The F-22 and Clout Deficit

The Air Force lobbied former Defense Secretary Robert Gates for more than the 187 F-22s it ultimately was allowed to buy, but service leaders chose to give up the fight rather than expend all their clout to save a single program. So said outgoing Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz in a mid July exit interview. “We in the Air Force took the position to the [Defense] Department’s leadership that the right number of F-22s was 243,” said Schwartz. When the leadership did not accept that argument, “it was our feeling that the Air Force had invested all the capital it could afford to invest in that program at that time. And it was time to move on,” asserted Schwartz. The argument for more F-22s was “analytically based,” Schwartz contended, but all the studies and logic cut no ice with Gates. Dropping the fight, Schwartz maintained, “was the right conclusion at the time. And given where we are today,” with severe restraints on defense spending, “there’s no chance of revisiting that decision,” he observed. Given “no chance” to restart the line, was it pointless to retain the F-22 tooling? “No,” said Schwartz. “In a national emergency, I would say anything is possible,” but a restart for anything short of that “is not a likely outcome,” he said. At a fleet size of 185 aircraft, after factoring several F-22 losses, “you need each and every one,” said Schwartz, so the tooling preservation will make it possible to fix F-22s that have been badly damaged in accidents. Retaining the tooling is also a decision “which everyone agrees with,” he claimed.