The Weekly Wire: Week of 8/24/15
With Iran moving to upgrade its advanced anti-aircraft batteries, it appears that Israel is planning to counter with an upgrade of its F-16I fighter jets. Iran is attempting to acquire the S-300 anti-aircraft system from Russia – a significant improvement that would give Iranian defenses an advantage over Israeli fighter and attack jets. Although only in its most nascent stages, Israel plans to upgrade its F-16I fighters with several unnamed systems. Avascent Analytics shows 313 F-16 jets in the Israeli inventory, fairly evenly distributed across the C/D, I, and A/B models. Israeli F-16s are expected to stay in service through 2025, before slowly being phased out as American F-35s are delivered. As a result, the upgrade of the full fleet of Israeli F-16 fighter jets will likely continue and serve to counter Iranian military modernization efforts.
The US Air Force announced this week that it had misstated 10 year cost projections for the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) in annual reports to Congress over the past two years. In 2014, the Air Force estimated the bomber program’s costs would be $33.1b for FY2015-2025. This year’s figures rose to $58.4b for FY2016-2026. Both figures, the Air Force says, are incorrect, and it issued a revised estimate of $41.7b for both periods. The announcement comes at a key time for the program, as the Air Force is expected to award a contract for the bomber next month. Northrop Grumman is competing against a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture for the award. While many details surrounding the program are classified, current plans call for the development and procurement of 80-100 new bombers over the next 25 years at a cost of $500m-$800m per aircraft. Avascent projects LRS-B program costs at $40.4b over the FY2015-2025 period, covering both research and development as well as initial procurement. Despite the Air Force’s focus on keeping unit cost affordable by using existing technologies, costs are widely expected to rise as the program matures.