The Air Force is seeking $166.9 billion in the 2017 Defense Department budget proposal, and even though that is up $5.1 billion from 2016, the USAF had to make some tough choices about aircraft modernization and acquisition for this coming fiscal year.
The good news - the Air Force will keep its current force strength of 317,000 active-duty airmen. Additionally, the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard will also stay constant in size, with the Air Force transferring missions and aircraft to Guard and Reserve locations that would otherwise have no mission. These missions will primarily be strategic airlift or support missions.
The next bit of news will likely be good for the large number of A-10 Thunderbolt supporters - that aircraft will continue to be used until fiscal year 2022, and the first wave of A-10 airframe retirements won't begin before fiscal year 2018. This staged retirement has been planned to coordinate with the A-10's replacement - the F-35 - so that there is no gap in the Close Air Support mission.
The Air Force is planning to grow its tanker force to its goal of 479 total tankers, and is planning on using $3 billion to buy 15 KC-46A tankers in FY2017. Additionally, the USAF is to buy 43 F-35s, although this is five fewer than they had originally planned.
The USAF will also keep all 14 EC-130H Compass Call aircraft through FY 2018, but will phase out 28 C-130H Hercules between FY2017-19. This reduction will help eliminate excess capacity and allow the allocation of funds elsewhere. Some F-16s will also be transferred to training units to help speed up the rate of fighter pilot production, to help alleviate what could become a critical shortage of fighter pilots.