Washington: In view of inordinate delay in the production of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, the US Air Force is being forced to spend USD 2.8 billion to upgrade its ageing F-16 fleet.
"The issue with respect to F-35 is that obviously the planes are not delivering as quickly as we originally anticipated, thus the requirement to posture the legacy force to make sure that we retain the capabilities we need until the F-35 delivers in numbers," Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz, said at a Pentagon news conference.
As a result, Schwartz said, the US has committed to do service-life extension on about 350 of its multirole F-16s -- which will cost USD 2.8 billion.
"As part of a management decision on the F-35 programme, we have determined that we are not ready to ramp up to full rate production. So we`ve depressed the rate of procurement for a few years while we work through the concurrency issues still present in that programme," Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, told reporters here.
Donley said the US remains fully committed to the F-35 in all three variants. "This is a `must do` for our armed forces," he said.
Top US Air Force officials said a number of steps have been to protect the distinctive capabilities that the Air Force brings to the table, consistent with the strategic guidance it received, capabilities that joint and coalition partners have come to depend upon from the Air Force: air and space control in particular, global intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, global mobility and recognition of the growing importance of cyber.
"Now, we`ve also protected along the way the bomber force. Our remotely-piloted aircraft plans are now set at 65 CAPs with the capability to surge to 85. We`ve resized our mobility forces to match up with the changes in the overall size of the joint force. We`ve protected space. We`ve protected cyber capabilities, also nuclear forces along the way," Donley said.
The Pentagon terms F-35 as future of not only the US, but also 12 other international partners.