U.S. Air Force plans to remove almost 500 aircraft over the next five years

Mar 12 2014 - 35 Comments

The USAF plans to divest entire fleets, including the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane and U-2 Dragon Lady spyplanes and “focus on the multi-role aircraft that can deliver a variety of capabilities combatant commanders require”

The Air Force is going to shrink over the next five years. This is the result of the structure changes announced on Mar. 10, following the FY15 President’s Budget announced on Mar. 4.

The plan is going to axe some 500 aircraft across the inventories of all three components, reshaping the Air Force as “a smaller and more capable force […] that can defeat more technologically advanced adversaries” according to SecDef Chuck Hagel.

The reduction will affect squadrons based in 25 States and the District of Columbia; units based abroad will suffer minor cuts, in order to maintain a significant overseas presence. Nevertheless, Osan airbase in South Korea, will lose its A-10s, while RAF Lakenheath, in UK, will probably have to give away a whole squadron.

Over the next 5 years, along with the about 340 A-10s and 33 U-2s, the “adjustment” will cut about 70 F-15Cs, 119 MQ-1 drones, 6 E-8 Joint Stars planes, 7 E-3 AWACS, and 7 EC-130 Compass Call aircraft; such aircraft will be partially replaced by some upgraded F-16s, made available as new F-35s replace them, and 36 MQ-9 Reaper drones,  while all the remaining fleets will (more or less) be upgraded.

FY15 adjustments

The operation will save the Air Force some billion dollars that will be used to fuel top spending projects/priorities: the F-35 multi-role stealth jet, the KC-46 tanker and the new long-range bomber.

“In addition to fleet divestment, we made the tough choice to reduce a number of tactical fighters, command and control, electronic attack and intra-theater airlift assets so we could rebalance the Air Force at a size that can be supported by expected funding levels.  Without those cuts, we will not be able to start recovering to required readiness levels,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III in a press release.

Congress will probably alter the adjustment plan a little bit. Still, regardless of the money the lawmakers will commit to keep this or that plane and squadron alive, the U.S. Air Force will substantially shrink.

It will remain the most powerful aerial armada in the world, but not as large and powerful as it was years ago. Not a good thing, considered the opposite trends of the Chinese and Russian air arms.

Image credit: USAF


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  • Perception

    Why the US still has overseas bases in UK,Germany, Japan, Korea baffles me ….when these are all rich nations capable of taking care of themselves …..

    • michael

      as an german american, I can tell you, many people don’t like the military. Also the government hasn’t got big interests about that, even cutting the military size to a 150000 active soldier

  • BernardP

    It seems President Obama is more interested in his useless fight against global warming than in fielding a strong military. He will be gone after 2016. Depending on who is successor is, and whether he/she is a Democrat or a Republican, these decisions might be revised. It wouldn’t not be the first time.


    • Ed

      Why is all this blamed on Obama? Wasn’t the BCA a deal between the president and Congress? Wasn’t it the Republicans that called for reduced spending back in 2011? And aren’t both Democrats and Republicans to blame for the sequester?

      I’m not sure if there’s legal room left to reduce the impact of sequestation, let alone to undo it.

      • 02144pomroy

        The sequester WAS Obama’s idea.

    • Andrew

      Given that the US Military itself is quite concerned with global warming and the political unrest it’ll cause, I’m not quite so sure you should be calling said fight Obama’s and useless. That is, unless you don’t trust the military that you’re defending?

      • 02144pomroy

        When these Generals get to the Pentagon, they cease to be true warriors. They become politicians who wear a military uniform. When is the last time you’ve heard of a Pentagon General resigning over principal?

        • Andrew

          The scientific community (which the military likes listening to, as the military seeks out and trusts scienctific knowledge) says that the earth will, on the average, warm up due to humans’ fossil fuel usage, leading to food and water shortages. These are things that cause unrest. The military does not want to go all over the globe keeping order, as they’d far rather be safe at home. Thus, they would like to mitigate the cause of the future unrest, something that the majority of the US population seems to miss in their mistrust of science and quest for personal comfort.

          As for military personnel being politicized, yes, absolutely, they have to be, otherwise they’d be completely ineffective in government. It’s a tragedy in regards to the workings of government, but that’s what it’s come to, most notably in the past 6 years as the Republicans have taken a notably Putin-esque approach in regards to compromise.

  • McPosterdoor

    Interesting, ditching the predators, 71 gone from Nevada. Bye bye land war.

    • R.Lopaka

      The Fighter Mafia?

      • McPosterdoor

        no prob just being replaced by less MQ-9s and higher models

  • McPosterdoor

    All to afford the F35s, the thought being that superiority role will be taken by F22s until safe for the bomb trucks (F35).

    • michael

      I know, but wouldn’t it be smart to keep the F15s running? the F35 is a “better F16”. So why are cutting something else?

      • McPosterdoor

        Cost. But they are introducing stealthier F15 and F18(navy obv) as well but at a smaller rate than what they are retiring.

        • michael

          no they are upgrading. Their are no plans for purchasing F15se

  • germanlion

    I personally think that we don’t need all F-35 models. Just make the VTOL model to replace the Harrier. The F-16 and 16’s are great.

    • R.Lopaka

      F-15 1st flt only 42 YEARS ago. F-16 is only 40 YEARS old. Brewster Buffalo was only 4 years old on 7 Dec.1941……..How about a rule that fighter pilots MUST be OLDER than their AC 1st flt date?

