The Military Requirement Is 243

Despite Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ announcement earlier this month that 187 F-22s is a sufficient inventory for the Air Force—and his claim that the service did not make a case for more—Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said yesterday that “243 is the military requirement” for the advanced fifth-generation fighter. Speaking at a National Aeronautic Association luncheon in Washington, D.C., Schwartz acknowledged that 243 Raptors would have been a “moderate-risk” inventory, while 381 F-22s, the long-standing requirement prior to this year, was a low-risk number. (Schwartz and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley articulated these points in an April 13 op-ed in the Washington Post.) During his talk, Schwartz elaborated on the decision to cap production at 187, saying that “nothing is free,” and that more F-22s would mean less of something else. “Our conclusion was and remains—Mike Donley and I—that more F-22s are unaffordable in the context of other things we must do,” said Schwartz (his emphasis). He declined to say whether the number 187 represents a “high-risk” fleet of F-22s, though, and when pressed, said “I gave you my answer.”