According to Defense Deputy Secretary William Lynn, the US will field more than 1,000 fifth generation fighters before China can get its first comparable aircraft operational. The US force at that point in time—still open for debate but China is projecting as early as 2018—resumably would include 186 F-22s and more than 800 F-35s. The Pentagon is revamping the F-35 program and plans to slow production reportedly reducing the buy through 2015 by about 122 aircraft, producing fewer than 400 over that period. If there are more F-35 problems, the timing could get iffy. However, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz predicted last week that the F-35 production slow down is not likely to last as long as some have forecast.
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.