Not Less Than 250

That’s how many F-22s the United States needs “for the good of the nation and the world” to shore up its conventional deterrence capabilities for the next 20 years, writes Rebecca Grant in a new study she authored for the Lexington Institute. The F-22 is crucial for conventional deterrence because it gives the US the ability to conduct tailored, proportional air strikes in the face of evolving threats and also to gather valuable intelligence information over defended areas that otherwise “lock out” other airborne assets, she states. The US would be taking a risk by halting F-22 production now and could see its policy options cramped in coming decades by the limits of its own military power, Grant says. “If the F-22 fleet remains stuck at 183 aircraft, it will put future conventional deterrence abilities at risk,” she writes. Commanders may not have enough of them to defeat threats with confidence and “the overall life of the fleet would be used up years before it should be, due to heavy tasking,” she states. The Obama Administration has until March 1 by law to inform Congress whether it intends to keep Raptor production going beyond 183 aircraft.