Secretary of Defense Robert Gates dropped a few bombshells yesterday, but none bigger than in this exchange with Bloomberg reporter Tony Capaccio:
GATES: The military advice that I got was that there is nomilitary requirement for numbers of F-22s beyond the 187.
Capaccio: What about the Air Force advice? They’ve been badgeringyou with all sorts of analysis that they need 60 more.
GATES: That was their advice as well.
Capaccio: Excuse me. It was their advice as well that –
Capaccio: — that you didn’t need more than 187?
Capaccio: Really? Okay.
I have a follow-up question. Mr. Gates, are you sure that advice came from the US Air Force, or perhaps some other country’s air force?
Let’s face it, the USAF hasn’t exactly been bashful over the past two decades about its budget-lust for F-22s. I’ve asked the USAF press desk for a comment about Gates’ statement, but they’re referring all questions on this issue back to the Office of Secretary of Defense.
But the current leadership of the air force is hand-picked by Gates, and their public statements about the F-22 do not seem to contradict the boss’s statement yesterday. In July, Chief of Staff Gen Norton Schwartz testified in a Congressional hearing that the USAF needed more F-22s than 183, but less than its then-standing requirement for 381.
Gates is recommending buying a total of 187 F-22s (although presumably minus one because of the crash last month). Technically, 187 (or 186) is more than 183, so Schwartz may have actually advised Gates to halt production at 187 without contradicting his previous statement.
But does anyone really believe that?