Save the Eagles

Despite the strong suggestions from top Air Force leaders that only multi-mission aircraft will survive the coming budget pogrom, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Mike Hostage says the F-15C—which only does air superiority—will not be eliminated wholesale. “I don’t have enough air superiority capability as it is,” he told reporters on Sept. 17 at AFA’s 2013 Air and Space Conference. “I’d be desperately in trouble if I got rid of an entire fleet of F-15Cs, so that’s probably not likely. I’m not saying we wouldn’t get rid of some . . . but I don’t think it would be on a fleet-wide basis,” he said. It’s not likely he can upgrade the Eagles to make them more relevant, though. In his conference speech, also on Tuesday, Hostage said he’s been driven “into a corner” where he can choose either modernization—upgrades and capability enhancements—or recapitalization—meaning new equipment—but can’t do both at once. He’d prefer to upgrade his legacy fleet until there are enough new machines like the F-35 online. He told reporters it would be irresponsible to stretch the lives of existing fighters to where they’re 45 years old, at which point “I’d have killed off domestic fighter production.” Such a choice would be “unsustainable,” he said.