Raptor Cutoff

Production of the F-22 fighter will end at 187 aircraft if Defense Secretary Robert Gates has his way. Gates announced the decision in a round-up of Fiscal 2010 budget moves at a Pentagon press conference Monday. The F-22 buy “completes” the program at the 183 level set for it in 2005, plus four more added by Congress, Gates said, adding that “there is no military requirement for more.” He later said that the Air Force told him that no more were needed, which is surprising because the service has been strongly promoting its need for more F-22s and unofficially quoting 60 as the number. Even Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen has said USAF needs 60 more F-22s. Although he did not elaborate on his decision yesterday, Gates has previously criticized the F-22 as being an overly powerful machine that has been unnecessary in Iraq or Afghanistan. Gates has also asserted that the US is “dominant” in airpower. Speaking broadly about the budget—but apparently reflecting on the F-22’s superiority to similar foreign fighters now presumed to be on the drawing board—Gates said “our conventional modernization goals should be tied to the actual and prospective capabilities of known future adversaries, not by what might be technologically feasible for a potential adversary given unlimited time and resources.” In another veiled reference to the F-22, Gates said, “Every dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk—or, in effect, to ‘run up the score’ in a capability where the United States is already dominant—is a dollar not available” for care of troops or to “win the wars we are in.” The Air Force did not provide a response when asked if its official military advice to Gates was that more F-22s are unnecessary. (Gates remarks as prepared for delivery; briefing Q&A) (From Monday’s Daily Report: The Air Force Cut List)