Gen Hawley: 186 F-22s works for 1 war, but it’s a gamble



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.

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11 Responses to Gen Hawley: 186 F-22s works for 1 war, but it’s a gamble

  1. Royce 21 July, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

    Did either you or Dave ask Gen. Hawley if he does any consulting work? That’s a question that should be addressed in every interview with ex-generals.

  2. Sven Ortmann 21 July, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    Put his remarks into context (how other nations prepare for their defence) and you cannot deny that he’s talking BS.

  3. Obamanite 21 July, 2009 at 10:47 pm #

    A one-source story. No dissenting views? No second or third source? No mention of alternatives? Gee, informative reporting and analysis. No discussion as to WHY the U.S. should be constantly prepared for Armageddon. No mention that the U.S. will be purchasing oodles of F-35s, which anyone with half a brain cell recognizes will beat the crap off any conceivable AA threat for the next 20 years or so (to suggest otherwise is completely disingenuous and done merely for the sake of arguing for additional, unneeded F-22s). What’s with the court stenographer role? I can’t imagine it feels very good to be so submissive…

    As Royce wrote, “Did either you or Dave ask Gen. Hawley if he does any consulting work? That’s a question that should be addressed in every interview with ex-generals.” The Bush administration paying ex-generals to trumpet the case for Operation Useless Dirt comes to mind. Royce is exactly right. For godssakes, people, you are supposed to be reporters! Do your job!!! Or maybe you are only bloggers, who lack any sense of professionalism and journalistic ethics? Like, you know, a certain ELP…

  4. Dave 22 July, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    To answer your question:

    I wouldn’t call it a story per se- its certainly not a news story.

    It was simply an interview with the General on his take on the F-22 issue. For the record he is a board member for Dyn Corps and a number of other smaller companies and sometimes acts as independent consultant- but those aren’t involved with the F-22 or F-35.

    As for second or third source- there aren’t many people who know factual information about the programs in question i.e. a security clearance. Of those people in the know, most aren’t going to talk for obvious reasons. Deal with it.

    Who would you have preferred I ask- Pierre Sprey, Everest Ricconi, or maybe Winslow Wheeler? There are plenty of critics, not every piece needs to have two opinions- there plenty of other stories for that.

    I would argue that expert opinions are better any than analysis a reporter can provide. I don’t have access to a “vault”, the baseline tactics, or other facets of fighter employment. One F-22 pilot I know pretty much said all of us out here discussing all this issue sound like idiots since we don’t have clearances or know any real facts.

    Right now you’re slamming me, but you’re making the assumption the F-35 is next best thing since sliced bread. What do you base your assumptions on? What are your qualifications? Do you have anything other than pure zealotry to offer? Every F-22 and most USAF fighter pilots I have talked to (and they are many) disagree with your “expert” opinion- but they can’t comment on the record.

    Anyways, this is a blog, not part of the news channel for Flight.

    You seem kinda bitter. I thought you guys who’re hardcore F-22 haters would be out celebrating or something. I personally don’t care one way or the other what happens to either program.

    You can slam ELP (or me, or Stephen) for his views all you want, but you’re his mirror image. If your views and his were on the same page, you’d be his biggest cheerleader.

  5. Obamanite 22 July, 2009 at 2:23 am #

    “It’s certainly not a news story.” About the only thing you got right in your post, Dave.

    “For the record he is a board member for Dyn Corps and a number of other smaller companies and sometimes acts as independent consultant- but those aren’t involved with the F-22 or F-35.” So he makes a living sucking on the teat of the MIC and is a former fighter jock. An objective observer of the Raptor program, absolutely…

    “As for second or third source- there aren’t many people who know factual information about the programs in question i.e. a security clearance. Of those people in the know, most aren’t going to talk for obvious reasons. Deal with it.” The “it’s classified, therefore beyond scrutiny” argument is specious and you know it. The by-now infamous WaPo article – which in retrospect I believe is what drove the stake into the chest of this particular bloodsucker – cited information that was clearly not in the public domain and any reporter worth his salt can obtain said information in an investigative piece, should he take his job seriously enough. If you want to be an ineffectual mouth-piece that’s your choice, but for godssakes don’t call yourself a reporter and disgrace the profession. That is why the term “blogger” was invented. Use it.

    “Who would you have preferred I ask- Pierre Sprey, Everest Ricconi, or maybe Winslow Wheeler?” In a comment elsewhere I made clear that, as critics of the program, they are hardly credible. Their “arguments” against the jet are either uniformed, disingenuous or just plain wrong. My “criticism” of the F-22 doesn’t have anything to do with its performance once it’s flying and the stars align such that is actually works. My problem with it is that it does not particularly like to live outside a hangar, and to coax it from its preferred home, you have to massage it with a gazillion dollars of tender, loving care. That, and there is no threat now or probably ever that justifies its gilded existence. That, and in the mid-term there will be dozens of squadrons available of a plane that will not be significantly inferior at doing the job at which the Raptor supposedly excels. When it can actually fly, that is.

