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Future of combat aviation requires funding

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Torri Ingalsbe
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
Senior leaders from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps testified on the future programs and platforms of combat aviation forces, and budget needs, in a hearing with the House Armed Services Committee March 27.

“The Air Force fighter fleet is approaching an average age of 30 years – the oldest in the history of the Air Force,” said Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements. “The fourth-generation F-15s (Eagle) and F-16s (Fighting Falcon), which comprise the majority of our fighter fleet, require upgrades to both extend their lifespan and provide the combat capability required to prevail in today’s increasingly contested environments.”

The Air Force’s budget request includes the divestiture of the A-10 Thunderbolt II, a $4.7 billion savings, to put toward the modernization of the aging fighter fleet across the Future Years Defense Plan, as well as procure and modernize additional aircraft, he explained.

“The (President’s Budget) levels work to maximize the contributions of our total force, reinforce investments in nuclear deterrence, space control operations, emphasize global long range and non-permissive capabilities, and preserve the Air Force’s top three procurement programs: the F-35A (Lightning II), KC-46A (Pegasus) and Long Range Strike Bomber,” Holmes said.

The future of America’s airpower relies heavily on a substantial budget to maximize the narrowing technology and capability gap between the U.S. and its potential adversaries, said Maj. Gen. Timothy M. Ray, the Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition office and director of global power programs.

“Our adversaries are developing technologies and capabilities that tend to shape and deter our mission,” Ray said. “We recognize we cannot maintain our edge through technology alone. It will require fresh thinking and innovation regarding how we acquire and manage our acquisition process.”

The Air Force acquisition enterprise is focusing on agile and affordable systems and programs going forward, ensuring they are getting the best value out of every taxpayer dollar spent, he explained.

“Given the current budget realities, we must make wise fiscal decisions that allow us to remain the premier Air Force in the world,” Ray said. “Affordable systems are critical to provide the right balance between capacity and modernization. We must continue to strive to be good stewards of tax payer dollars.”

Both generals thanked the committee members for their continued support of America’s Airmen and their families, and reemphasized the importance of appropriate funding for air superiority.

“Our (fiscal year 2016) budget takes steps to balance the many challenges we face in capacity, capability and readiness,” Holmes said. “Any return to sequestration-level funding will directly impact all three areas, leaving us smaller, less ready, with less of an advantage over our potential adversaries.”