the defense industry also faces limitations, including ongoing supply chain and manpower issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. These limitations make it challenging to exceed the procurement of 72 fighters per year. “We will incorporate advanced capabilities at the fastest feasible rate,” Moore stated. However, he emphasized that the defense industry can only support a limited number of acquisitions.

Moore stated that the Air Force aims to modernize its aircraft fleet with future capabilities, some of which are still in the design phase, to counter potential threats from China in future conflicts. These plans are included in the budget proposal.

F-22 retirement and NGAD According to Moore, the Air Force intends to allocate the saved $2.5 billion over the next five years towards the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) sixth-generation platform by retiring 32 Block 20 F-22A Raptor fighters. He emphasized that although the retiring F-22s are fifth-generation fighters, they are not combat-ready and would require substantial investment to make them so. Upgrading them with modern communication systems, electronic warfare capabilities, and weapons would take approximately a decade, cost around $3.5 billion, and divert resources from the Block 4 modernization of the F-35 program.

“To us, that’s an impractical trade-off: upgrading the planes a decade from now at significant expense while affecting the block 4 F-35,” Moore explained. “We don’t believe it’s a viable course of action.”

Investment in research and development Moore highlighted that Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall places great importance on research and development (R&D) spending. The Department of the Air Force has requested an approximate $5 billion increase in its planned fiscal year budget for R&D, reaching a total of $55.4 billion in FY24. This represents an increase of nearly 10% and accounts for the majority of the department’s proposed budget increase of $9.3 billion.

Even if not all projects from this wave of R&D are eventually purchased by the government, they are still considered crucial. “The secretary supports this approach,” Moore stated. “He believes that if we don’t conduct the necessary research and development now, there won’t be anything to acquire in the future because the R&D work won’t have been completed yet.”

Related Posts

Cutting Ties: Turkey’s Solo Journey to Supercharged F-16s – Enhanced Radar, Advanced Missiles, and Independent Upgrades

The situation regarding Turkey’s acquisition of F-16 Fighting Falcon jets undergoes weekly fluctuations. It is probable that Turkey will internally enhance the fighters. Here’s What We Know: In…

Unleashing the VENOM: F-16 Fighter Jets Transformed into Cutting-Edge Experimental Drones

The US Air Force is seeking 1,000 guided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to complement sixth- and fifth-generation fighters. In preparation for this endeavor, the Air Force plans to…

Next-Generation Dominance: US Navy’s Secretive F/A-XX Fighter Program to Supplant F/A-18E/F Super Hornet with $11.554bn Investment

The U.S. Navy is seeking over $11 billion by fiscal year (FY) 2028 for the development of the F/A-XX aircraft. This is the first time the service has…

Falling Short: US Air Force’s Critical Test Failure of Hypersonic AGM-183A ARRW Missile on B-52H Stratofortress Nuclear-Powered Bomber

On 13 March 2023, the US Air Force carried out another trial of a hypersonic missile. It has been discovered that the trial resulted in a lack of…

Mission Compromised: Shocking Revelation – Less than 30% of US F-35 Lightning II Fifth-Generation Fighters Combat-Ready

The Ministry of Defence is facing recurring issues with its fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II jets. Only a fraction of the aircraft are fully operational. Here’s What We Know:…



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *