Falcons Forever

The Air Force will retain its youngest F-16s through the end of the 2030s—at least 10 years longer than previously forecast, according to the Defense Department’s 2011 Aircraft Procurement Plan. “Late-block F-16s will be modernized with improved radars, avionics, and electronic countermeasures, and will remain in the inventory through the 2030s,” states this new version of the plan, which maps the years 2012 to 2041. In previous years, the Air Force has forecast the end of F-16 service as the mid 2020s, or, at the latest, 2030. The new report says most “legacy” fighters will be retired by 2041, and by then, the Pentagon “will have begun recapitalization of its fifth generation force” of F-22s and F-35s. Congress has mandated a 30-year, fixed-wing procurement plan each year; last year the Pentagon released the first edition. (2011 Aircraft Investment Plan)