  • dude

    Don’t blame Obama. The USA has been living beyond its means for decades and now it’s payback time. It waisted to much money on failed projects and was ignorant of the fact that the defence industry was hiking the bills. Some humility will suit them well.

    • sferrin

      You might want to check spending since Barry took the wheel and get back to us. And just for the record, defense spending is chump change compared to what gets spent on entitlements.

  • Andrew

    You think we’d get into a war with out largest creditor? As well, with a military spending 2.5x China’s (as well as over double the percentage of GDP) our military is still vastly overfunded compared to theirs.

    • sferrin

      Apparently you think a dollar buys the same in the US as it does in China. Uhm, you’re wrong.

  • Andrew

    We’ve maintained the largest military in the world (by far, especially in regards to spending) since WW2, and still will after this cut. Honestly, income disparity is a far better indicator in my opinion.

  • Troy

    If you are talking about the F-15C/D (the air/air version), that would be why 51 F-15Cs are being proposed for retirement, they are single mission airframes. The F-16C/D is a multi-mission aircraft. The F-15E, and the F-16C/D, all of them are to be replaced by the F-35A. With the USAF not getting all the F-22s it wants, some C-model Eagles will be upgraded with AESA (going on now) to compliment the F-22s in A2A missions.

    • michael

      but we need air 2 air fighters. No hate on the Viper, but the F35 can do the same job, but not the one of the F15s.

  • 02144pomroy

    I do blame Obama. He hates this country. He has more than doubled the deficit. He is doing this on purpose to cut the US down to size. He is doing everything he can to promote a multi-polar world. Hagel is another useful idiot providing cover for the Bamster. ” Smaller but more capable”. Suuure. As Stalin once said, “Quantity has a quality all of its own.” Most everything I’ve read about the F-35 says it’s a piece of crap. Can’t climb, can’t turn, can’t run. Supposedly it has some super duper secret ability that will make it invincible. It was designed to work in conjunction with the F-22 not as a stand alone. No aircraft can be designed to do everything. Didn’t they learn anything from the F-111?

    • Andrew

      Actually the two completely unfunded military actions that Bush began are the cause of the majority of that deficit increase, as well as Bush’s massive last year budget that Obama had to deal with his first year in office. As for hating the country, no idea where you’re getting that from.

      As for the F-35, very much agreed. I’m sure it’ll be capable, but not nearly to the extent that its cost would indicate.

      • sferrin

        “Actually the two completely unfunded military actions that Bush began are the cause of the majority of that deficit increase, as well as Bush’s massive last year budget that Obama had to deal with his first year in office. ”

        Apparently you learned about the budget deficit off the package wrapped around your welfare cheese.

  • Mykola Potytorsky

    Big big mistake from this administration, Putin just loves to hear this

    • Andrew

      Military posturing is just that, posturing. Any true military war between the US and Russia (or China, for that matter) would be hugely detrimental to the world’s economy, not to mention the economies of the involved nations.

  • Andrew

    The majority of China’s purchasing of debt has happened in the last 20 years, far after your references. As for the remainder of your jingoistic language, China’s at least acting on its problems, notably being the highest investor in renewable energy. Compare that to the US where climate change (science) isn’t even recognized by half the population. Oh, and China’s economy is plenty strong directly thanks to the US’s strive for the lowest bidder, so the need for an economy-boosting war is absent.

    • Joe

      You do realize that China’s defense budget is understated, right? They don’t include R&D, foreign imports, and upkeep for their nuclear weapons. Also, a lot of things are cheaper for China than they are for us, such as food to feed the troops, so you can’t really make a straight comparison of the military budgets like that. Also, though their budget may be a lot smaller than ours, their number of active duty personnel nearly double the number of active duty US personnel. Their defense budget has grown by double-digit figures continuously for two decades and is expected to nearly double in within the next half decade. This comes at a time that the US budget has been shrinking.

      Also, China isn’t as big of a debtor anymore. Their share of the US debt has been decreasing lately, to the point that Japan nearly equals them in the amount of debt they own. In the case that they were to sell their assets wholesale, the US Federal Reserve Bank has the ability to buy off all the debt to minimize its impact on the US. Furthermore, the vast majority of our debt lies right here in the US, not abroad. The fraction of our debt that China owns is minuscule compared to the total amount of debt the US has. It’s not the debt that China owns, but rather the total debt itself that is a security threat.

      I’m not saying that we should go to war with China, anything but that. Going to war with them is a lose-lose situation. Nothing good could come out of it. I’m just saying that you’re downplaying them a bit much. It’s a good idea to maintain a level of superiority or at least parity with them now and into the future so they take us seriously. If they were to do something that is not in our interest and we protest, they’re a lot more likely to take our protest seriously if they knew that we could put our money where our mouth is with the military than they would if they knew we had no capacity to challenge them and that we are just giving empty threats.

  • Andrew Haala

    I didn’t say anything about Putin, yet you put words in my mouth. Please rethink that.

    • R.Lopaka

      Where did I say you did? DOH. “How bout Puttins Peace March into Crimea?” Is a question. Do you support Puttins Ukraine invasion?

  • R.Lopaka

    Maybe Pres.Obama could outsource USAF job to PRC or USSR? DOH

  • Ed

    Well, to be honest, it kind of sounds like people take it like it was Obama’s plan from the start for the sequester to occur. Obviously that wasn’t the intention – for sure the president thinks it sucks just as much as anyone else. What’s more, the fact that it happened cannot be blamed solely on the president either.

    To pick a single target to blame this situation on, that’s just far too easy. And something that happens way too often as well, sadly.