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U.S. tactical aircraft faces 'capability gap,' report finds

Existing planes "did not have the capabilities needed to compete in future combat scenarios," the Government Accountability Office said.

WASHINGTON — Fixed-wing fighter and attack planes provide different warfare capabilities that are vital to American combat operations and homeland defense.      

But a recent report offers concerning news about many of the warplanes in the U.S. military inventory.

The Government Accountability Office report said: "Most of the military's existing tactical aircraft first entered service in the 1970s and 1980s and have exceeded their original service lives."

In the report, the GAO warned that the Department of Defense (DoD) risks spending money on duplicate or redundant efforts and leaving critical goals unmet, which could create a gap in the military's tactical aerial capabilities.

"I think right now, the older aircraft that we have are very capable and possibly will be doing just fine in many of the current world scenarios," the GAO's Marie Mak said in an interview with 13News Now. "Where we're focused more is more of the high-end, near-peer type scenarios DoD expects to face in the future."

The report notes that seven of eight recent studies found that existing aircraft did not have the capabilities needed to compete in future combat scenarios and some noted the need to invest in advanced technologies to address future needs.

The report said, between now and 2027, the DoD is proposing to spend nearly $100 billion on major investments and changes to its current mix of tactical aircraft, including $14.2 billion on the F-35C Joint Strike Fighter.

The report also pointed out that the Navy had a "strike fighter shortfall" of 39 aircraft last year and the branch faces a continued shortfall until 2031.

The GAO recommends that the DoD conducts an analysis of all fixed-wing tactical aircraft platforms and reports its findings to Congress.

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