Is the Air Force No. 4?

That’s a question pondered by Air Force Magazine Editor in Chief Robert S. Dudney in his March editorial, which suggests recent comments about the F-22 by the two top civilian officials in the Pentagon are indicative of “something deeper and more ominous than opposition to a fighter.” Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England recently testified before House and Senate panels that there is no need to purchase additional F-22s above the approved 183 aircraft and, further, they have characterized the “newer” F-35 as comparable to the “high cost” F-22. (Gates even rebuked a senior Air Force general for suggesting that USAF would find a way to fund a full complement of F-22s.) As Dudney writes, Air Force officials have disputed anti-Raptor assertions, but the “bigger question at this point is this: Why, on an issue of supreme importance to the Air Force, does the Pentagon find itself unable to agree with USAF’s leadership? Why does the Air Force lack clout?”