The head of Air Combat Command thinks 1,763 F-35As, the Air Force’s current program of record, is probably still a good buy objective, despite the changing strategic landscape. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, speaking to reporters on Monday following an AFA-sponsored Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., said “we’re looking at it hard,” after the Senate Armed Services Committee last week asked the Pentagon to reassess the number of F-35s needed. However, “right now, I think 1,763 is a number that’s got rigor behind it,” said Carlisle. “I don’t think it needs to be bigger.” The needed inventory is dependent on the National Security Strategy, and Carlisle said “the question is, ‘To do what?’” Demand for airpower was expected to go down after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but “it has stayed as high and, in some cases, it has gone up,” said Carlisle, adding that any changes would depend on a shift in strategy. The F-35 delivers “capacity in global attack,” he said, and the right number will also depend on “the Long-Range Strike Bomber coming on, and what we’re doing with our fourth generation platforms and keeping them around.”
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.