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​An F-35A completes the first in-flight weapons release of a 2,000 pound GBU-31 BLU-109 Joint Direct Attack Munition from a fifth generation fighter, Oct. 16, 2012. Courtsey photo.

The Air Force is “thousands of weapons short” of needed stocks, Lt. Gen. James Holmes, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told Senate legislators March 19. Addressing the Senate Armed Services airLand subcommittee, Holmes asked for support for the Air Force’s Fiscal 2016 request of $1.8 billion and $7.3 billion over the future years defense plan for “preferred munitions,” because “we have insufficient inventories” of these weapons to hit critical targets in a high-tempo conflict. Among them are the Small Diameter Bomb, the Joint Direct Attack Munition, and the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, Holmes said. USAF is similarly looking to increase its inventory of AIM-9X and AIM-120 dogfight missiles. Potential adversaries are “closing the capabilities gap” with the US and the weapons will help offset the decay of the fighter fleet, “now approaching an average age of 30 years,” Holmes said. USAF needs $4.9 billion for F-15 and F-16 service life extensions, he said, and $600 million to keep the F-22 updated. USAF is also looking to buy 44 F-35As with FY ’16 money. (Holmes prepared testimony) (See also Air Force Procurement Up More than 25 Percent)