Keep the Air Superiority Edge

Closing the F-22 production line—at a time when Russia has debuted its new PAK FA stealth fighter—has exposed the United States and its allies to increased security risks, argue Mackenzie Eaglen and Lajos Szaszdi in a new Heritage Foundation background paper. Indeed, “American air supremacy for the foreseeable future is not as assured as the US Department of Defense once predicted,” they write in “What Russia’s Stealth Fighter Developments Mean for America.” Eaglen, a Heritage research fellow, and Szaszdi, a former foundation researcher, call for increased modernization investment and new partnerships with allies like Japan and Israel – including allowing those two nations to purchase export versions of the F-22. These moves would help prevent the airpower balance from tilting in favor of Russia and China and “hedge against the potentially destabilizing proliferation of Russia’s PAK FA fighter to unstable actors, non-state groups, and/or terrorism-sponsoring rogue states.” They also advocate widening the US lead in areas like piloting skills, research and development, and innovation to overcome the fact that the PAK FA may become better than every US fighter other than the F-22.