April 13, 2009 (by Eric L. Palmer) - The top two bosses of the United States Air Force (USAF), Secretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Mr. Michael Donley and the top serving military man, General Schwartz are wrong about the future air power roadmap for the service.
An F-22 Raptor taxis at Andersen AFB while a B-2 Spirit from the 509th BW, 13th BS Whiteman AFB, waits for clearance on March 12th, 2009. The Raptors are deployed from Elmendorf AFB to the 90th EFS at Andersen for a three month deployment as the Pacific's Theater Security Package. [USAF photo by MSgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald]
In an astonishing surrender of future air capability, the two have written a piece that showed up in the Washington Post called, “Moving Beyond the F-22”
. In it, they say it is time to stop funding the F-22
and move on toward full funding of the F-35
. The reasons they give for this are seriously flawed. It ends with a wild blue sky marking statement claiming, “Within the next few years, we will begin work on the sixth-generation capabilities necessary for future air dominance.”
First, is the top USAF leadership insane? I mean that with all due respect because these are not dumb people, they are just seriously misled on what defines air power capability and risk.
Part of the justification for their statements is that the USAF is out of money. There is just no way to pay for all of the things in the current plan. This first part pretty much kills the final statements of any dream of sixth generation capabilities. Sixth generation capabilities will come with a sixth generation price. A price that a debtor nation won’t have funds for.
Another point made by Donley and Schwartz is that the F-22 will provide capability for decades to come. And then what? In the 2020’s the USAF will start retiring its first F-22s.
The two go on to state that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will pull us back from the abyss facing the nation with its growing geriatric fighter force. Their claims aren’t reassuring. For example this quote stands on a house of cards, “Much rides on the F-35's success, and it is critical to keep the Joint Strike Fighter on schedule and on cost”. The F-35 has only two percent of its flight testing done, contains a wide variety of risk
, is over budget and behind schedule
, yet Donley and Schwartz continue with this statement, “This is the time to make the transition from F-22 to F-35 production.”
OK, so I’ll ask it again with all due respect, is the top USAF leadership insane? Donley and Schwartz don’t have a very good grasp how air domination is achieved. They also don’t understand what tools are needed. Just as stunning, is their lack of understanding in relation to the U.S. defense establishments track record of not delivering weapons programs any where close to cost, schedule or capability.
The F-22 was designed to break stiff enemy air defenses long into the future. F-22 systems have truly no peer in lethality. The F-22 uses extreme altitude, high speed, high quality stealth, and leading edge sensors to kill and survive on its own terms.
What the two USAF leaders don’t understand is that once the F-22 has cleared the huge threats which are enemy long range super surface to air missiles (SAMs) and enemy aircraft, common legacy aircraft can do the rest of the bombing and not get touched by the lesser threats. In other words, current legacy aircraft that are in production now, the F-15, F-16 and F-18 can drop cheap near all weather precision bombs from high altitude and not get touched by shorter range battlefield SAMs, shoulder fired SAMs, anti-aircraft artillery ( “triple A”) and trash fire. “I can touch you, but you can’t touch me”.
Based on this, the USAF has not justified a reason to acquire the F-35. The F-35 is not interchangeable with the F-22
. The USAF claiming that it needs an expensive all stealth fighter force isn’t practical.
With its limited funds, the USAF can rebuild its fighter force to meet requirements of expeditionary war and home air defense. This can be done by funding the F-22 to a proper number of aircraft and buying new build F-16s which still contain a significant war fighting capability.
If the top USAF leaders believe what they wrote, then America should consider their ability to do the job. The track Mr. Donley and General Schwartz want to take us down will risk not only billions on an unproven and untested F-35 aircraft, but billions more to clean up the mess all while leaving the U.S. unable to secure air domination in future conflicts.