Methodical Review

Just because there is no new F-22 study (see above) does not mean that the Air Force leadership did not thoughtfully consider the ramifications of ending production at 187 aircraft. In fact, we now have a copy of the letter that Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz sent July 13 to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in which they state: “We methodically reviewed this issue from multiple perspectives. … This review concluded with a holistic and balanced set of recommendations for our fighter force.” However, they acknowledged, as they have previously, that the decision to stick with 187 aircraft is largely budget driven and the result of DOD’s reassessment of “the number of major combat operations we might be challenged to conduct.” In fact, Schwartz told airmen at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, last week, “I am personally convinced that 187 is enough for a single major campaign.” Lawmakers remain skeptical of this shift in strategy from the two-major combat operations concept to the single MCO that has driven some weapons decisions yet is still not vetted. (Donley, Schwartz letter)