19:57 GMT24 June 2021
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    The US air force cannot now take delivery of the planned number of F-35 fighter jets due to budget restraints, so current airplanes will continue to fill the gap for the next few decades.

    The US Air Force may soon open the bidding on 72 new Boeing F-15s, Lockheed Martin F-16s or Boeing F/A-18 airplanes because of budget cuts which handicap the production of the required number of airplanes, according to Aerospace Daily & Defense Report. 

    F-15s and F-16s are now expected to serve until 2045, and will outnumber F-35s and F-22s through the late 2020s, the daily reported on Thursday.

    As well as soliciting bids on new planes, the air force has asked for pricing on life-extension and upgrade options, including fitting in-service aircraft with new wings and rebuilt fuselages.

    US McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle twin-engine and all-weather tactical fighter
    © Sputnik / Grigoriy Sisoev
    US McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle twin-engine and all-weather tactical fighter
    "The US Air Force 'is struggling to afford 48 F-35s a year' for the first years of full-rate production," a senior officer told the newspaper. 

    The air force had been hoping to gradually increase the number of F-35s in its fleet, increasing the number it buys annually to 60 in 2020, and 80 annually soon after.

    The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the US Air Force's 5th generation stealth fighter, and officially joined a Marine Corps squadron in July. Its development, estimated to cost $1.5 trillion over the course of the 55 year program, has been beset by problems, including the vulnerability of its computer system to hackers, software deficiencies, and problems with the ejector seat mechanism and fuel tanks.

    defense budget, budget cuts, F-35, US Air Force, US
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