With the US Senate expected to vote on continued F-22 production later today,, retired general Richard Hawley, who led Air Combat Command from 1996 to 1999, spoke with The DEW Line contributor Dave Majumdar.
186 F-22 Raptors should comprise a sufficient force if the United States decides to shift its posture to fight only one major regional conflict at a time, Richard Hawley says.
But Hawley cautions that resourcing the military for such a posture poses significant risks. “Frankly, that’s a gamble”, he says. In over 200 years of modern military history, no strategist has ever been able to predict future conflicts, he notes.
What concerns Hawley more, he said, is that with the shift to a single major regional conflict focus comes the “temptation to under resource that force structure”.
Based on prior experience, Hawley fears that future planners will be tempted to under-resource a single major war force structure. “We might find ourselves with a 0.6 major regional war force”, Hawley stated bluntly.
While formally the United States has had two-war strategy for sometime, when Hawley retired from the USAF in 1999, the resources to fight two simultaneous wars were lacking. “We were, during that time, at a level of allocation where we were resourced to fight 1.6 or 1.7 major regional conflicts- depending upon the adversary. It’s a judgment”, Hawley said.
Hawley used the example of the British military in the years prior tothe First World War to illustrate his point. The British in the late1800s, he said, shaped their forces to fight colonial wars, however,within a few years they were embroiled in a continental war that theyhad not predicted.
Gates’ plan, Hawley said, would leave the United States vulnerable if asituation ever developed where the nation was engaged in a majorregional conflict in one area of the world and an opportunistic peerthreat made an aggressive move elsewhere. This is especially true, hesaid, if that peer threat were to be comprised of “all high-end forces.You don’t want to be caught without anything left”.
As an illustration, Hawley used the hypothetical scenario of anuclear-armed Iran. Hawley explained that if the President feltcompelled to intervene militarily under such circumstances, a USmilitary “resourced for one major regional conflict” should suffice,unless something else erupted simultaneously.
“This is highly unlikely, but if a country like North Korea decided totake advantage of that situation” the United States would face somedifficulties, Hawley said. He added however, that North Korea isn’t avery “robust” threat. He explained that while the North Korean airdefense system may pose some challenges, their air force posespractically no threat.
On the issue of the F-22, Hawley said that in Secretary Gates’ view,the Raptor offers only a niche capability that is only useful againstcertain high-end threats.
This view, Hawley explains, makes the assumption that the F-22 has morecapability than is needed in most cases. Hawley believes while thatmight be generally true, it is not prudent to make the assumption thatthe US will never face a high-end threat.
Hawley acknowledges that the “F-35 is a good fighter. In my estimation,it’s the second best air superiority fighter in the world after theRaptor”. However, the F-35 is not quite “able to match the F-22 instealth capability”, the General says. The lower stealth capabilitymeans that the F-35 can be detected from greater ranges than theRaptor.
The JSF is also “incapable of flying at the sustained altitudes thatthe F-22 can fly at”, Hawley says. He explains, “Altitude is a bigfactor when defending against surface to air missile threats. SAMs runout of energy at high altitude and are not able to maneuver aseffectively in the thin air” at 60 000 ft.
The third major advantage that Hawley cites of the F-22 over the F-35is “sustained speed. The Raptor will sustain Mach 1.6, Mach 1.7. TheF-35 is more conventional, with the nose down it’ll do Mach 1.6, Mach1.7, but for short periods”.
Hawley expects that the F-35 will suffer from cost growth and delayssimilar to those experienced on other defense programs such as theF-22. Hawley also expects that the Defense Department “won’t comeclose” to purchasing all of the 2400 planes currently in the program ofrecord for the F-35.
Hawley is quick to point out, “Given the capabilities of 5th generationfighters, the United States can get by with a smaller number of F-22sand F-35s”. Currently, Hawley explains, the Navy has 10 carrier airwings, the Marine Corps has three air wings, and the USAF has around 20fighter wings. Hawley says that given the vastly improved capabilitiesof the Raptor and JSF, a smaller force could “meet US defenserequirements adequately”. Hawley suggests one possible force structuremight include 14 to 15 fighter wings for the USAF. The sea serviceswould retain the same number of wings for the Navy and USMC, howeverthe number of airframes assigned could be reduced.
However, Hawley said that a fully resourced two-war strategy wouldrequire 381 Raptors when facing powers capable of challenging the USdirectly. However, a “moderate risk force” of about 250 Raptors shouldprovide an adequate margin for the USAF under the two-war scenario, hesaid. The currently proposed 186 planes are suitable for only one majorwar at a time, Hawley emphasized.
Gen Hawley: 186 F-22s works for 1 war, but it’s a gamble
By Stephen Trimble on 21 July, 2009 in Uncategorised
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