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Air Force details fleet cuts, states hardest hit

Mar. 10, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Two F-15E Strike Eagles are parked on the flightline as the sun sets over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Air Force plans to cut 50 F-15C Eagles.
Two F-15E Strike Eagles are parked on the flightline as the sun sets over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Air Force plans to cut 50 F-15C Eagles. (Lorenz Crespo / Air Force)
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The Air Force on Monday announced specifics on planned cuts to its fleet over the next five years, including 50 F-15Cs heading to retirement and multiple MQ-1 Predator units upgrading to the newer Reaper drone.

The Air Force’s plans to cut 50 F-15C Eagles begin in fiscal 2015, with cuts to its active- duty fleet. Twenty-one F-15Cs overseas will be retired, along with two from Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

The Air National Guard’s cutbacks all come in fiscal 2016, with the biggest hit going to the Oregon Air National Guard, which will lose 15 Eagles. Three F-15Cs will each be cut from California, Massachusetts, Florida and Louisiana.

These cuts, outlined in the administration’s fiscal 2015 budget request, come as the Air Force plans to achieve big savings by retiring its entire A-10 and U-2 fleets. But those savings were not enough, so additional cutbacks needed to be made.

“In addition to fleet divestment, we made the tough choice to reduce a number of tactical fighters, command and control, electronic attack and intra-theater airlift assets so we could rebalance the Air Force at a size that can be supported by expected funding levels,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a release. “Without those cuts, we will not be able to start recovering to required readiness levels.”

The force structure announcement also outlines the Air Force’s plans to retire its Predator fleet, with the biggest hit going to active units at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. That base will lose 72 Predators between fiscal 2015 and 2017. Ten more will be cut from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., along with two more assigned to active-duty units in California.

Air National Guard units in California, Arizona, North Dakota and Texas will transfer from Predators to Reapers between fiscal 2015 and 2017, according to the Air Force.

All of the cuts must be approved by Congress as part of the fiscal 2015 budget.

Elimination of the A-10, which faces opposition from some lawmakers, would begin in 2015 with the Idaho Air National Guard transferring to an F-15E associate unit.

Also in 2015, A-10s assigned to active-duty units at Osan Air Base, South Korea; Moody Air Force Base, Ga.; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., would be cut.

Nellis, Moody and Davis-Monthan would each lose another unit in 2016.

Among Guard and reserve bases that would los A-10s under the plan:

■ Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., would lose its A-10s and receive eight KC-135s in fiscal 2017.

■ The Air Force Reserve unit at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., would lose its A-10 mission, and receive 18 F-16s in fiscal 2018.

■ The Guard unit at Martin State Airport, Md., would transfer from A-10s to C-130Js in 2018.

■ Davis-Monthan’s reserve units would lose their A-10s and gain 18 F-16s in 2019.

■ The Guard unit at Fort Wayne, Ind., would also switch to 18 F-16s.

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