Nothing to Scoff At

Setting aside unreasonably high expectations, the F-22’s reliability rates are entirely “respectable” and its performance today is not meant to be judged by metrics intended for when the fighter fleet reaches maturity, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told defense reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C. Last November, Pentagon acquisition executive John Young criticized the F-22, characterizing the aircraft’s mission-capable rates of around 62 percent as worse than expected and signaling a “troubling” trend. Further, Young said the aircraft wasn’t meeting its key performance parameters, which are put in place to see how well the aircraft is matching its requirements. Schwartz, in the Air Force’s first official response to Young’s comments, said “it is important to … keep these things in the appropriate context.” MC rates for the F-22 are “in the 60 percent range,” when factoring the time spent maintaining the aircraft’s low-observable characteristics. But, they are “in the mid-to-high 70s range” without LO maintenance, he said. “That is respectable,” he noted, particularly when compared to the service’s previous stealth platforms: the F-117 and B-2. “My take is that, while there may have been expectations that the F-22 would be even more ready in terms of mission capability rate than that, these are not numbers which are to be scoffed at,” he said. Further, the KPPs are meant to apply when the F-22 fleet reaches 100,000 flight hours. Today it stands at about 55,000 hours, meaning that the fleet is “not at maturity” yet,” he said.