Monday, September 19, 2016

Air Force Hopes to Shrink Inventory, but Congress Will Have Say

The US Air Force plans to shrink its total air asset inventory by 235 planes over the next five years, a net drop largely driven by standing down legacy fighter aircraft as the F-35 joint strike fighter comes online.An analysis by analytics firm Avascent of the Air Force’s most recent budget submission, which covers fiscal years 2017 through 2021, showed that the Air Force plans to divest 232 T-38 trainers, 166 A-10 Warthogs and 160 F-16s over the next five years, while adding 185 F-35s.

The majority of the 77 types of aircraft that are in the non-classified inventory will keep their current levels under the budget plan. The service plans to plus up its target-drone inventory by 108 aircraft, including 91 new QF-16 aircraft. Active drones will also get an increase, with 81 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned systems scheduled for procurement.

These trends should not be a surprise to anyone who has been tracking the Air Force, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group. For years, service leaders have talked about the need to keep the F-35, KC-46A tanker (64 procured in this time frame) and B-21 bomber on track. And if the Air Force wants to shift anything around with its next budget plan, it will need to find ways to work around that reality.