The United States
Air Force will not be able to pay for warplanes past 2021, according to a report by the Pentagon
The annual aviation, inventory and funding plan for fiscal years 2017 through 2046, published on Monday, stated that at the current pace of downsizing, the Air Force will take a significant hit after 2021.
Currently, the USAF is retiring more aircraft than it procures, meaning that the force’s inventory of fighter jets will continue to erode until it hits its lowest level in 2031.
“At the current resource levels, projected aircraft service life divestiture outpaces procurement,” the report reads.
The Air Force does not have enough funds to meet a Congress mandate from last year which requires it to maintain 1,900 fighter aircraft in inventory beyond 2021, the report noted.
There are currently 1,971 attack aircraft in the USAF inventory, including A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, F-22s and F-35As, but the service plans to retire its fleet of A-10s, as well as FY18s and FY22s.
Congress has also called for the revival of Lockheed Martin F-22’s production line, but officials doubt such project will be possible as it needs enormous funding.
The fifth-generation stealth fighter entered production in 1996, but was retired in 2011 after a reported total of 195 units were built.
High cost, ban on exports, and the lack of unclear missions due to secrecy in Russian and Chinese fighter programs have been cited as major reasons to end the F-22 production.
An USAF F-35 fighter jet heavily damaged due to an engine failure
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin’s alternative offering, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, in the works since 2001, has failed to impress Air Force officials because of its many hardware and software issues.
The $391 billion project will enter full-rate production only after the Air Force declares its version of the F-35 jet has initial combat capability. The program’s cost is expected to exceed $1 trillion during the aircraft’s 55-year life cycle.
An investigation by Fox News
revealed earlier in May that while the F-35 was getting billions of dollars in funding, America’s air power was “crumbling” as aging aircraft were left unattended.
For instance, the report noted that more than half of the B-1 strategic bombers at one US
air base were unable to fly while other squadrons were in desperate need of parts.