Nuke Stand-In?

According to Lockheed Martin chief executive officer Robert Stevens, the new F-22 stealth fighter is a “singular alternative to a strategic nuclear deterrent,” reports Reuters news service. Speaking at Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington this week, Stevens elaborated, saying that because the F-22 can “penetrate the most significant area-denial capabilities that exist today” the aircraft “acts in a deterrence fashion without the necessity of bringing nuclear weapons into the discussion.” Others dismissed the notion, including Pentagon weapons tester Thomas Christie, who told Reuters Lockheed was “grasping at straws” in its push for the Pentagon to buy more F-22s. Christie is among those in the Pentagon hierarchy that have wanted to limit the Air Force buy to just 183 aircraft. The Bush Administration left the final decision to the new Obama Administration, which, according to Stevens, must decide quickly. The Lockheed chief said that the company must begin the process to close the Raptor line at the end of March. The Air Force currently is working on its recommendation, which may include a request for 60 additional aircraft.