The House version of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization bill requires the U.S. Air Force to divulge its plans for the fleet of Boeing [BA] F-15 fighters before retiring any more F-15Cs/Ds.
The proposal came in an amendment by Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), which passed the House July 14 on a voice vote as part of an “en bloc” package of amendments.
“Unfortunately, the United States Air Force is not telling Congress – or anyone, for that matter – what their plan is for divestment of the F-15,” Bentz said in a statement after the passage of his amendment. “My amendment ensures that they inform Congress of their long-term plans for the fighter and those bases with them, as the jet currently plays a vital role in our nation’s air superiority.”
Bentz’s district includes F-15C/Ds of the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Klamath Falls, Ore.
Plans had called for Oregon’s 173rd Fighter Wing, home of the Air Force’s F-15 schoolhouse, to be the first to convert to the F-15EX this year, but it looks as if the 173rd Fighter Wing will not receive the F-15EX until 2024.
By the end of fiscal 2022, the Air Force has said that it will have, as of now, just two F-15EXs in service. The F-15EXs are in testing at Eglin AFB, Fla.
The House version of the fiscal 2023 defense bill accedes to the Air Force $2.7 billion request for 24 F-15EXs and advance procurement.
Bentz’s amendment would not let the Air Force retire F-15C/Ds until 180 days after the service submits a report outlining the number of F-15s it will retire in the future years defense plan; the year and locations of the divestments; anticipated effects on service budgeting, missions, force structure, and personnel; and proposed mitigations of any negative effects.
The provision also requires the Air Force to report on any plans “to deviate from procurement of new F–15EX aircraft as articulated by the validated requirements contained in Air Force Requirements Decision Memorandum, dated February 1, 2019, regarding F–15EX Rapid Fielding Requirements Document, dated January 16, 2019.”
In April, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land forces panel, expressed concern about Air Force plans to divest its F-15C and D fleets by 2026 and to cut the F-15EX acquisition objective from 144 to 80 aircraft, while delaying the fielding of the Air Force Next Generation Air Dominance program (Defense Daily, Apr. 27).
The fiscal 2022 NDAA allowed the Air Force to retire 48 F-15C/Ds and 47 Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-16C/Ds. The approved F-15C/D and F-16C/D retirements in fiscal 2022 would bring the fighter inventory down from 2,094 to 1,999–just above the level required for an Air Force justification of planned fighter reductions.
The fiscal 2023 Air Force budget did not contain any proposed F-15C/D or F-16C/D divestments, but the service asked Congress to allow the service to retire 150 other aircraft, including 33 Block 20 Lockheed Martin F-22s, eight Northrop Grumman [NOC] Joint STARS, 21 A-10s, 15 Boeing E-3 AWACS, 13 Boeing KC-135 tankers, 10 Lockheed Martin C-130Hs, and 50 Raytheon [RTX] T-1 trainers.