U.S. Air Force Outlines Plans to Cut 286 Planes, Donley Says

U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley outlined plans to cut 286 aircraft and eliminate 9,900 positions over five years as part of the Pentagon’s budget reductions.

“The best choice and course of action for us is to become smaller in order to project a high-quality and ready force that will continue to modernize,” Donley said today at a Pentagon news conference.

Providing highlights that will be followed with details when President Barack Obama presents his fiscal 2013 budget on Feb. 13, Donley said the Air Force will retire 123 fighters, 133 transport planes and 30 aircraft used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Cuts to personnel include 3,900 positions from active duty forces, 5,100 from the Air National Guard, and 900 from the Air Force Reserve.

The Air Force has a military force of 510,900, according to the service’s fiscal 2012 budget.

While Donley didn’t say how much money is involved, an Air Force document said the aircraft reduction would save $8.7 billion over five years.

As the Air Force slows procurement of Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the service’s plan calls for upgrading 350 aging Lockheed F-16 fighters.

“There is increased risk” from the cuts, Donley said. “This is manageable, provided there are no further reductions.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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