Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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This report examines DODs four largest tactical aircraft modernization programs. The background section provides a brief description of each program, and a discussion of how tactical aircraft fit into military air operations the missions they typically perform and how they contrast to longer-range combat aircraft. The Analysis section examines a number of policy issues including affordability, capability required, force structure, service roles and missions, industrial base, and transformation. The paper concludes with a synopsis of recent congressional action on these programs. The Defense Department plans to buy the F-22 fighter for the Air Force, the FA-18EF fighterattack plane for the Navy, and the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft for the Marines and Air Force special operations, as well as pursue ajoint-service program to develop a multirole Joint Strike Fighter JSF aircraft in three variants, some of which might be operational around 2012. Decisions in Congress and the Defense Department regarding these aircraft programs may have important long-term implications. The F-22 and FA-18EF are in full-rate production. The V-22 is now in transition from research-development RD to procurement and could remain in production for decades. The next-generation combat aircraft that are expected to result from joint-service efforts now getting underway through the Joint Strike Fighter JSF program might be in production through the 2020s. Decisions about the funding of these programs will influence the future of individual U.S. aircraft manufacturers, and may well affect the division of combat roles and missions among the services in the next century.