The F-X … Eventually

The Pentagon’s latest 30-year aircraft plan shows Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps fighter/attack inventories dropping from 3,209 today to 2,937 by Fiscal 2020, and plateauing at about that level through fiscal year ’24. The plan is supposed to accompany the annual Pentagon budget request, but has only just been released. The Air Force’s fighter/attack inventory alone is now 1,959. During Fiscal 2015 to 2019, USAF plans to buy 238 F-35s and divest a like number of A-10s, while continuing to improve the F-22 and, as possible, upgrade the F-15, F-15E, and F-16 fleets. “Future research and development efforts beyond the (Future Years Defense Plan) will focus on improvements to fifth generation aircraft and initial RDT&E for an F-22 replacement,” states the report. The F-22 replacement, alternately called F-X and “Next Generation Air Dominance” aircraft, “will begin its development in the mid-to-late 2020s,” the report notes. It goes on to say that next-generation aircraft “may be provided by a family of systems using mixes of manned and unmanned aircraft with varying levels of stealth, advanced standoff weapons, sensors, and networks.” The report also states that USAF’s “inactive” aviation inventory—presumably those in storage at the Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., boneyard—includes 877 fighter/attack aircraft now, but that figure will crest over 1,050 aircraft in FY ’19, as it then declines to 655 by FY ’24.