The idea of buying more F-22s is a dead option, and the Air Force should stay focused on the F-35, outgoing Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said. “I think the F-22 issue, in terms of whether or not to continue production, is in the past; it’s behind us,” Donley said in his last interview with Air Force Magazine. “The decision already had been made” to terminate F-22 production at 187 aircraft, when he and former Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz took the service helm in 2008. “The dollars were gone out of the Air Force budget ,” he said, and “we had plenty of challenges in front of us” in modernization. Nevertheless, Donley said he’s tried to keep focused on “the need to begin to move to…fifth-generation capabilities. And to stay firm on our commitment to the F-35 program.” He thinks “we’re in a pretty good place, now” with the F-35; after a “necessary” program restructure, Donley believes the program has matured and it makes sense to be training pilots and making “initial basing decisions.” However, he said the F-22 “hands down…is still the world’s finest fighter,” and the upgrade program he’s put in place will keep it that way. (See also Last Raptor)
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.