The Air Force plans to upgrade all 1,018 of its F-16s and 175 F-15C/D Eagles to keep them flying until the F-35A joint strike fighter is fully operational and new weapons systems on the F-22 Raptor are installed, according to the 2014 budget request released April 10. In the fiscal 2014 budget request, the Air Force states the service life extension for all F-16s will add eight to 10 years to each airframe, along with upgrades to the fighter’s radars, cockpit displays and other communications interfaces.
While the F-16s are being upgraded, the service is requesting funding to purchase 19 more F-35As in fiscal 2014 to add to the 11 that have already been delivered. This funding is part of a $15.7 billion request for the “global precision attack” capability, which also includes upgrades to the F-15E, B-1B Lancer, bombs and the continued development of the next-generation long-range strike bomber.
Maj. Gen. Ed Bolton, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for the budget, said the planned purchases of the F-35As do not take into account the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, which would force the service to cut planned acquisitions of the jet.
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