Fighter Moves

President Obama has apparently signed off on Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ recommendation to end the F-22 program at 187 aircraft. Air Force budget chief Maj. Gen. Larry Spencer told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Thursday that the service can “take advantage of this window” during which USAF expects to have air dominance. It can save some money by foregoing any more F-22s and retiring 250 F-15s, F-16s, and A-10s, which he said will come mostly from the active duty fleet, but some from the Guard and Reserve as well. The specifics are being worked out, budget officials said. To keep the Air Force from losing too much capability, the remaining fighter force will get about $1 billion worth of radar and software upgrades; there’ll be an uptick in the number of air-to-air munitions purchased; and the F-35 program will be “accelerated.” However, that’s the F-35 overall—the Air Force-specific 2010 purchase will actually decline from 13 aircraft to 10. The overall idea in combat aircraft is to “rebalance” the Air Force “towards procurement of proven and multi-role platforms,” the service said. The budget contains $64 million for F-22 shutdown costs, but that won’t be the whole bill.