Back to the Title 10 side of the house for a moment; the Air Force Council meets today to consider further cuts in aircraft to meet aggressive savings targets laid out by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. One option on the table: early retirement of all 66 B-1B Lancer bombers (the last delivery of which came back in 1988).
Force structure cuts might also extend to the air arm’s much cherished but currently under-utilized fighter force. The service already plans to early retire 250 fighters this year, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said last month; gone are 112 F-15s, 134 F-162, and 3 A-10s.
Some of the fighter wings, mainly A-10, are being chopped altogether, while others are transitioning from legacy F-15s to upgraded F-15s or to the fifth-generation F-22 and other wings are prepping to receive the F-35 at some uncertain future date.
“By accepting some short-term risk, we can convert our inventory of legacy fighters and F-22 (Raptors) into a smaller, more flexible and lethal bridge to fifth-generation fighters like the F-35 (Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter),” Donley said.
While short-range tactical fighters (and potentially bombers) are being cut, the Air Force is adding more MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones and more analysts to scrutinize the massive amounts of imagery they generate.
– Greg Grant