Don’t Panic … Yet

The Air Force is facing some near-term decisions about whether to do major service-life extension programs on today’s F-15s and F-16s, Gen. Ronald Keys, Air Combat Command chief, told reporters at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in Washington, D.C. Fielding of the service’s new fighters—F/A-22 and F-35—will not happen quickly enough to enable the service to dump all the old aircraft. Keys plans to SLEP some and retire some, but he’s not divulging the date he in mind to make that decision. “I don’t want to start a panic,” he said, noting that he still doesn’t have backup data organized yet to support such a decision. The date he is considering is based on trends in mission capability rates—which are dropping—and aircraft restrictions—which are rising.