The Air Force is not moving fast enough to buy its version of the tri-service F-35 fighter. It only requested 48 of the planes in 2019, even though it needs to take delivery of at least 66 each year to keep the fighter fleet from shrinking as Cold War planes retire. The faster the Cold War planes go the better, because they won’t be able to survive in future wars against countries like Russia and China. At the rate the Air Force is acquiring F-35s, though, half the fighter force in 2030 will still be planes developed in the 1970s; if it doubled the rate, the fleet would be 80% stealthy and survivable in 2030. Without an adequate force of F-35s to provide the U.S. Army with air cover in a future European war, it is probably doomed to defeat. And then there is the inconvenient fiscal reality that there probably won’t be enough money to buy lots of new aircraft in the future. The Air Force needs to pick up the pace on F-35 while it has the funding. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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