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USAF to request F-16 upgrades funds moved to SLEP in FY 2015

The funding request will go to Congress with the Pentagon's FY 2015 budget proposal on 4 March. USAF officials are more eager for a service-life extension of their entire fleet than they are for the avionics upgrade. 

The US Air Force (USAF) plans to defund a major avionics upgrade for the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, according to the USAF and other government officials with knowledge of the Pentagon's fiscal year 2015 (FY 2015) funding request.

Money planned for development of the combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES) is expected to be moved to the F-16 service-life extension programme (SLEP) instead, the sources said.

"The [USAF's] budget includes some very tough choices," said one service official who declined to speak on the record. "CAPES was one of the casualties of the negotiations."

CAPES, which features the Northrop Grumman scalable agile beam radar, was aimed at upgrading the avionics of 300 US and 146 Taiwanese F-16s, and potentially part of Singapore's F-16 fleet.

Recently, Secretary of the USAF Deborah Lee James alluded to the "tough choices" being made in the service's FY 2015 budget request, due on Capitol Hill in early March.

James said on 29 January that the FY 2015 request involved "a lot of difficult decisions", and she noted that "everything was on the table".

USAF officials, meanwhile, say they are disappointed that budget pressure is dictating a potential scaling back of their legacy combat aircraft capabilities.

However, given a choice between the F-16 CAPES and SLEP, one official said, the air force has "more need for the SLEP".

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