Defense Secretary nominee Leon Panetta assured lawmakers Thursday that he wants the United States to have “the very best” in terms of fighter aircraft. “I know the F-35 is the [air]plane that’s being developed as the next-generation fighter. But I also know that there are extensive costs associated with how that plane is being developed, and I think we have to watch it very carefully,” said Panetta, currently CIA director, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), in whose state Lockheed Martin assembles the F-22, had asked Panetta if he would be committed as Defense Secretary to preserving US air supremacy. “I want to assure you that one of my responsibilities . . . is to take a very hard look at all weapons systems and make sure that they are cost-effective and that they are, in the end, providing the very best [that] our forces need,” added Panetta.
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.