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Loss of F-15E Strike Eagles raises caution from senator

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Divesting from F-15E Strike Eagles, which have a North Carolina home at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, and purchasing F-15EXs and F-35s will generate a fighter gap with China, said U.S. Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C.

His comments were directed to Gen. Charles C.Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during an Armed Services Committee hearing in the Senate on Tuesday. Also present for questions on President Joe Biden’s 2025 Pentagon budget and request of the committee were Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Defense Comptroller Mike McCord.

The question-and-answer session went just shy of three hours. Austin said tough decisions were being made to arrive at the budget requests, including those unfunded. Budd sought clarity that unfunded requests, per Title 10 Section 222 of future years’ mission budgeting, should include ranked priority, and that had not been provided.

In Budd’s time questioning Austin and Brown, he laid a foundation to determine America’s military readiness.

Asked about the F-15E Strike Eagles, in a hypothetical Budd proposed of China invading Taiwan, Brown confirmed the senator’s line of query on F-15E Strike Eagles being in many ways “unmatched air to ground” and “air to air.”

“The F-15E Strike Eagle is a very capable platform, I would agree,” Brown said.

Budd wrapped up his time advising Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., about the planned loss of the aircraft.

“I keep highlighting these issues, Mr. Chairman, because the Air Force plans to divest 25 of these Strike Eagles, and at the same time buy less than expected F-15EXs and F-35s,” Budd said. “Meanwhile, China is rapidly expanding their air force. So, I’m seriously concerned about the growing fighter cap.”

According to published reports, the Air Force is poised to have fewer than 5,000 aircraft for the first time. The Fiscal Responsibility Act is tied in, a statute with a 1% cap on fiscal year spending before inflation.