The U.S. Air Force operates an aged fleet of 500 Cold War training aircraft that are used to instruct young pilots in how to fly fighters and bombers. The planes are called T-38 Talons, and they are well past their prime. In fact, they should have been replaced years ago, both to improve the quality of the advanced pilot training program and to enhance safety (one of them crashed in 2008 due to age-related metal fatigue). However, the current Air Force plan is to only begin fielding a successor T-X trainer in 2023, and then continue production through the next decade. This is a bad plan. It under-estimates the risk of continuing to operate outdated aircraft, and it probably will be delayed by lack of available funds midway through the next decade — when budget deficits are projected to once again reach a trillion dollars annually. The Air Force needs to rethink its schedule for the T-X, and procure a replacement fighter sooner — before the coming budget crunch makes the program unexecutable. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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