The Administration taking office in January will receive from the Air Force a stack of options regarding further production of the C-17 and F-22, and how to pursue a new tanker—all decisions punted by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the new team—but advice on what action to take will be limited, Acting Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Tuesday. In a meeting with reporters, Donley said the new Administration will get some sense of the outgoing team’s preferences based on what’s in the budget, but it will also see fresh studies about airlift and the proper mix of F-22s and F-35s that won’t even be finished until next spring. That will lead directly into next year’s Quadrennial Defense Review, when reasoned decisions will presumably be made in all three cases, by people bringing fresh eyes to the debates.
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.