Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)—the Senate’s leading defender of the F-22 program and vocal critic of its cancellation—asked Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz during Thursday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Air Force 2010 budget proposal to characterize the amount of risk inherent with a program-of-record for only 183 Raptors. He asked: “What is the level of risk that we are taking at 183? Is it low, is it moderate, or is it high risk?” Schwartz replied, “I would characterize it as moderate to high.” However, he added that his analysis was based on a standard two Major Combat Operations scenario set forth in past Quadrennial Defense Reviews. That two-MCO construct may well get thrown out in the new QDR being orchestrated now by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Schwartz continued, “There is no question that the program is adequate for one major combat operation.”
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.