Procurement: January 12, 2001

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The Air Force is gearing up for a new offensive: to convince Congress to pay for more F-22 Raptor fighters. The original plan for 750 Raptors died with the Cold War, but the Air Force insists that the Clinton Administration's plan for 339 of the aircraft was generated by the budget and not by operational needs. They want another wing (72 fighters) in order to fulfill all of the requirements of fielding ten Expeditionary Air Wings. Providing a squadron of 24 F-22s for each of the ten wings, plus training, attrition, and maintenance spare aircraft, would require a total of 415 Raptors. Others in the Air Force want to see 500 Raptors built. They argue that any future enemy would look at previous wars and know that victory requires denying the US access to regional bases. That could be done by political pressure or weapons of mass destruction. That could require the US to operate from bases hundreds of miles away, and the F-22 with its considerable range would be able to do this. Those seeking 500 Raptors promise to use them for defense suppression and interdiction as well as for air superiority. Some in the Raptor program want to see the Joint Strike Fighter canceled or scaled back dramatically, using Raptors to suppress enemy defenses and allow older generations of aircraft to conduct the bombing strikes.--Stephen V Cole

 


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