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By Abraham Mahshie
Budget compromises driven by the need to modernize two-thirds of the nuclear triad forced Air Force leaders to cut planned F-35 purchases in 2023 to just 33—15 fewer than it bought in fiscal 2022 and 27 fewer than 2021, said Lt. Gen. David S. Nahom, the service’s deputy chief of staff for plans and programs. The Air Force’s $169.5 billion budget plan, released March 28, opted to slow down F-35 purchases while accelerating acquisition of the F-15EX. The necessity to pay for billions in nuclear modernization meant something had to give, and with upgrades pending to the F-35, the service reduced the F-35 buy in 2023 from 48 to 33 in favor of a purchase of 24 F-15EX aircraft. Nahom said the tough choice was in part due to the required stealth to meet the current threat. “Would we have bought more F-35s if we had more resources? Yes, absolutely,” Nahom told Air Force Magazine in a Pentagon interview.