F-35 Numbers

The Air Force is working on “an assessment” of the number of fighter aircraft it needs to meet the national defense strategy, said Lt. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and requirements, on Tuesday. Speaking to reporters after his AFA-sponsored talk in Arlington, Va., Carlisle said it’s not enough for US fighters to be vastly superior to those of adversaries; there must be enough of them to do the job. “They can only be in so many places at once,” he said. “Whether the South China Sea or the Arabian Gulf scenario . . . there is a quantity requirement,” he explained. The Air Force is working to nail down the right number, said Carlisle. The program included in the Fiscal 2013 budget proposal is an “acceptable risk,” he said, but the service will re-evaluate its planned total buy of the F-35 strike fighter, which currently stands at 1,763 airframes. Carlisle suggested that the number might go up in the long run. “We still believe we need that many, but we have time to evaluate that as we move forward. That’s why the program of record is still 1763,” he said.