USAF is looking to order F16 fighters instead of expensive F35s

USAF order F16 expensive F35
US Air Force F16 combat aircraft.

The US Air Force appears to be considering ordering new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters almost two decades after the last acquisition of the type.

Experts say the change in plans was caused by the exorbitant cost of the F-35. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, the US Air Force is reviewing its tactical requirements for the 2020s and may soon begin purchasing more F-16s. The armed force currently has approximately 900 F-16s in service (783 single-seat F-16Cs and 151 two-seat F-16Ds).

The US Air Force is currently struggling with maintaining an aging fighter fleet and looming capacity shortages due to severe delays in the delivery of replacement aircraft.

The roadmap provided by the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability provides for the acquisition of new F-16s and UAS (Unmanned Autonomous Systems), asking to limit F-35 orders to approximately 1,050, compared to the USAF requirement of 1,763 units.

“The review opens the possibility that the Air Force could order four different fighters — the F-35A, F-15EX, F-16 Block 70/72, and a next-generation fighter — while continuing to operate the Lockheed F-22 and the A-10,” Aviation Week & Space Technology reported. The military is considering continuing to use non-stealth jets rather than fifth-generation F-35s.

According to reports, the Pentagon can no longer hide its frustration at the high cost of the Lightning II jet, far from the $ 50 million per aircraft originally budgeted.

Although a decades-old design, the latest variants of the F-16 boast state-of-the-art systems and weapons. The last time the US Air Force bought a new F-16 was in the early 2000s, since then the Fighting Falcon has received major new upgrades due to high market demand.

The new F-16 Block 70/72 or F-16V features several enhancements such as an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and datalink, targeting pod and weapons, precision GPS navigation and the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS).

With each F-35A costing around $ 110 million, the US Air Force's vision of replacing the F-16 fleet with the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter begins to blur.

The US Air Force is now in the process of introducing the F-16 as a low-cost fighter, more than 40 years after its first entry into service. However, this decision puzzles experts who believe that the introduction of obsolete fighters goes against US policy, considering that their enemies are investing heavily in fifth and sixth generation fighter jets.

Should the USAF finalize the purchase of new F-16 aircraft, the deal could mark a turning point in the current trend by re-emphasizing fourth generation aircraft over more modern ones. This choice could in fact influence the decisions of many countries that have more options on the list to choose from.

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Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: USAF

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