Too Few Fighters?

Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) pointed out during the May 19 House Armed Services Committee hearing on USAF’s 2010 budget request that the national military strategy calls for 2,250 fighters, whereas the accelerated retirement of some 250 legacy fighters would cause a shortage of about 100 fighters “below the stated requirement.” In response Gen. Norton Schwartz said it was primarily based on the need to get on a “glide path” toward a fighter force predominantly made up of fifth-generation fighters, the F-22 and F-35, and that requires accelerated production of the F-35. The decision was, he said, to “take some risk.” McHugh questioned whether the Air Force was committed to putting the legacy cut dollars into the remaining legacy fighters as a hedge against maintaining that F-35 glide path. To which Air Force Secretary Michael Donley replied that the service “has committed those resources, not just this year, but in our planning years ahead” to upgrade the remaining legacy fighters “that are going to be with us for a little bit longer.” Schwartz noted, too, “Yes, we are on a path which is somewhat below the numbers which came out of the last QDR, [but it] remains to be seen what numbers come out of the ongoing QDR.”