Schwartz & Donley: Why we advised Gates to kill F-22 production

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US Air Force photo

Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force, and Gen Norton Schwartz, chief of staff, have finally explained how the US Air Force advised Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to halt production of the F-22 after 189 aircraft (minus three losses).

The duo published an op-ed today in The Washington Post. Here are the two most relevant paragraphs.


Based on different warfighting assumptions, the Air Force previouslydrew a different conclusion: that 381 aircraft would be required for alow-risk force of F-22s. We revisited this conclusion after arriving inoffice last summer and concluded that 243 aircraft would be amoderate-risk force. Since then, additional factors have arisen.

First, based on warfighting experience over the past several years andjudgments about future threats, the Defense Department is revisitingthe scenarios on which the Air Force based its assessment. Second,purchasing an additional 60 aircraft to get to a total number of 243would create an unfunded $13 billion bill just as defense budgets arebecoming more constrained.

Reading this explanation raises as many questions as it answers. The USAF apparently isn’t revisiting its assessment; the DOD is. So that means the USAF still thinks its assessment remains valid, right? If the USAF has not already re-assessed the basis for a moderate-risk force of 243 aircraft, how can its leadership advise Gates to shut down F-22 production?



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8 Responses to Schwartz & Donley: Why we advised Gates to kill F-22 production

  1. J3 13 April, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Steve – The message to LocMart is: Focus on the $13B shortfall, and reduce the F-22′s price.

  2. Dave 13 April, 2009 at 11:36 pm #

    Steve, the answer to your question is that the USAF responds to scenarios generated by the DOD. Basically, DOD makes a policy, and the USAF recommends what they think they’ll need to execute that policy. Under the policy guidance from the DOD as to what scenarios to plan for, under the new guidance, the conclusion from the USAF was that the current number of Raptors in adequate. Policy guidance comes from the top down, not the other way round, which is in keeping with the whole civilian control of the military thing that keeps us from turning into some sort of military dictatorship.

  3. Stephen Trimble 13 April, 2009 at 11:39 pm #

    I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think that’s exactly how the USAF has been approaching this until now!

  4. Dave 14 April, 2009 at 12:10 am #

    Quite right Steve- that’s the problem, which is why the last two over there were fired…

  5. Otto Pernotto 14 April, 2009 at 1:41 am #

    Stephen,
    Otto P. here, Dave is quite right, I have no idea of what scenarios were used to base the buy of the F-22 but going back to the original requirement was probably the old 2 1/2 wars construct, i.e a major Russia/Chinese engagement, with a Korean shoot em up, as well as a Grenada/Panama as well. Then, the scenario was scaled down significantly after the fall of the Soviet Union and the latest numbers that were arrived at are probably along the lines of a major conflict with a “peer competiior” (insert your country of choice).

    So now, I’m guessing, DOD has said they see a major knockdown dragdown with a big, capable competitor and USAF says it can be done with a mix of F-22′s, F-35′s, legacy airframes and LOTS of UAV’s,

    Thats my guess, I have’nt done this in a long time, but that’s kind of the drill. So, while the USAF leadership probably would like some more, this is what they can live with

  6. Royce 14 April, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    If we don’t need more F-22s because the DoD has decided we’re only going to be fighting in low-air threat environments against non-peer nations, why do we need the F-35 at all? The strike missions can be handled by new F-16s, F-15s, and F/A-18s and we can save billions in development costs for a new fighter type we don’t need (at least according to the word of Gates).

  7. maguro 14 April, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    The article doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    If the threat scenarios had been re-evaluated (so soon?) they would have just said that.

    They’re basically saying “We advised them to cancel F-22 because there’s not enough money to pay for them”. This is not how the process is supposed to work…funding doesn’t drive requirements. If Gates wants to prioritize F-22 below the cut line, that’s his call, but the requirement is still valid.

    My feeling is that these guys are scrambling to cover the SecDef’s ass. Schwartz and Donley were probably as surprised as anyone else when Gates said the AF advised them to shut down F-22 and now they’re trying to come up with a plausible story after the fact.

  8. nonito cabato 9 August, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    its stupid to cancel this plane, its already in production they are going to in blood early in future conflict it is the best multirole fighter in the world i heard they try to sell it to japan australia and israel that stupidest news i ever heard in my life the bottom lines is to have the best combat fighter in the world for the USAF to the allies only second tier aircraft

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