Days ago, a US Senator said that the Air Force intends to reduce its fleet by more than 1,000 planes over the next five years. If the reductions are implemented, the whole fleet of the service will be reduced by around 15%. The Air Force wants to get rid of outdated jets so that it can spend lots of money on new planes. The Air Force intends to retire 21 A-10 Thunderbolts in 2023, substituting them with an equivalent number of F-16s. The service also intends to retire 33 of the 36 combat-capable F-22 Raptors, leaving 123 combat-capable F-22s and 31 strength and conditioning F-22s in operation. It is unclear which types of aircraft, or how many, the Air Force intends to retire during the next five years. The A-10 Thunderbolt is one clear jet on the hit list since the Air Force believes it is outmoded for direct support over current conflicts.
The Air Force would want the F-35 to take over close-air support because its stealthy and digital warfare abilities would effectively protect it from adversary tactical air defense systems. The public’s passion for the A-10, along with legislative backing, has kept the service from selling the last 281 aircraft. The remaining cutbacks include fighter planes like transport planes, tankers, and battlefield and command-and-control aircraft, as well as 100 MQ-9 Reapers. Previous models of the F-16 Fighting Falcon; E-3 Sentry AWACS early warning and control planes; B-1B and B-2 bombers (replaced by the B-21 Raider); F-15C Eagles and F-22A Raptors (replaced by the new Next-Generation Air Dominance fighter); extra MQ-9A Reaper drones, and other endorse aircraft are also likely to be disentangled. Most of these ancient aircraft are becoming more complicated and expensive to operate as they age, and the Air Force would prefer to get rid of them just to make room for fighter jets.
If the reductions are followed, the Air Force will be reduced from 5,501 aircraft of all sorts to 4,500 planes. Hopefully, the cutbacks would be eliminated in subsequent years if more aircraft like the Next-Generation Air Dominance fighter, B-21 Raider bomber, and F-35 are procured. Another option is to rebuild the fleet with a huge number of inexpensive, unmanned combat aircraft, such as combatant wingman drones and long-range bomber drones. The KC-46 Pegasus tanker, which is 1.48 years old, and the MQ-9 Reaper, which is just six years old, are both newer aircraft. The KC-135 Stratotanker, modeled on the Boeing 707 aircraft, has been in service for 60.35 years. The aging difficulties are attributable in part to a freeze on aircraft procurement after the Cold War, a focus on ground warfare in the post-9/11 era, financial restrictions, and the slow response of some aircraft, especially the F-35, into operation.