The roar of new fighter jets streaking across the sky – a familiar image of American airpower – may be slightly muted in Fiscal Year 2025.

The US Air Force’s plan to bolster its fighter squadrons with a mix of cutting-edge F-35s and the proven F-15EX has hit turbulence due to budgetary headwinds, forcing a revision of its aircraft procurement plans.

While the service requested 72 new jets in its initial proposal, the recently released FY25 budget reflects a revised plan with a smaller price tag.

The Initial Vision: Modernization with a Punch

The Air Force’s initial proposal for FY25 envisioned a significant leap forward in fighter jet acquisition.

With a focus on both cutting-edge technology and proven reliability, the plan called for 72 new jets: 48 F-35A Lightning IIs, the latest stealth multirole fighter, and 24 F-15EX Eagle IIs, a modernized version of the venerable F-15. This ambitious acquisition strategy aimed to achieve two key goals:

Boosting F-35 Fleet

The F-35, with its advanced stealth capabilities and sensor fusion technology, represents the future of air combat. Increasing the F-35 fleet was crucial to maintaining air superiority and ensuring the Air Force stayed ahead of potential adversaries.

Replacing Aging Aircraft

The workhorse F-16 Fighting Falcon and the older F-15C/D Eagle variants are approaching the end of their service lives. Replacing these aircraft with the F-15EX, a powerful and versatile fighter with a large weapons-carrying capacity, was essential for maintaining combat capability.

Budgetary Realities: Trimming the Plans

However, the final FY25 budget proposal unveiled a more modest plan, reflecting the harsh realities of tight defense spending.