The Real Requirement

The Air Force really needs about 558 F-22-like aircraft, but has only asked for 381 (and is approved for only 183) “purely because of affordability,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. John Corley told defense reporters March 27 in Washington, D.C. USAF long ago assessed that 381 “is the floor” of F-22s needed, and that number already counts the “acceptance of risk” by filling out the rest of the requirement with 177 old F-15s, called “Golden Eagles” (a nomenclature with a double entendre: They are “golden” in that they are in the relative best shape of the F-15Cs now flying and because they’ll be serving as frontline fighters well into their “golden” years). If he wasn’t constrained by funding, Corley said “of course” he’d get rid of his old iron and meet the strategic requirements placed on the Air Force by buying F-22s for the full requirement. However, 381 is the minimum “strategy-responsive force structure” of F-22s, he said.