Trading F-35s for F-22s “Not a good choice”

John Young, the Pentagon’s weapons czar, said June 5 he would not be comfortable in cutting the Air Force’s planned buy of F-35 joint strike fighters to buy more F-22s. “Any decision to buy more F-22s at the expense of JSF is not a good choice for the taxpayer,” he emphasized during a meeting with reporters. A “better choice for the nation,” is to stick with current F-35 plans, he said. Plus, if fewer F-35s are bought, unit costs will rise, Young said. Even the Air Force has “been uncomfortable” with making that tradeoff, he noted. USAF is facing the end of the F-22 production line, but Pentagon leaders have punted the decision to the next Administration on whether to shut down the line or continue building aircraft. House and Senate defense authorizers have added funds to the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2009 budget request that could be applied to keeping the F-22 line active beyond the current 183 aircraft on order. The F-35 is in low-rate production and the Air Force expects to have its first squadron in place to replace its F-16s in the first half of the next decade. Young also pointed out that, as of this point, the F-22 has no data link capability to transmit information from its powerful sensors to joint forces. “I think that’s a tragedy,” he said. But the Air Force is working to incorporate this capability and successfully demonstrated it in a joint exercise earlier this year.