Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne left no doubt that he wants to buy more C-17s, but the Congressional restriction on retiring any C-5s is holding the Air Force hostage. He told Senate appropriators last week, “It bothers me greatly to see the C-17 line closed.” Wynne explained that the service has “between 20 and 30 [C-5 airlifters] that may be good candidates for standing down,” instead USAF has been forced into “husbanding the C-5s” with service-life extensions. The Congressional restriction on retiring any of the now 111 C-5s “has made almost certain that we will not get the [C-17] line extension that we’re looking for over the long term.” He said the fact that the nation’s “strategic lift line may go quiet” adds to “our burden of strategic risk.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.