Big Picture, Please

The Air Force’s tactical aviation plan—terminating the F-22, early retirement of 250 fighters, continuing the F-35, and modifying older fighters—reflects a judgment that the service can “take some additional strategic risk for roughly the next six to seven years,” service Secretary Michael Donley said at a Pentagon press conference Wednesday. The money saved by retiring the fighters will be “reinvested” in the ones “that are going to be around for a longer period of time,” Donley said and added, that would include improving their sensors and equipping them with “modern munitions.” It will also allow manpower to be diverted to other priorities such as the intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance mission. Donley noted that there’s “about $1 billion” in the budget for upgrades to the F-22, as well. Overall, he described it as “a good package for the Air Force.” He said “we wanted to have the … tactical air force discussion in that strategic context as a package and not just as a series of individual decisions.” He also acknowledged, “We’re not going to build the Air Force we thought we were going to build in 2000.”