Stealth Duel

The Pentagon leadership should allow the Air Force to keep buying F-22s at least into the middle part of next decade, former USAF Secretary Michael Wynne told the Daily Report July 28. Why? Because around 2014, the F-35 stealth fighter is expected to reach a level of maturity so that a fly-off could occur between the two models to determine once and for all how the F-35 stacks up against the F-22 and whether it is prudent for the nation to forego additional F-22 purchases and build only F-35s from that point, Wynne said. A fly-off would allow for “a bona-fide, fact-based judgment,” he said. Right now, it is “risky” to shutter F-22 production since the F-35 is not entirely over its development hump and setbacks could still occur, he said. This could have somewhat significant funding and schedule impacts, not to mention strategic implications. “To say now that we want to devolve to a single [production] line of fifth-generation fighters, I just think introduces the nation to risk that is unnecessary,” Wynne said. He continued, “I think we give up too much strategic margin settling on the F-35.” Wynne was not trashing the F-35. In fact, he said it will be “a remarkable competitor.” But he disagrees with OSD leadership that essentially believes their capabilities are equal and has thwarted attempts to allow the Air Force to reach its stated requirement of 381 F-22s. “I think they are overestimating the capability of the F-35 relative to the F-22,” he said. “The only way to prove it is to continue to produce the F-22 until such time as you actually can compare [them], in a fact-based test.” (Read more in Going Head-to-Head)