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USAF 30-Year Plan Lays Out Aircraft Acquisition Through 2040

Mar. 6, 2010 - 03:45AM   |  
By BRUCE ROLFSEN   |   Comments
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The U.S. Air Force is taking a long look down the road at buying and fielding new airplanes.

Mandated by Congress, the "Aircraft Investment Plan" maps out how many planes the Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy plan to buy through 2020 and sets goals for 2021-2040. It does not include helicopters.

The report calls for a joint approach to long-range strike and electronic warfare but does not drastically alter the Air Force's announced plans for its two main acquisitions this decade - the F-35 Lightning II and KC-X tanker

By aircraft, what the report foresees for the Air Force:

Combat

Bomber: The Air Force could spend $2 billion to $4 billion a year to develop a new long-range strike aircraft by 2020.

Whether the plane will have a pilot onboard or will fly at supersonic speeds is undecided. The report says: "A study is underway to identify the right mix of manned and unmanned technologies … and to determine the right balance between range, payload, speed, stealth, and onboard sensors."

Until the new bomber arrives, the Air Force will keep about 160 B-52 Stratofortresses, B-1B Lancers and B-2 Spirit bombers.

F-22 Raptor: The service will spend $1.9 billion to upgrade its 180 fighter jets with improved communications and avionics gear. Retirement of the Raptors could begin in 2025.

F-35: The Air Force is in line to buy 602 F-35s through 2020 at a cost of about $70 billion. Two-thirds arrive in 2016 or later. The Air Force fleet will eventually total 1,763 jets.

MQ-9 Reapers: Forecasts call for the service to buy 372 of the attack and reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles from 2011 through 2018. The price tag: about $820 million. Later models will have an electronic warfare capability.

RQ-4 Global Hawks: Four to five remote-controlled jets will arrive each year through 2017. There is no projection for later years.

The report did not offer an overall cost for the RQ-4s; for 2011, the Air Force wants $737 million for four Global Hawks, their payloads and logistics support.

Mobility

KC-X: The service is set to spend about $30 billion through 2020 to develop and buy 109 new tankers.

Intra-theater airlift: The Air Force should continue to buy C-130J Hercules to replace older C-130 E and H models. The study projects buying 63 C-130Js through 2020 for about $6 billion.

Strategic airlift: The service wants to maintain an fleet of 314 large cargo planes, a mix of 223 C-17s and 91 C-5s. The report recommends the Air Force begin development of a new cargo jet starting in 2015.

E-mail: brolfsen@militarytimes.com

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