Air Force Justifies Cutting F-22 Raptor Program

An op-ed piece written by Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz defended the decision to effectively end the F-22 Raptor program, with an emphasis on future aircraft.   

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the surprising news earlier in the month, which has caused a political backlash forcing the Air Force to defend its decision.

“We support the final four F-22s proposed in the fiscal 2009 supplemental request, as this will aid the long-term viability of the F-22 fleet,” it was written.  “But the time has come to close out production.  That is why we do not recommend that F-22s be included in the fiscal 2010 defense budget.  Make no mistake:  Air dominance remains an essential capability for joint warfighting.  The F-22 is a vital tool in the military’s arsenal and will remain in our inventory for decades to come.  But the time has come to move on.”

There are still 187 F-22 fighter jets that are being produced or must be delivered, but the Pentagon will not place any new orders for the $140 million aircraft.  Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have lobbied and launched ad campaigns to try and keep their contracts alive, but the Pentagon said it’s near impossible that the program will receive an additional life line.

Both Donley and Schwartz admitted they wanted up to 243 jets in its F-22 fleet, but there are numerous other projects the $13 billion can be used to fund.

The Pentagon plans to shift its focus on the smaller, more versatile Lockheed F-35 fighter jet, and this is the right time to do it, according to the Air Force.  Military officials expect to have 2,443 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and 187 F-22 jets, which should be able to keep the Air Force’s air superiority over other nations.

It was possible F-22 production would overlap with F-35 production, but it was believed to be unneeded and overly expensive, which is why it was struck down.

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