The 2010 Hit List

The Air Force plan to divest itself of 254 legacy fighters in Fiscal 2010 to free up funds to upgrade the remaining fleet shows a mix of 112 F-15s, 134 F-16s, and three A-10s under the 2010 budget proposal and five F-16s previously scheduled for retirement next year. The money to be saved—about $355 million in Fiscal 2010 and another $3.5 billion over the next five fiscal years—would go toward such things as precision weapons and advanced targeting capabilities to provide “bridge capabilities” for the legacy fleet to see USAF through to a fifth-generation force, said Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, in a May 20 release announcing the Combat Air Forces restructure. In the same release, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said the service had “a strategic window of opportunity” that will enable USAF to field “a smaller, more flexible, and lethal” force, but he acknowledges that means “accepting some short-term risk.” Several lawmakers have questioned whether the Air Force will now have too few fighters. However, Schwartz said service leaders had “taken this major step only after a careful assessment of the current threat environment and our current capabilities.” He maintains that the CAF restructuring plan will enable USAF to sustain its advantage over potential adversaries, which he acknowledged is “eroding,” until full-fielding of F-22 and F-35 fifth-generation aircraft. (Air Force 2010 fighter cut list)