Author Topic: Ousted USAF chief continues controversial fight for F-22 production  (Read 1946 times)

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By Caitlin Lee,

Retired USAF Chief of Staff Michael Moseley - who was asked to step down in 2008 due to disagreements with senior US defence officials over ending the F-22 Raptor production line - said he still believes that ending F-22 production was a catastrophic mistake that has crippled the US and allies' deterrence posture.

"That will prove to be one of the most strategically dislocating decisions made over the last 20 to 25 years," Gen Moseley said during his first public event in the Washington DC area since he left office amid clashes with the former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates over F-22 production, the security of the US nuclear arsenal, and the role of unmanned aircraft in the USAF force structure.

The US Department of Defense announced the decision to end F-22 production at 187 aircraft after Gen Moseley left office, in April 2009.

Gen Moseley and former USAF Secretary Michael Wynne - who was also asked to resign - had argued that a total of 381 fighters were needed to maintain 'air dominance' over hostile territory.

Speaking on 5 December, Gen Moseley said he had no regrets about his vocal advocacy, and, if anything, said he wished he had fought harder.

"I would tell you that, knowing what I know now, I would have been more aggressive in protecting that airplane and the building blocks of fifth generation systems in the future," he said.

Gen Moseley said he still believes more F-22 fighters are needed to ensure the US can maintain a deterrent posture. He also said that certain US partner countries, including Australia, Israel, Japan, and the UK should be able to buy the F-22 through foreign military sales (FMS).

"I was and still will be a fan of the FMS case on the F-22," said Gen Moseley.

He noted that before he left the USAF, the unit price of the F-22 was poised to fall under a new multi-year contract that he advocated with support from US Senator Saxby Chambliss, whose home state is Georgia, where the F-22 was built.

"Had we been able to get through the next multi-year, there was a notion that we could get the cost of the airplane down to below USD85 million dollars," said Gen Moseley.

That number is in line with the expected cost of the USAF's newest stealth fighter, which is still in development: the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

An F-35A purchased in 2018 and delivered in 2020, the first expected year of full rate production, is expected to cost about USD85 million in inflation-adjusted "then year" dollars. This is equivalent to about USD75 million in 2012 dollars, F-35 programme office spokesman Joe DellaVedova told IHS Jane's .

While the F-35A has been designed as a multi-role fighter with a greater emphasis on air-to-ground roles, the F-22 is mainly viewed as an air superiority fighter, using long-range radar, missiles, and an internal gun to enter hostile airspace to destroy enemy fighters. Although the USAF does have a long-term plan for increasing the F-22's air-to-ground capabilities.

Gen Moseley stressed that the F-22 and the F-35 were meant to work together in contested airspace.

"The design philosophy of that airplane [the F-22] and the F-35 was that they would operate together, like the F-15 and F-16," said Gen Moseley, referring to two legacy jets - the former an air superiority fighter and the latter optimised for multi-role functions in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground domain.

Gen Moseley's successor, General Norton Schwartz, said in an April 2009 editorial co-authored with former USAF Secretary Michael Donley that the pair considered a compromise between F-22 supporters and sceptics, that would have brought the total number of F-22 aircraft purchased to 243.

The jets would have provided a bridge until the USAF's F-35A was ready for initial operational capability (IOC). However, senior USAF officials found upon further analysis, that overlapping F-22 and F-35 production would be too expensive. At that point, they made the decision to close the F-22 production line.

The USAF faced major pressure from former Secretary of Defense Gates, who questioned the F-22's utility in the benign airspace over Afghanistan and Iraq.

Some speculated that Secretary Gates never employed the F-22 in those theatres simply to make a point about the stealth fighter's limited air-to-ground capabilities in a counterinsurgency campaign. Some USAF officials, however, have noted that while the F-22 is optimised for air superiority, it is in fact a multi-role fighter and there is a roadmap to increase its air-to-ground capability.

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