Image 1: F-35A finger four formation. The USAF current plans to acquire 1,763 F-35A aircraft.
This series of articles will outline the planned future composition of the USAF for the next forty years. The average age of an aircraft serving in the USAF is 26 years (Defense Industry Daily, 2013). Future and planned procurement programs will seek to replace many of the venerable but aging aircraft. Subsequent parts in this article will examine in depth particular aircraft and their future/planned usage in the USAF.
Note: ~ indicates an approximate date which might be subject to change.
USAF Procurement & Upgrade Programs
2013 - Upgrade for F-15E fleet with new AESA radars and HMD begins. $6.9 billion awarded to Lockheed Martin for F-22A fleet upgrades 3.2a & 3.2b.
2014 - Structural testing begins with goal of extending F-15C service life to 18,000 hours, F-15E to 32,000 hours. Tests set to be completed by 2015. ~ 2014 RQ-4 Block 40 full rate production begins
2015 - F-15C IRST program restarts.
2016 - Increment 3.2a upgrade completed for Raptor fleet. AESA radars upgrade for 150 F-15C aircraft
~2016-2017 - F-35 IOC (initial operational capacity). First KC-46A tankers delivered to Air Force. 2018 - 300 to 350 F-16C retained for upgrades, upgrade process begins (+15 year life added to airframes) F-22A fleet begins to reach mid life expectancy (4,000 fight hours)
2020 - Increment 3.2b upgrade completed for Raptor fleet
2019 - IBS/SB-16 upgrade completed for B-1B fleet
~2020+ LSR-B (formerly known as Next Generation Bomber) to enter service
2022 - F-16C upgrade process concluded
~2025 - A-10 set to retire
~2030 - 6th generation fighter reaches IOC
~2031 Raptor fleet approaches 8,000 service hour limit (almost certainly will have structural enhancement program to extend service life past 8,000 hours)
2035 - F-15C set to retire
~2037 - F-16 retirement (15 year life extension from 2022)
~2040 - B-52 Retires
2058 B-2 set to retire
Planned USAF fighter fleet composition 2030:
- 184 F-22A Raptors
- 700 to 1050 F-35A (pessimistic and planned estimate)
- 300 to 350 F-16C
- 220 F-15E
-175 to 249 F-15C/D
- 6th generation fighter (?)