    “I would argue that expert opinions are better [than] any than analysis a reporter can provide.” Anyone who would dare write that is not a reporter. It is the responsibility of the reporter to analyze, digest and communicate, in a readable form for the otherwise uninitiated, diverse and diverging “expert” views and opinions. Especially as it relates to a story like that of the F-22, there isn’t just one “objective truth” about it. I mean, that is self-evident, isn’t it? Perhaps not to you.

    “I don’t have access to a “vault”, the baseline tactics, or other facets of fighter employment. One F-22 pilot I know pretty much said all of us out here discussing all this issue sound like idiots since we don’t have clearances or know any real facts.” I’ve never argued its performance, once it works. I question its strategic need, how it fits into overall U.S. defense and foreign policy and whether the capabilities it provides the warfighter justify its astronomical costs to acquire and maintain. And I’m sorry to say, those are questions that are not for a fighter jock to determine. They are way above his pay-grade and likely beyond his intellectual ability. When fighter pilots put themselves in a position to address these questions, we get Randy Cunningham…

    “Right now you’re slamming me, but you’re making the assumption the F-35 is next best thing since sliced bread. What do you base your assumptions on? What are your qualifications? Do you have anything other than pure zealotry to offer? Every F-22 and most USAF fighter pilots I have talked to (and they are many) disagree with your “expert” opinion- but they can’t comment on the record.”

    Zealotry? I do not believe I’ve exhibited such but, for lack of an argument, you’re welcome to the ad hominem. Mine is not an “expert” opinion. Based on what is publicly known and reasonable assumptions about what is likely to happen, having kept close tabs on the industry since the time the F-16 achieved IOC, I would say it is not unreasonable to expect that the F-35 will deliver something close to what it seems to promise. You, on the other hand, feed at the trough of whatever scraps of information those you blindly idolize deign to give you. This is not the stuff of which a reporter’s made. Furthermore, it is not up to them to determine whether F-22s are needed, thank god. There is a chain of command, you know, and atop that chain, there are civilians. Again, WAY above their pay grade and intellectual acumen.

    “You seem kinda bitter. I thought you guys who’re hardcore F-22 haters would be out celebrating or something.” For the record, I am not at all an F-22 hater. In fact, I am deeply awed by that plane. It’s a marvel of engineering. Unsustainable and impractical engineering, that is. They pushed a prototype, proof-of-concept craft into production, simple as that, and could never make it work in an economically sustainable fashion. And that, my boy, does not constitute sound defense policy.

  6. Royce 22 July, 2009 at 2:47 am #

    I’m not getting down on your for interviewing Hawley. Just saying that in general it’s a good practice to let people know whether a commentator has an interest in a project or agenda.

    In reading more about Hawley, I came across this transcript from a PBS Newshour in 1999 in which Hawley, a couple of folks from Congress, and Lawrence Korb debate about the future of the F-22. The arguments haven’t changed much in ten years:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/military/july-dec99/f-22_7-27.html

  7. Sven Ortmann 22 July, 2009 at 8:51 pm #

    “One F-22 pilot I know pretty much said all of us out here discussing all this issue sound like idiots since we don’t have clearances or know any real facts.”

    That gives me mixed feelings.
    I feel bad because I hate to have incomplete information and to base my opinion on incomplete information.
    I feel good because my opinion is at least not mainstream and is based on more mosaic pieces than most F-22 mainstream tactics appraisals seem to.

    Anyway. I WANT above quote to be quotable for my blog. Write it in a blog post or article, please. With details…

    This is interesting and important.

  8. SMSgt Mac 23 July, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    I find Gen Hawley’s comments are consistent with other expert views and certainly consistent with history. It reminded me of an experience at a 2007 history seminar: http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2007/10/25th-annual-military-history-seminar.html. Scroll down for “The Keaney Session”.

  9. David 23 July, 2009 at 6:51 pm #

    Being old, I can remember that the wonderful F-15 Eagle was attacked as a hanger queen during the 1970s. Too complex. Exceeds the need, etc. Once the bugs were worked out it had an 80:0 kill ratio via actual combat. Back when the F-15 was being sold, there was a big push to simply put leading edge slats on the F-4 and cancel the Eagle program.

  10. Appeling 25 August, 2010 at 7:14 am #

    Instead of copying what other people have said, you may want to comment on what is hot in the news at a particular moment.

  11. palate lip 7 January, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Well said! – I looked up the Wiki on this and it did not have as detailed info – thanks!

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