There are few who would dispute that the Congressional sequestration, set to go into effect on 1 March, will be seriously damaging for the US Air Force and the other services. But could it also herald the rebirth of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor?
Amy McCullough at the Air Force Association’s Air Force Magazine spoke to Air Combat Command chief Gen Mike Hostage in Florida last week. She reports that it potentially could. So there is that one piece of potential good news–but that would only happen if the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter were to be cancelled.
“I would have to refurbish the [F-15] and [F-16 fleets] and the legacy hardware I have today. I also have a very small fleet of tremendously capable airplanes in the F-22s. I would push to buy more of those,” Hostage told the AFA. If the F-35 were to be culled off in the wake of the sequester, the USAF would need 225 more Raptors, Hostage says.
It would be expensive, but necessary to restart production of the stealthy twin-engine air superiority fighter because the fourth-generation fighters are not survivable in an anti-access/area-denial environment.
“The problem is that all those fourth generation airplanes that my sister services are buying will not survive the fight in the latter half of the next decade. They are not relevant,” Hostage says.
But reviving the F-22 is not Hostage’s first choice, he says the service must have 1763 F-35s. “Numbers count. It’s not just the high capability of our force. You need a quantity of that force in order to be capable,” he says.