Warplanes: February 22, 2002


The Air Force will buy 23 new F-22 Raptor fighters in 2003 while the Navy will buy 44 F-18E Super Hornets. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will get $3.5 billion, all of it for development. The number of aircraft (already too low to maintain the average age of the current fleet) will continue to shrink; the Navy will buy only 83 planes in 2003. While $1 billion is going into unmanned aircraft, these are regarded as supplements to manned aircraft and not as replacements for them. Stupid Accounting Tricks are running rampant; the Air Force is juggling the money for eight C-17s in order to buy twelve of them, in effect telling Congress it will have to settle up the shortage down the road. The current plan would continue stealing money from next year until 2008, when a huge "balloon payment" will be presented to Congress. Even this is less than the 15 C-17s it needs to buy each year in order to achieve its airlift goals. --Stephen V Cole


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