F-22 Restart Not So Unthinkable

Restarting production of the F-22 isn’t “a wild idea,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Thursday. Answering questions at an AFA-sponsored, Air Force breakfast, Welsh said the F-22 has proven itself to be “everything everyone hoped it would be,” and in light of the recent Air Dominance 2030 study, more F-22s might be a better option than starting a “sixth generation fighter” program within the needed timeframe. Congress has asked for costs and “pros and cons” of an F-22 restart, and the service is updating its numbers accordingly, but doesn’t have answers yet, Welsh said. However, any major add will have “ripple effects” on the whole USAF program, he said. “We think it’s cost-prohibitive,” to restart the F-22 line, Welsh asserted, but there “needs to be this discussion” about how USAF will address its looming fighter shortage. The solution “isn’t always going to be an airplane,” he said. The service is looking at autonomous armed fighter escorts, arsenal planes, and swarming UAVs as other ways to address the fighter shortage. Welsh said the 2030 study did a good job of assessing the situation and offering options. (See also: With the Raptors Over Syria from the February 2015 issue of Air Force Magazine.)