In the world that we live in, the US must develop, build, own and use the best possible fighter aircraft on the planet. They need to be available for simultaneous multi-theater operations. That will do the most to ensure that we have to use them the least. There is no other sane alternative.
Analysis: A case for the US increasing its Raptor purchase
By Craig Caffrey Janes
05 September 2008
F-22 Raptor (Patrick Allen/Jane's)
Since US President George W Bush's 1 May 2003 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq, the US Air Force (USAF) has been fighting a low-intensity war on two fronts for which its inventory is poorly suited.
Since that time the USAF has been criticised for spending its strained budget on programmes that have little or no relevance to events on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has been argued in Washington that money could be better spent on platforms with more immediate applications, particularly with regards to intelligence, surveillance and recconnaisance (ISR) assets. Lockheed Martin's costly F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft is seen as an example of this unresponsive procurement strategy with the number to be acquired reduced from 381 to 183 as a result of political and budgetary pressures.
Given Russia's invasion of Georgia on behalf of the breakaway region of South Ossetia on 8 August, some of the lost emphasis on preparing to fight potential future conventional war is likely to have been rediscovered. Jane's believes the case for extending the procurement of the F-22 has seemingly been strengthened by events in the Caucasus. While the conflict in Georgia will not establish a firm requirement for additional Raptors, it will give more credence to those voices that advocate the potential for future conflict with advanced states.
After almost two decades of post-Soviet neglect, the Russian Air Force has begun a long, slow process of modernisation, the centrepiece of which is a plan to induct a fifth-generation fighter aircraft of its own by 2015.
Simultaneously, in China both Shenyang Aircraft Corporation and Chengdu Aircraft Corporation have been involved in a fifth-generation fighter programme, dubbed J-XX.
While Jane's understands that it is doubtful these aircraft will be as technologically advanced as their US counterparts, both aircraft have been designed with Lockheed Martin's fifth-generation F-22 and F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in mind.
While the JSF programme will ensure that an additional 1,763 F-35 fifth-generation multirole fighters will enter service with the USAF alongside the F-22, it should be remembered that the F-35 was designed with a 70 per cent air-to-ground and 30 per cent air-to-air focus. While this does not mean that the Chinese and Russian designs will be a more a capable air superiority platform, neither does it guarantee that the F-35 will have the upper hand. The F-22 represents the technological pinnacle of the USAF's current air-to-air combat capability, while the F-35 does not.
© 2008 Jane's Information Group