The United States Air Force is working on plans to retire many of its fighter and bomber jets. Many of the aircraft waiting to be cut from service are over thirty years old. The cuts are intended to increase funding towards newer planes by getting rid of older, technologically obsolete aircraft. Among the aircraft planned to be cut are large numbers of B-1B bombers and F-15 Eagles.
Foreignpolicy.com reports that the cuts are part of an effort to modernize the Air Force’s fleet. The current average age of the American Air Force’s fleet of aircraft is 28 years. The plan is to retire older jets to make room for newer ones.
The Air Force plans on retiring all of its 250 F-15C air superiority fighters and F-15D trainer jets. The service plans on keeping the F-15s capable of both air to air and air to ground missions, the F-15E Strike Eagles. The Air Force has also made plans to purchase at least 72 new F-15EXs.
Furthermore, the Air Force plans to get rid of a number of F-16C Block 25 fighter jets. These jets are planned to be replaced by the F-35A. Popularmechanics.com reports that it is unclear if the Air Force plans to replace the F-16s all at once or on a one to one basis.
The United States Air Force will also cut 17 B-1B bombers from its fleet, dropping the number of active duty B-1Bs to 45. The last B-1B bombers were assembled 32 years ago, making spare parts for the aircraft hard to find. The B-1B bomber is planned to be replaced by the B-21 Raider bomb starting in the late 2020s.
The retired aircraft will likely be sent to the Air Force’s Boneyard, an air base in Arizona where old military aircraft go to die. Over there, the retired aircraft will be stripped for spare parts in order to keep the service’s older aircraft operational for a little longer.
The Air Force has made plans to retire other aircraft, including the U-2 spy plane and some UAVs, however Congress would not approve those decisions. Retiring F-15s and F-16s that have a modern replacement is one thing, however replacing UAVs and U-2 Spy planes that don’t have any replacements yet would leave a hole in the United States Air Force’s fleet.