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Alternatives for Modernizing U.S. Fighter Forces
Douglas W. Elmendorf (pf); David Arthur (au); Kevin Eveker (au)
The U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have long maintained tactical fighter forces that provide capabilities for air-to-air combat and air-to-ground attack. The three services are in the process of replacing the bulk of todayís fighter aircraft ó most of which were purchased in the 1980s ó with new F/A-18E/F, F-22, and F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter)aircraft. Although current procurement plans call for the purchase of about 2,500 aircraft over the next 25 years, the services are projecting that those purchases will not keep pace with the need to retire todayís aircraft as they reach the limit of their service life. This study, prepared for the Senate Report on the Nat. Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008, examines the capabilities and costs of the fighter force that would be fielded under the Dept. of Defenseís (DOD) FY 2009 plans and the potential implications for DoDís long-term budget and inventory levels if planned purchases of new aircraft are insufficient to maintain fighter inventories at levels called for by current service requirements. (Just prior to the publication of this report, the new Admin. released its budget request for FY 2010. Although the general implications of the changes in DoDís plans are discussed in the Summary, sufficient details for a complete reassessment of DODís new plans were unavailable when this report went to press.) The study also compares the advantages, disadvantages, and costs of seven alternative approaches that DoD might adopt to modernize its fighter forces ó three that satisfy todayís inventory requirements, two that maintain aggregate weapons capacity with fewer aircraft, and two that replace portions of the fighter force with longer-range aircraft. This paper provides objective, impartial analysis and makes no recommendations. Figures.
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