Re-evaluating the Fighter Shortfall

Three Congressionally mandated studies that the Air Force completed last year on the status of its fighter inventory were limited by instability in the F-35 program and the “absence” of F-16 durability and fleet viability data, Government Accountability Office auditors found. “Since then, [F-35] costs significantly increased and its schedule slipped; important data regarding the feasibility and cost of extending the F-16’s service life are still not available,” they wrote in a report issued last week. USAF’s three studies reflected the service’s reduction in its projected fighter shortfall in the mid 2020s from an earlier assessment of 800 airframes to just 200. In responding to GAO concerns, Air Force officials said the basic conclusions of those studies “remain valid.” However better information on both the F-35 and F-16 fleet is expected to become available this year, potentially enabling a more informed analysis, states the report. (See also Defining the Tacair Shortfall from the Daily Report archives)