Sen. John McCain, a frequent Air Force critic, aired fresh doubts about USAF’s two new fighters, noting, “a great question now arising about the affordability of both the F-22 and the (F-35) Joint Strike Fighter because of cost escalations.” The Arizona Republican lit out after the Lockheed Martin aircraft in a July 18 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Sue Payton’s nomination to be USAF’s top acquisition official. “[A]cquisition throughout the Department of Defense, but particularly in the Air Force, is in great disarray,” said McCain. “Nine of the 11 major weapons systems last year were behind schedule and over cost.” McCain, though a pro-defense conservative overall, has for years made a special point of attacking Air Force tanker, C-130, and other acquisition programs. Payton, for the record, said she was “extremely concerned” about USAF’s program overruns.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.