The US Air Force (USAF) is planning to decommission some of its aging, iconic aerial assets to ensure a technological advantage as China continues to develop state-of-the-art weapons and equipment.
The air force will reportedly retire MQ-9 drones, F-16 fighters, and C-130 warplanes to pave the way for the commissioning of sixth-generation fighter jets, hypersonic weapons, and F-35s.
“If it doesn’t threaten China, why are we doing it?” USAF Secretary Frank Kendall said during the Reagan National Defense Forum last week.
Meanwhile, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown explained that retiring some of the country’s air assets is really “a tough decision” that could allow the air force to transition “to the capabilities of the future.”
He emphasized the need to make space for technological innovations in the military and adapt to a more complex threat environment. Decommissioning older hardware is an effective way to save maintenance costs, which could be invested in cutting-edge technologies.
In addition to MQ-9 drones and F-16 fighters, the service included F-15C aircraft, KC-10 refuelers, A-10 Warthogs, and RQ-4 drones in the list of assets that it plans to decommission.
Amid reports of massive decommissioning of USAF assets, the service continues to award contracts to various aerospace and defense companies for more cutting-edge weapons and equipment.
Boeing has claimed that the air force will purchase the company’s E-7 Wedgetail airborne early warning and control plane next year to replace its E-3 fleet.
The aircraft is designed to track multiple airborne and maritime targets simultaneously and provide situational awareness to soldiers. It can also direct other military assets such as fighter jets and warships.
The USAF also announced that it is now working on a viable aircraft fuel that utilizes ground-breaking carbon transformation technology, turning carbon dioxide from the air into jet fuel.
Additionally, the service has successfully tested a robotic system prototype called the MHU-TSX for aircraft weapon loading. The technology reportedly uses non-hydraulic actuation, making its movements precise.