Evidence indicates that the Air Force really wanted 60 more F-22s for a fleet of 243 and did not favor stopping production at 187 as Defense Secretary Robert Gates decreed earlier this week. But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz never had the chance to articulate this position publicly due to the draconian non-disclosure agreement recently imposed by Gates on the uniformed military leadership. So argues Rebecca Grant in a Lexington Institute issue brief released yesterday. Grant, a senior fellow at Lexington Institute and director of the Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies, recounts Schwartz’s comments at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee last July when he said that 381 F-22s—the Air Force’s long-standing requirement—were too many, but that the 183 bought to date under the program of record were too few. Schwartz promised to return with a new number after thorough analysis. But with Gates’ restrictions, “Schwartz never had a chance to present his analysis for 243 F-22s to Congress as promised,” writes Grant. As a result, “Air Combat Command, whose airmen fly and maintain F-22s and other fighters, is left to pick up the pieces after this shattering break in faith,” she states.
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.