Overnight, the House Armed Services Committee voted to add another 12 aircraft to the F-22 inventory. In its markup of the Fiscal 2010 budget request, the House defense authorizers inserted $369 million for advance procurement of items and materials needed for one dozen aircraft. These additional aircraft would be authorized in Fiscal 2011. The new aircraft—plus four that were to be bought in 2010—raises the total fleet to 199 fighters. Last fall, Congress directed the Pentagon to buy 20 additional F-22s in 2010, but top Pentagon leaders felt they weren’t really obliged to buy more than four. The F-22 language came from the committee’s Air and Land Forces panel chaired by Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii). In recent weeks, Abercrombie had challenged Air Force leaders for going along with DOD-directed reductions in USAF combat fighter programs and forces. (Armed Services Committee mark up summary). The 199 fighters still dips well below the 381 F-22s that the Air Force has always claimed it needs, and far short even of the 243 fighters set as the new military requirement by the USAF Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz.
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.