The news here is that Mullen claims Gen Norton Schwartz, the USAF's chief of staff, has talked about buying "50 or so more than the 183" F-22s ordered so far (not counting the four aircraft now in long-lead limbo).
Q Do you think, for instance, of the biggest military needs -- say the F-22, the most expensive fighter plane ever made?ADM. MULLEN: There's been an awful lot of discussion about that. It's not a matter of do we need it, Jamie. We have it. It's a question of how many do we need for the future. And Secretary Gates has been pretty clear. This administration has been very clear about where it's been, where he is, and certainly has, you know, left it open to see what the additional numbers should be. The chief of staff of the Air Force has talked about a number that is another -- what? -- 50 or so more than the 183 right now.
I think it is -- in the aviation world, our future is in the Joint Strike Fighter, but the Joint Strike Fighter is a new system. New systems usually struggle, you know, meeting exact deadlines. And I think it's very important we have capability to bridge to that system with respect to the broad range of capabilities for the country.
So I think we're going to -- we're going to work our way through that. I do -- I am concerned that it is such an expensive system.
Unless my memory is failing me, Schwartz has not publicly stated any number remotely as specific as "50 or so".
Schwartz has said that he thinks the number of F-22s should be higher than 183 and lower than 381, with the latter being the USAF's stated requirement for the last several years.
The question is whether Mullen botched the statement. Perhaps Mullen knows something we don't know?