The F-22 Raptor could see combat for the first time if the United States helps enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. There is “no doubt that it would be useful and I have the expectation that, at least in the early days, it would be used,” he said. Schwartz said there’s no question that the United States has the wherewithal to impose a flight-exclusion zone. The issue is “should we and, if so, how?” Estimates that US aircraft would rule the skies over Libya within several days are “overly optimistic,” said Schwartz. He thinks it would take “upwards of a week.” The operation would require fighters, bombers, tankers, airlift, and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance assets from bases in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere, he said. It likely would also require shifting some ISR and airlift assets from Southwest Asia where they are supporting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said. “There would be some tradeoffs involved,” he said. Instituting a no-fly zone alone “would not be sufficient” to reverse the Libyan regime’s momentum against opposition forces in the last few days, Schwartz noted. (See also Price of Exclusion)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.