“Matter of Choices” in Tacair

According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, the mid-air breakup of an F-15 has elevated his “level of concern” and “certainly increased the risk of this whole Tacair [tactical aircraft] plan.” However, Mullen told lawmakers at a May 20 Senate Appropriations defense panel hearing, he has faith in the F-35 program and is “comfortable” with the Bush Administration plan to punt the F-22 decision to the next Administration. Mullen deflected a suggestion by Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) that the Pentagon should buy more legacy fighters—upgraded versions—to bridge USAF’s acknowledged 800-aircraft fighter gap and to sustain a wider industrial base. Mullen said: “I think it’s a matter of choices. We actually don’t have a very good history of upgrading [legacy] airplanes.”