Senior Air Force officials told Congress earlier this year of a looming fighter shortage of more than 800 aircraft starting in 2017 and running through 2024. But Lt. Gen. Craig McKinley, Air National Guard director, told lawmakers May 14 that the impact will be felt “as early as Fiscal 2015” for the Air Guard units flying F-15s and F-16s that protect the nation’s airspace. “We have determined that, at that early date, we’ll start attriting aircraft out of this fleet, and we’ll be leaving the combatant commander of [US Northern Command] unable to meet his requirements,” McKinley told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. The general said he is working closely with Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, to mitigate this shortage. “But today as we look at it, there is a bathtub [in the trend line for fighters],” he said. Pouring money into the aging F-15s and F-16s will not solve the problem long-term, both Blum and McKinley said at the hearing.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.