The Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense decided as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review that USAF could operate with about 200 fewer fighters—from 2,200 to 2,000—electing to up the risk factor from low-medium to moderate, Lt. Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the Air Staff’s operations, plans, and requirements leader, said at a House Armed Services panel hearing March 24. Breedlove said USAF plans to retire the oldest of the Block 25/30 F-16s—about 136—and believes it needs about $500,000 to $800,000 per remaining Block 25/30 aircraft “to buy that fleet forward five years.” The service has requested 2011 funding to pursue detailed fatigue testing on the newer Block 40/50 variants and plans more funding the following year to complete that testing. He expects that testing to “provide us the data that we need structurally to look at those aircraft well before they’re obsolescence.” (Also see Responsiveness on F-22 upgrades from the same hearing)
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.