An A-10 Thunderbolt II engages in a training mission at the Grayling Aerial Gunnery Range near Waters, Mich., April 7, 2016. The A-10 is operated by the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard and are based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)
By: Valerie Insinna
WASHINGTON — As the Air Force increases its F-35 buy rate and more joint strike fighters come online, the question is not if it will begin retiring its legacy combat aircraft, but when.
Air Force leaders hope to have a better answer to that question later this fall, when Air Combat Command head Gen. Mike Holmes and Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, hash out a fighter recapitalization roadmap as part of initial budget planning meetings for fiscal year 2020, Holmes told Defense News in a Sept. 11 interview.
“We’re trying to work to get a fighter recapitalization roadmap that everybody agrees on in the Air Force so that then we can take that on to the Hill … and try to be able to show everyone that we do have a plan for the future,” Holmes said.
The plan would lay out “where their unit would fall out and what the plan is to replace it,” with the ultimate goal of “tak[ing] some of that angst away.”
The Air Force knows it could be facing a political battle as it considers how to best phase out three beloved combat aircraft: the F-16, F-15C/D Strike Eagles and the A-10.
Holmes acknowledged that the situation has changed since the start of the F-35 program when the joint strike fighter was considered to be the eventual replacement of the F-16 and A-10.
“Now that Congress has directed us and we’ve decided to keep some number of A-10s, and now that our F-15 service life is showing some wear and some of the margin is gone there, we want to go back and just look at that combination of A-10s, F-16s of the various blocks and F-15Cs and come up with a plan that maintains the best mix of combat capability as we bring on the F-35,” he said. “At the buy rates that Congress has funded for the F-35, we’re going to be a mixed fourth and fifth gen force for a long time.”
Holmes and Harris have put together two separate fighter recapitalization roadmaps and expect to work through the differences this fall, said Holmes, who would not expound upon his recommendations..........Read rest of article: HERE
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