Prioritizing Needs

The Air Force’s Fiscal 2015 budget request prioritizes the service’s needs in fiscally austere times, but USAF leaders acknowledged they must continually re-evaluate those needs throughout the five-year Future Years Defense Plan. When asked by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) at Friday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing why USAF backed off the F-16 combat avionics upgrade, known as CAPES, Welsh said the service had to look long-term at the proliferation of integrated air defense systems around the world. There are 10 IADS today “that we would be concerned about,” but that number will balloon to 25 by 2023 or 2024, said Welsh. “So by that timeframe, we would have to have a fleet fielded . . . with the capability to operate in and remove those threats if we should ever have to do that. That’s the F-35,” he added. In order to ensure on-time delivery of the F-35, USAF had to cut planned upgrades such as CAPES. Instead, officials focused on improvements that were deemed “absolutely viable” to making F-16s operable in future combat. “We will revisit this every year,” Welsh said, noting the decision to terminate the F-16 CAPES program was “prioritization not a desire.”