Air Force Materiel Command chief Gen. Bruce Carlson wasn’t speaking for the Air Force leadership when he insisted the service would find some way to fund all of the 381 F-22 Raptors the service says it must have to meet national strategy, the service said Friday. Carlson reportedly was chastised by top Pentagon officials for making the assertion at an industry symposium only days after both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his deputy, Gordon England, told Congress that 183 F-22s is sufficient (see Raptor Rebuke). In a joint statement released well after business hours Friday, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley said, “The F-22 program is critical for the nation’s defense and the Air Force’s ability to protect America in the 21st century. However, recent comments by a senior Air Force officer misrepresent the position of the US Air Force.” The two added that the service “wholeheartedly supports the President’s budget request for the F-22 program.” They then said, “We owe it to our nation and to our allies to have an Air Force ready to meet a range of threats now and into the future. The Air Force and the DOD share the same desired end state.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.