In Retrospect

The nearly set-in-stone decision to cap F-22 production at 187 aircraft “will leave the United States with, at best, a high-risk F-22 force” and jeopardize the ability of the US military to attain rapid air dominance in future conflict, argues Barry Watts, senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. In a new CSBA backgrounder, The F-22 Program in Retrospect, issued Tuesday, Watts writes that the capped F-22 force “may not be enough through mid-century,” given the proliferation of sophisticated Russian air defenses and modern Russian and Chinese combat aircraft and coupled with “inherent uncertainties of the future.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ “big bet” of accepting this risk with the F-22 force by banking on the F-35 is “surely also questionable” without “solid evidence that the F-35 would not … encounter major delays, costs increases, or related developmental problems,” Watts writes.