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USAF Airplanes Are Aging, Becoming More Difficult To Repair

Average Age Of An Air Force Plane Is 28 Years

The fleet of aircraft flown by the United States Air Force averages 28-years old, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and modernizing and replacing the fleet would be expensive .. on the order of $26 billion a year through the mid 2030s.

That is leading to some difficult choices for the Trump and future administrations. Currently the USAF has plans to stand up 74 new squadrons. But according to The Daily Beast, Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., told Breaking Defense, a trade publication, “Growing the force is going to compete directly with modernizing the force.”

In testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee in May, Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, an Air Force vice chief of staff, said "The older the aircraft get, the more difficult it becomes to replace or repair components.” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a statement in March that the Air Force "must manage a bow wave in modernization over the next 10 years.”

The CBO forecasts that for direct replacement of old aircraft with new ones with similar capabilities, the Air Force budget would have to grow from about $10 billion in 2018 to $15 billion in the mid- to late 2020s, and to $26 billion in 2033 ... in 2018 dollars. In its peak budget year in 1986, the USAF received $29 billion for new airplanes.

That is not an approach favored by the CBO in an era of a $780 billion budget deficit. In December, the CBO released a report on reducing the deficit that called for retiring all of the Air Force's F-22 fighters and B-1 bombers without replacing them, saving some $45 billion. That would reduce the USAF fleet by about 250 aircraft.

But Wilson says the force needs to get bigger, not smaller. “We face a more competitive and dangerous international security environment than we have faced in decades,” she said. “Great power competition has re-emerged as the central challenge for U.S. security and prosperity.” At a conference in September, Wilson said "The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking us to do. We have 312 operational squadrons today. The Air Force We Need has 386 operational squadrons by 2030.”

(Sources as cited. Infographic provided by the USAF)

FMI: Source report, CBO report, USAF report

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