So now the USAF may well order more F-16s, almost 16 years after the last F-16 was delivered to the USAF.link
Was discussed in the US Thread: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7088&start=2080#p2480169
There could be three reasons why this was all of a sudden brought up :
* To put pressure on Lockheed since they are simultaneously asking the company to accelerate the "$25K by 2025" O&S investments and negotiating the next hybrid-MYP contract that could include between 400-500 aircraft under one negotiated deal (that will be inked by this September)
* I've hypothesized that the USAF could do well to replace the A-10 (long term) with new build F-16's and use the money saved to buy more aircraft like the B-21 or RQ-180
* The article hints at the the 6th gen. NGAD being ready to enter production by 2026. If that is the case then that would mean they would most likely need to free us some cash in their long term budget to the buy the new system. Switching to a low TCO platform in the F-16 can provide them this margin needed to invest in NGAD.
In the end they need to get at 100 new build fighters a year in order to efficiently modernize and reduce the average airframe life of the CAF. They are still only at 70-75 range even with the F-15EX being brought into the mix. And that is probably going to be a near-medium term upper limit. The F-35 is not really going to get any cheaper now that it is nearing its peak production rate and that new electronics and capabilities are being added which negates most of any additional EOS going forward (new suppliers offering more capable systems would most definitely require higher margin on some of these items). So if they want to get to that magic (and desirable) 80-100 new fighters / year range, then they probably have to either find a pot of gold sitting around in the budget or get creative and look to diversify their acquisition portfolio a little.
In the end they would have to think long and hard at the force structure and the tactical aircraft mix. Do they really need that many new 5GFA given the type of things that are going to be useful in the Pacific (long range bombers etc)? Both Russia and China have either run into technical, budgetary issues with their 5GFA or a combination of these and as a result have reduced their 5GFA production to either a trickle (Russia) or fairly lowish numbers (China). Neither country has successfully mass produced a stealth aircraft so they have that rather difficult milestone to cross still.
So if that is the case can the USAF take a little more risk here and re-architecture its CAF while still getting 4-5 dozen F-35's BUT not scaling up beyond that? I think this is what the former acquisition official was probably hinting at. It is certainly an interesting thought. Honestly, I'd be happy to reduce the fighter fleet by 400-500 aircraft if that meant being able to buy 50 additional B-21's. That is the CHINA specific force structure that the USAF needs to go towards because there aren't really enough "survivable" basing options in the Asia Pacific to house short-medium range tactical aircraft.