Apples and Oranges

Despite comments from top Pentagon officials that the F-22 and F-35 are comparable—and perhaps interchangeable—they are not, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley told defense reporters Thursday in Washington. The best analogy, he said, is to think of the F-22 and F-35 as being akin to the F-15 and F-16, which pioneered the high/low mix 25 years ago. “I believe the two airplanes are complementary. I believe the two airplanes are required,” Moseley asserted. “One is designed for a specific task, the other is designed for a more general task, but together they provide the capability needed for the theater commander.” Both are fifth-generation aircraft—meaning they are stealthy and have advanced electronics—but the high-end F-22’s extreme performance is necessary to clear the skies of enemy fighters, while the F-35 is needed to provide wide coverage of targets in a less costly platform. “Fifth generation capability is the way to survive the new integrated air defense systems,” Moseley said. Stealth, he said, “is very important.”