In making his unvarnished military assessment of the high risk he sees in halting F-22 production at 187 aircraft, Air Combat Command boss Gen. John Corley upheld his sworn duty to Congress to “provide his unbiased opinion on all matters of military importance,” according to a June 19 statement from ACC. It’s important to note, too, that in Corley’s written response to a direct request from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) about the F-22 risk factor, Corley noted that USAF leaders had asked for and received ACC views, but he also acknowledged that they and DOD leaders were faced with “tough choices … in balancing current warfighting needs against fiscal realities.” That, in our view, shows integrity. Among the factors ACC says Corley used in making his assessment were the need for homeland defense, combatant commanders’ requirements, opposing air and ground threats, ongoing reductions in fighter force structure, and the rapidly aging fighter force—all part and parcel of the Defense Strategy Force Planning Construct. For Defense Secretary Robert Gates to dismiss Corley’s assessment as “nonsense” is nonsensical.
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.