Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress Page: 5 of 17
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Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress
enemy forces behind the lines, and deep interdiction (also known as "deep
strike") against the enemy's military, political, and industrial infrastructure.
" Fighter/attack planes (also known as fighter-bombers, strike fighters, or
multirole fighters) perform both air-to-air and air-to-surface missions.
" Long-range bombers and cruise missiles can also be used in BAI and deep
" Increasingly, armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, are used to attack
ground targets, especially in low-intensity combat or counterinsurgency missions.
Major changes in the national security environment (e.g., the fall of the Soviet Union, the terror
attacks of 9/11) have informed DOD plans for tactical aviation modernization. In response to an
emerging congressional consensus and recommendations by the Defense Department's 1993
Bottom-Up Review (BUR) of force structure requirements, the Clinton Administration decided in
late 1993 to continue two major aircraft programs then underway-the F-22, a low-observable-to-
radar (stealthy) fighter for the Air Force; and the F/A-18E/F version of the F/A-18 fighter/attack
plane for the Navy-while also pursuing new aviation technology initiatives through the Joint
Advanced Strike Technology (JAST) program, which later evolved into the Joint Strike Fighter
The George H. Bush Administration's plan for modernizing U.S. tactical aircraft had focused on
four key aircraft programs: (1) the F-22, (2) the F/A-18E/F, (3) the AFX, a stealthy attack/fighter
aircraft to be developed for the Navy and Air Force, and (4) the Multi-Role Fighter (MRF), either
a new aircraft or an upgraded version of the F-16 fighter/attack plane for the Air Force. Since
there was no funding for the MRF and only minimal funding for the AFX, their rejection by the
BUR in 1993 was more a recognition of their demise than the termination of viable programs.
The Defense Department's first Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), released in May of 1997,
recommended buying fewer tactical aircraft than was then projected, with reduced annual
procurement of the F-22 and the F/A-18E/F. The George W. Bush administration took office with
the aim to "transform" the Department of Defense rather than merely modernize its capabilities.3
Tactical aircraft programs were reviewed in this context, and in Program Budget Decision (PBD)
753 (December 23, 2004), DOD recommended that the F-22 program be terminated after the
s Unlike modernization, transformation is generally viewed as discontinuous change, or a "leap ahead" in capabilities.
See CRS Report RL32238, Defense Transformation: Background and Oversight Issues for Congress, by Ronald
O'Rourke for more information on military transformation.
Congressional Research Service
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Tactical Aircraft Modernization: Issues for Congress, report, December 17, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc810042/m1/5/: accessed January 17, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.