Here’s What You Need To Know: The Air Force begins replacing its F-22s with a new fighter type in the 2030s, at which point the Raptors will be entering their fourth decade of service, the flying branch will find itself simultaneously buying two stealth fighter types at a projected cost of $14 billion annually. Add in the cost of cargo planes, tankers and bombers, and you get $23-billion figure the CBO warned about.
A new fighter to replace the F-22 Raptor could eat the U.S. Air Force’s budget starting in the 2030s, the Congressional Budget Office reported.
The Air Force on average spent $12 billion per year, in current dollars, on new aircraft between 1980 and 2018. But replacing the flying branch’s roughly 180 F-22s in the 2030s while simultaneously buying new F-35s, cargo planes and tankers, could cost as much as $23 billion annually, the CBO concluded in a December 2018 report.
Annual spending on new planes could increase even more if the Air Force follows through on a 2018 plan to grow the number of squadrons from 312 to 386. “The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking us to do,” Heather Wilson, the service’s civilian leader, said in September 2018.
The expansion plan includes seven new fighter squadrons, for a total of 62.
The CBO’s report hints at one way out for the Air Force. The service could replace F-22s with additional F-35s for less money than it would take to develop a new fighter.
The Air Force’s budgetary problem has been a long time coming. Spending on new planes peaked at $29 billion in 1986 when the military still was preparing to wage war with the Soviets in Europe.