March 30, 2010 / 6:09 PM / 8 years ago

US Air Force prefers extending old fighters' life

WASHINGTON, March 30 (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday that it hopes to extend the life of its existing fighter planes as needed rather than to buy new older-model fighters that would siphon funding away from Lockheed Martin Corp’s (LMT.N) next-generation F-35 fighter.

Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz told reporters that any move to buy new F-15 fighters built by Boeing Co (BA.N) or F-16s built by Lockheed would take money away from the F-35 fighter program.

Instead, the service would prefer to do service life extensions for the older fighters, at about 10 to 15 percent of the cost of buying new planes.

“We do not think it is wise to dissipate the limited pool of resources that we have available for F-35 by procuring new, lesser capable aircraft that will last as long,” Schwartz said after addressing an Air Force Association breakfast.

He acknowledged that the service needs to verify that service life extensions are possible to the older planes.

“We do not think it prudent to utilize precious procurement dollars for anything but fifth-generation aircraft,” he said. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa)

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