The Pervasive Need for Modernization

Among the most difficult challenges facing the Air Force is the need to modernize at a time when overall defense resources are diminishing, said Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. “The need for modernization is pervasive across the Air Force,” he wrote in an opinion piece posted at the AOL Defense website on Jan. 11. Air Force equipment “is older than it should be,” he stated. Air Force rescue helicopters average 22 years in age; fighters: 23 years; training aircraft: 25 years; bombers: 37 years; and tankers: nearly 50 years, he said. Air Force satellites are also aging. Donley said the Air Force spends about 30 percent of its budget on investing in future capability. Over the next five years, bomber and fighter modernization will account for just more than 30 percent of that, while space programs take up 20 percent, mobility aircraft 13 percent; and the future long-range strike bomber about two percent, among the areas, he wrote. Fielding the KC-46A tanker is “the most urgent” modernization priority, stated Donley. Modernization of the nuclear deterrent lies ahead, and programs like an E-8C JSTARS replacement and a new trainer “are not yet funded,” he noted. (See also America Will Need a Ready Air Force and Almost No Margin in Capacity and The Best Combination of Choices.)