Friday, July 17, 2009

Gen McPeak Speaks Out: Too Few F-22s a "Real Mistake"

Retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, who was the Air Force chief of staff during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm and who credited air power with winning the war, is publicly criticizing the early termination of the F-22 Raptor. The Department of Defense has announced plans to quit producing the fifth generation fighter long before the military requirement of "moderate risk" -- around 250 aircraft -- is reached.

"I think it's a real mistake," McPeak told "The airplane is a game-changer and people seem to forget that we haven't had any of our soldiers or Marines killed by enemy air since 1951 or something like that. It's been half a century or more since any enemy aircraft has killed one of guys. So we've gotten use to this idea that we never have to breathe hostile air.

The article continues:

"We do not want to field an Armed Forces that can be defeated by someone simply by topping our capability," he said. "The F-22 is at the top end. We have to procure enough of them for our ability to put a lid on, to dictate the ceiling of any conflict."

The radar-evading fighter/bomber's role is to control the skies in a future war against a major foe. McPeak and F-22 backers in Congress say 187 planes are simply not enough to do that job given the fact that some will be needed to train pilots and others will be in regular depot maintenance. That may leave only about 100 planes available for a war.

The Air Force had at one time wanted over 700 F-22s, but eventually lowered the figure to 381, then acceded to the 187 number.

"We certainly need some figure well above 200," said McPeak. "That worries me because I think it is pennywise and pound foolish to expose us in a way this much smaller number does ... That's taking too much high-end risk."

Read the complete article here.

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