Nearly half of Air Force’s planned F-15C Eagle cuts could come from overseas
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 11, 2014
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The U.S. Air Force intends to further whittle down the number of fighter aircraft based overseas as part of overall planned cuts to its fleet announced Monday.
The Air Force wants to retire 51 F-15C Eagles, including 21 overseas, starting in fiscal 2015, according to Air Force officials.
The reductions would be made over the next five years, leaving the Air Force with a total of 179 F-15Cs, said Ann Stefanik, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon.
But Stefanik said Tuesday she could not say whether the overseas F-15C cuts would be made in the Pacific, Europe or whether they would be shared by both theaters, “because host nation notifications have to occur first.”
In Europe, 21 F-15Cs are assigned to RAF Lakenheath, England, all with the 493rd Fighter Squadron, according to Air Force officials. Ten of those jets are currently in Lithuania to support the Baltic air policing mission. There are 54 F-15Cs based at Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.
The other two fighter squadrons at Lakenheath comprise the newer F-15E Strike Eagles.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe officials said Tuesday they could not yet talk about any proposed reductions to the command’s assigned aircraft.
“We are aware that the proposed Fiscal Year 15 President’s Budget includes the decrease of various types of aircraft, including some types that are assigned to this command,” USAFE officials said in a statement. “At this time we are awaiting budget approval and further guidance that may direct force changes. When and if we are directed to take any action, we will coordinate with all stakeholders. As an Air Force institution, we are unable to discuss details on overseas force structure until host nation notification occurs.”
The Air Force cuts are outlined in President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget request and must be approved by Congress. The Air Force plans to remove almost 500 aircraft across the inventories of all three components over the next five years. The biggest savings would come from the elimination of two entire fleets, that of the A-10 and U-2.
If the proposed F-15C cuts do indeed come from Europe, it would mark the third significant reduction of USAFE’s fighter fleet since 2010. Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany lost 21 F-16s starting in 2010 as part of an Air Force cost-savings plan. The base last year also said goodbye to 21 A-10s — the last remaining “Warthogs” in Europe — as part of Air Force cutbacks to meet tougher budget limits and a new defense strategy shifting focus away from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region.
The service’s fiscal 2015 force structure adjustments call for the reduction of 24 A-10s overseas. Those are based at Osan Air Base in South Korea, according to Stefanik.
The plan also calls for cutting two C-20H aircraft from the Air Force’s overseas fleet in fiscal 2015. Those planes, a military modification of the commercial Gulfstream aircraft, are used to transport distinguished military and government officials.
Adam L. Mathis contributed to this story.