Juggling the Numbers

Building F-22s at a faster pace is one option under review as the Air Force mulls how to mitigate the impact of having about 40 percent of its F-15 air superiority fighters sit idle, reports the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Maj. Gen. Mark Shackelford, director of Global Power Programs in USAF’s acquisition shop, told the newspaper that one possible course of action is to consider “should we or could we accelerate the rate at which we buy F-22s.” He added the caveat, however, that it remains “too early to speculate” on the decision. USAF is in the midst of a multiyear contract with Lockheed Martin for three annual lots of 20 aircraft that will bring the fleet size to 183 in 2011. But the Air Force’s leadership has been clear that the service would like permission from OSD to buy more—ultimately 381 F-22s. To acquire the remaining Raptors would cost about $40 billion at a rate of 20 per year and keep the production line active until 2019, the newspaper said. Conversely, boosting the rate of manufacture to 32 aircraft annually would cost about $5 billion less and keep production going until 2016, it said, citing Air Force figures. One impediment to continued Raptor production beyond 183 aircraft remains Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, the newspaper states in a second article. England is regarded as a staunch proponent of the F-35 over the F-22 because the former features newer technology, the newspaper said. Need we say that the two are different platforms for different roles