DefenseNews

House bill would block F-22 retirements, keep buying Air Force F-15EXs

F-15EX and F-22A Raptor: Potential Changes Coming

Some House lawmakers want to prevent the Air Force from retiring older F-22A Raptor fighters and keep the F-15EX Eagle II jets in production a year longer than the service had planned.

The House Armed Services Committee’s proposed fiscal 2025 National Defense Authorization Act would also allow the service to cut 56 A-10 Warthogs.

The Air Force originally planned to retire 250 aircraft in FY25 as part of its budget request in order to save more than $2 billion. Those retirements would include 32 of its Block 20 F-22 jets the service says would cost too much to prepare for combat.

Read More: The F-22 Will Be Phased Out, But Not Before the Air Force Adopts Its Successor

The service had also planned to stop buying the Boeing-made F-15EX after FY25, capping the entire Eagle II program at 98. That would be six fewer than the total 104 the service had most recently planned to buy.

But the committee’s proposed NDAA, released Monday, would reverse those two decisions.

The FY23 NDAA stopped the Air Force from retiring those Block 20 F-22s through FY27. A congressional staffer told Defense News on Tuesday the latest proposed bill would keep the enacted provision in place, blocking the Air Force’s F-22 retirement plans.

The congressional staffer noted that lawmakers felt those F-22s — despite the cost associated with preparations for combat — are still relevant for a future fight.

“They’re still the best air superiority jets we have in the world today,” the staffer said.

The NDAA also would temporarily pause the Air Force’s plans to retire 26 of its F-15E Strike Eagles with less effective engines. Those jets could not be retired until six months after the Pentagon submits a study showing how many fighters the Air Force will need to meet geographical combatant commanders’ requirements. The staffer said F-15Es would be needed if a fight against China erupted later this decade.

The Air Force’s other requested retirements — including plans to retire 56 A-10 Warthogs, 65 F-15C and F-15D Eagle fighters, and 11 F-16 Fighting Falcons — would be granted in the NDAA, the staffer said. The Air Force says the A-10 attack plane would be too vulnerable in a fight against an advanced adversary and wants to retire the entire fleet by 2029. Congress long fought the Air Force’s A-10 retirement plans, but lawmakers’ opposition has thawed in recent years.

The NDAA would also add $271 million back into the budget to buy an additional 24 F-15EXs in 2026, and keep Boeing’s production line for the updated fourth-generation jet active.

The additional jets would leave the Air Force with a total F-15EX fleet of 122 fighters. That would still be fewer than the 144 Eagle IIs the service originally planned to buy, but more than the most recent program of record of 98.

“We don’t want to limit options out there for us to continue the F-15EX line” in 2026, the staffer said.


Author: Stephen Losey
Source: DefenseNews

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