The Magic Number

Ultimately the Air Force wants more than the 183 new F-22 stealth fighters that Administration budgeteers say it can afford. Those 183 will outfit seven squadrons, and the F-22 program executive officer, Maj. Gen. Richard Lewis, says the service is “happy” to get those seven units. However, Lewis maintains, “The requirement is greater than seven.” The real requirement is 381 fighters to field 10 squadrons, which provides for training and attrition reserve over the course of 40 years. Lewis says that the perception the F-22 is too expensive is wrong. The $338 million per copy cost for the first 183 fighters includes all “sunk costs.” Beyond the 183, a single F-22 currently would cost about half that, around $137 million. And, the cost is still going down, says Lewis, making the average flyaway cost for the next 100 Raptors about $116 million per aircraft.