The US Air Force wants to get rid of over 200 aircraft – here’s what it wants to send to the boneyard

A-10 Warthog
A-10.

  • The Air Force has put more than 200 aircraft on the chopping block in its new budget proposal.
  • The list of fighters includes dozens of fighter jets and attack aircraft.
  • The Pentagon is divesting of legacy capabilities to invest in newer systems for future warfare.
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The US Air Force wants to mothball over 200 aircraft in the coming year to free up funds for new technology and weapons, according to the service’s fiscal year 2022 budget request.

The Department of the Air Force’s latest budget request asks for $173.7 billion, which includes an increase in research, development, test, and evaluation funding but a decrease in funds for procurement.

Speaking to lawmakers about the Pentagon’s $715 budget proposal this week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that the Department of Defense is making sure it is “focused on acquiring the right kinds of capabilities that we need to be relevant in the future fight.”

“That requires us to take a hard look with the services with capabilities that will not be relevant in a future fight and really begin to no longer invest in them,” he said.

For the Air Force, that means retiring a couple hundred planes, most of which are fighter and attack aircraft. Here is what could be headed to the boneyard.

A-10 Thunderbolt II

A 10 Warthogs
A-10s.

Distinguished by its 30mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon, the A-10 is a ground-attack aircraft that has served the Air Force since the late 1970s.

The proposed cut would reduce the size of the A-10 fleet by 42 aircraft, from 281 to 239.

F-15C/D Eagle

F-15C Eagle refueling during deterrence patrol
F-15C.

The F-15C/D fighters are proven combat aircraft, having never officially been shot down in air-to-air combat, but the average age of the jets is now almost 40 years.

The Air Force plans to cut 48 of these aircraft, which are steadily being replaced by the F-15EX Eagle II. The Air Force plans to buy 144 of the new variant.

F-16C/D Fighting Falcon

US Air Force F-16C fighter jet in flight
F-16C.

The F-16C/D Fighting Falcon is a multirole and air superiority fighter. The proposed defense budget cuts 47 aircraft, bringing the overall size of the fleet down from 936 aircraft to 889.

The F-16, like the A-10, remains part of the Air Force’s vision of the future fleet, but the service is already considering replacements, which could be the F-35A. The service plans to buy about 50 of the fifth-generation stealth fighter in the coming fiscal year.

KC-135 Stratotanker

A U.S. Air Force KC-135 from the Iowa Air National Guard’s 185th Air Refueling Wing is parked on the ramp at the Sioux City, Iowa airport
KC-135.

The KC-135 is an aerial-refueling tanker that has been in service since the late 1950s.

The Air Force has proposed scrapping 18 of these aircraft, reducing the size of the tanker fleet to 376 aircraft.

KC-10 Extender

Tech. Sgt. Javier, 380th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Extender Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, marshals a KC-10 Extender
KC-10.

The KC-10 is a newer aerial-refueling tanker that has been serving the Air Force since the 1980s.

The Air Force is planning on cutting 14 of these aircraft, from 50 to 36, as it divests of older tankers and invests in the new KC-46 Pegasus.

C-130 Hercules

C-130 Hercules aircraft
C-130.

The C-130H is a military transport aircraft able to move troops and cargo. The Air Force intends to retire 13 of these aircraft, which would leave the service with 128 aircraft.

The service also plans to acquire five C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System

e-8c
E-8C.

The Air Force’s E-8 Joint STARS aircraft provide a variety of capabilities, including airborne battle management, reconnaissance, and command and control, giving it the ability to support attack operations through surveillance and targeting.

The service plans to cut four from its fleet of 16 planes.

RQ-4 Globe Hawk

RQ-4
RQ-4.

The RQ-4 is a remotely piloted high-altitude surveillance drone. The Air Force has 30 of these drones, but it plans to divest of 20.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers Thursday that the budget proposal “is biasing the future over the present,” Defense News reported.

“We are trying right now to put down payments on investments that are going to pay huge dividends, five, 10, 15 years from now, for a future force that will be able to compete successfully with any adversary out there, to include China,” he said.

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The Air Force put on a display of airpower with fighter jets in Alaska on one of the shortest days of the year

Air Force F-35 elephant walk Alaska
Aircraft in formation at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, December 18, 2020.

  • More than 30 fighters and two refueling aircraft put on an “Elephant Walk” at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska earlier this month.
  • Such exercises are meant to verifying a unit’s ability to rapidly generate combat airpower and demonstrate readiness.
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The 354th Fighter Wing and the 168th Wing Air National Guard completed a readiness exercise on December 18, 2020, verifying the wing’s ability to rapidly generate combat airpower at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

More than 30 fighters and two refueling aircraft were generated.

The formation executed on the runway is known as an “Elephant Walk.” This formation tested the rapid readiness of every flying unit on Eielson AFB and displayed the airpower of the 354th FW and the 168th Wing together.

Air Force F-35 elephant walk Alaska
Eighteen F-35As, 12 F-16s, and two KC-135 form an elephant walk on Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, December 18, 2020.

“The Elephant Walk isn’t only to practice our abilities to respond quickly,” said US Air Force Col. David Skalicky, 354th Operations Group commander, “This is to show our airmen who work behind the scenes what Eielson AFB is about. It’s about showing our strength in the Arctic arena.”

Skalicky continued, reminding the airmen in a pre-exercise briefing, “We are executing this despite coronavirus, despite the extreme weather conditions, and despite that it’s one of the shortest days of the year.”

With great amounts of planning, preparation and communication 18 F-35A Lightning IIs, 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons, and two KC-135 Stratotankers arrived on the flightline ready for a takeoff.

Air Force F-35 elephant walk Alaska
KC-135 Stratotankers on the flight line at Eielson Air Force Base, December 18, 2020.

“Every airman across the fighter wing contributed to today’s event, and we proved what our team is capable of …supporting, defending, or delivering 5th-generation airpower and advanced training. Stay tuned, because our combat capability will continue to grow, and I’m incredibly proud of the disciplined, professional, combat-focused approach our team displayed today,” said Col. David Berkland, the 354th FW commander.

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