Donley, Schwartz on F-22

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz offer their rationale for stopping the buy of new F-22 stealth fighters at 187 in an op-ed titled “Moving Beyond the F-22” in today’s Washington Post. In short, they write: “Buying more F-22s means doing less of something else” and there are many other critical and competing requirements within the Air Force budget. They note that “different warfighting assumptions” over the years have drawn different conclusions. While at one point the Air Force posited 381 F-22s as a “low-risk force,” Donley and Schwartz write: “We revisited this conclusion after arriving in office last summer and concluded that 243 aircraft [just 60 more than the then-programmed buy of 183] would be a moderate-risk force.” However, they continue, “Since then, additional factors have arisen.” Those factors, they write, include DOD’s revised warfighting scenarios and the fact that “purchasing an additional 60 aircraft … would create an unfunded $13 billion bill just as defense budgets are becoming more constrained.” They do not believe there is a need to overlap production of the F-22 with the F-35 as insurance since there is “little risk of a catastrophic failure” in F-35 production and it would be expensive. They contend that “air dominance remains an essential capability for joint warfighting,” calling the F-22 a “vital tool,” but they maintain, “The time has come to close out [F-22] production.” And, they note, “Within the next few years, we will begin work on the sixth-generation capabilities necessary for future air dominance.”