The additional funds cited by the Office of the Secretary of Defense—about $8.3 billion—to improve the capability of F-22s already in the fleet are meant to expand the aircraft’s air-to-ground capabilities, as opposed to making up for deficiencies in their air-to-air prowess, says Gen. Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff. Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (see above), Schwartz said it is “not a complete characterization of the situation” when one implies that the F-22 is not capable in the air-to-air mode without that investment. On the contrary, “it certainly is,” he said. Schwartz was asked to respond to comments made in November by Pentagon weapon czar John Young, who implied that the Raptors already in service will require the infusion of the extra billions to be fully capable. Young also stated that the Air Force’s focus should be on bringing all F-22s already ordered up to the same higher capability configuration than to seek more of them. In his reply, Schwartz said the Air Force does not in any way disagree with the desire to want all F-22s to be as capable as possible. “We need to have a fleet that is able in the air-to-air and air-to-ground modes as we can have them so that they are fungible as far as application in whatever scenarios might unfold,” he said. The extra investment cited by Young was always intended to be a follow-on expenditure to take a predominantly air-to-air platform and add air-to-ground capabilities to it, he said. This includes new radar modes, and integration of weapons like the small diameter bomb, he said.
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.