Beyond the 183

If the Air Force succeeds in stabilizing the cost and production of the F-22 over the next few years, it could end up buying more than 183 of the top-line fighters. The Air Force Chief of Staff told defense reporters in Washington Tuesday that 183 Raptors is the program “baseline” set by the Quadrennial Defense Review, and that USAF has “assurances” from OSD that 183 would be the minimum number. The QDR, noted Gen. Michael Moseley, also calls for a warm fifth-generation production line to be maintained. If there are delays with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-22 line could be extended if the Air Force succeeds in convincing Congress to authorize a multiyear buy of Raptors. If that happens, the Chief said, “I think we can get the cost down” and be “set right to do it” should the service have to extend the line. He said fighter production is like wing-walking, and the Air Force won’t let go of one strut until it has the other firmly in hand.