Dipping Below

The Air Force will begin to slip below its moderate-risk requirement for 2,000 fighters next fiscal year, Lt. Gen. Bud Wyatt, Air National Guard director, told House lawmakers last week. “The President’s [Fiscal 2012] budget has announced the loss of 18 more F-16s to the Air National Guard, and so we’re beginning to drop below that 2,000 number,” Wyatt told the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel during an oversight hearing. The 2,000 aircraft requirement, which includes 1,200 frontline primary assigned aircraft, stemmed from the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review. Wyatt said “it’s critical to watch that 2000 number—and the 1,200 number,” because “anything that drops below moderate risk when it comes to the security of this country needs to be examined closely.” Whether the United States is able to retain numbers close to the requirement will depend on the F-35 strike fighter program staying on schedule and “mitigation actions” to keep F-16s flying longer, if necessary, he said during his April 1 testimony. Air Force officials have already warned that the fighter force shortfall could be up to 100 airframes over the next five fiscal years. (Wyatt prepared remarks)