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The Budget Axe Drops: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on Thursday outlined the programmatic changes resulting from the Obama Administration's new strategic defense guidance and the planned reduction of some $487 billion from the Pentagon's budget over the next 10 years. Among them, the Air Force will:
  • Eliminate six of its 60 tactical air squadrons, as well as one training squadron.
  • Terminate the RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 30 remotely piloted aircraft program.
  • Divest the fleet of 38 C-27Js; support ground forces with C-130s instead.
  • Retire 27 C-5A aircraft, leaving a strategic airlift fleet of 52 C-5Ms and 222 C-17s.
  • Phase out 65 of the oldest C-130s, resulting in a fleet of 318 C-130s.
  • Make balanced reductions in the Air National Guard, consistent with reductions in the active duty Air Force and Air Force Reserve.

At the same time, the Air Force will:

  • Fund its next-generation bomber and sustain the current bomber fleet.
  • Move ahead with the KC-46A tanker.
  • Sustain 65 MQ-1/9 remotely piloted aircraft combat air patrols, with a surge capacity of 85. As part of this, MQ-1s will remain in service longer; MQ-9 procurement will slow.
Panetta said the Air Force will remain one "that dominates air and space and provides rapid mobility, global strike, and persistent [intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance]." (Pentagon budget priorities document and budget fact sheet) (Panetta-Dempsey transcript) (Carter-Winnefeld transcript)