“It’s a huge amount of work sustaining this fleet of legacy aircraft,” said Brigadier General Michael J. Schmidt, the program's executive officer.
These seven planes are the directorate primary responsibilities:
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress first flew in 1952 and entered service in 1955. Fewer than 80 of the 744 B-52s produced are still in service, but they are revered by the Air Force.
“The B-52 has proven to be a very reliable large truck. In an environment where we have air superiority, its usefulness continues into the far foreseeable future,” Schmidt said.
The McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F-15 Eagle entered service in 1976 as an all-weather tactical fighter aircraft. It can accelerate in a climb and reach 30,000 feet in approximately 60 seconds.
The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed as a close air support aircraft built around a tank-busting 30mm Gatling cannon that can fire depleted uranium armor-piercing bullets at a rate of 3,900 rounds-per-minute.
This odd-looking jet has straight wings, a twin tail and two turbofan jet engines that are mounted high on the fuselage aft of the wings. The appearance of the jet earned the nickname Warthog from the pilots.
After the Berlin Wall fell, the close air support role for the Air Force was questioned. But in the Gulf War in 1991, A-10s destroyed more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 other military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces. The specter of replacing the A-10 role with other platforms is still haunting A-10 enthusiasts.
The General Dynamics (now Lockheed-Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon entered Air Force service in 1978 after it was determined that a more maneuverable lightweight fighter was needed as a result of experiences in the Vietnam War.
More than 4,500 of the single-engine multirole F-16s were built, many of which were sold or produced by 25 other countries. The jets - Vipers as they are called by the pilots - are expected to remain in the Air Force inventory until the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II gradually replaces them.
The Rockwell (now Boeing) B-1B Lancer was designed as a replacement for the B-52 in the 1970s. The four-engine supersonic variable-sweep wing, jet-powered heavy strategic bomber didn’t enter service until 1986 as a nuclear bomber with the Strategic Air Command. In the 1990s, the B-1B was reassigned to the newly formed Air Combat Command and converted to conventional bombing use.
Nicknamed the Bone (B-One), 100 of the bombers were built and the type has seen action in Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
“We have our sustainment challenges with the B-1," Schmidt said. "We’re putting together a long term sustainment plan to make sure that we are doing everything possible to keep that thing flying for as long as possible.”
Designed as a stealth heavy penetration strategic bomber, the B-2 Spirit, known as The Stealth Bomber, was designed in the late 1970s during the Carter administration. Plans to purchase 132 B-2s were slashed to 21 as the Cold War waned in the late 1980s.
The flying wing design of the B-2 has a lineage back to Northrop’s YB-35 and YB-49 aircraft in the 1940s. B-2s entered Air Force service in 1997 and are expected to be flying into the 2050s.
“The B-2 is a fantastic aircraft with great capabilities," Schmidt said. "But we only bought 20 of them. The small fleet dynamics of the airplane are challenging."
The Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor was designed as fifth-generation all-weather stealth fighter that also includes ground attack, electronic warfare and signals intelligence capabilities.
The highly maneuverable jet utilizes vectored thrust from two Pratt & Whitney F119 engines to keep a very tight turning radius. The Raptor is one of few production aircraft that can sustain supersonic flight without the use of afterburners.
The Raptor is the newest operational fighter in the inventory with the last of 187 jets being delivered in 2012