HONOLULU, July 24, 2013 – President Obama’s decision to delay the transfer of four F-16 fighter aircraft to Egypt presents an opportunity for policymakers to reconsider not only America’s foreign aid but her domestic military readiness.
Though the Obama Administration’s military assistance to Egypt has drawn a firestorm of partisan controversy, high tech U.S. weapons in foreign arsenals are nothing new, to the point of exceeding the capabilities of their American counterparts. As an example, in the United Arab Emirates the Block 60 Desert Falcon export variants acquired in 2007 are the newest F-16 airframes in the world.
Featuring range-enhancing conformal fuel tanks, integrated AN/ASQ-32 targeting, MIL-STD-1773 fiber optics and an afterburning engine that delivers 32,000 pounds of thrust, UAE F-16s represent the cutting edge of Generation 4.5 aircraft manufacturing. Half a world away in Singapore, since 2009 the Royal Singapore Air Force has fielded F-15SG Strike Eagles equipped with powerful APG-63v3 AESA radar, AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pods and extended combat range.
By contrast, the bulk of the U.S. Air Force F-16 and F-15 fleet was manufactured during the Reagan buildup and has since then seen continuous combat stress in numerous wars.
Taken together with the rest of the U.S. Air Force inventory, over the next three decades the total number of combat aircraft will dramatically shrink while some aircraft with fuselages even as old as 50 to 70 years will continue in service. While policymakers staunchly defend the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platforms as providing ample capability, the extremely low numbers of these aircraft will inevitably force aging legacy fighters to pick up the slack in any future conflict.
The political danger in acquiring new F-16 Fighting Falcons or F-15 Strike Eagles is that it may jeopardize funding for the F-22 and F-35, but policymakers need to realize the competing demands of domestic air sovereignty and overseas combat are stretching the already thin fleet to a breaking point.
U.S. policymakers should strongly consider reducing foreign military assistance and utilizing those funds to recapitalize our own Air Force. America needs new F-16s far more than Egypt or anyone else does.
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