In a Dec. 22 interview (see above), Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, also said the end of F-22 production is “in sight,” saying it should wrap up in a few years. However, he declined to provide a specific number at which to stop production of the stealth fighters since the Air Force is still evaluating the F-22 requirement. He reiterated that 381, the Air Force’s long-term goal—and which he considers a “low risk” inventory—will be supplanted by a “moderate risk” number, but one that is still higher than the current 183-aircraft program of record. The service leadership will submit its recommendation to the new Administration at least a month ahead of the March 1 deadline imposed by Congress for the new White House to certify whether it intends to buy more F-22s. Schwartz acknowledged that Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was close to the mark when he suggested 60 more F-22s would meet the Air Force’s needs.
The Pentagon awarded a contract worth over $2 billion for the next batch of F-35 engines to Pratt & Whitney on June 5. The deal for Lot 17 F135 engines, totaling $2.02 billion, is expected to be completed by December 2025.