Just Yesterday

We thought the battle for the F-22 was over and that all that remained was the question of whether the Air Force can get the 381 aircraft it needs rather than the 183 the Pentagon has allocated, but recent remarks by Defense Secretary Robert Gates has raised the issue yet again. As we noted last week, Gates is trumpeting in various speeches the position that the critical criteria against which all major weapons must be measured is relevance to irregular warfare because that is the most likely type of conflict America faces in the future. He deems it a failing of Pentagon leadership to focus on what he terms “next-war Itis.” Since Gates has singled out the F-22 for criticism, the Lexington Institute’s Loren Thompson offers a “history lesson” in its defense, writing in a May 20 paper, that in 1902 during the Philippine Insurrection, “anarchists, insurgents, and other unconventional enemies looked like the wave of the future.” And, then came World War I and so on. Thompson writes, “The Bush Administration is trying to un-learn this vital lesson from America’s past, and as a result the Air Force’s F-22 fighter is once again at risk.” The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter cannot replace the F-22. As Thompson points out, “killing the F-22” will only “give rise to other threats far worse than anything al Qaeda or the Mahdi Army are likely to dream up, because countries like China will see that Americans can no longer count on global air dominance.”