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April 23, 2009—Retired Gen. Gregory Martin, former head of Air Force Materiel Command and US Air Forces in Europe, says the long-held USAF requirement for 381 new F-22 Raptors was solidly based on national strategy. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Wednesday event on tactical air issues, Martin said the F-22 number, at first, was derived from the strategy of being able to fight two nearly-simultaneous major theater wars, and then later on the 1-4-2-1 construct of being able to fight one big war, have a presence in four important regions of the world, fight two lesser contingencies, and achieve a convincing victory in one of them.

The numbers are scenario-dependent, Martin said, but in no case should go lower than 243 because of the rotational need to have an 18-aircraft squadron of F-22s in each of the 10 Air Expeditionary Forces, satisfying regional commander requirements.

The issue centermost at the tacair symposium was the recently announced decision by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to curtail F-22 production at just 187 aircraft. Speakers at the CSIS event, whether Raptor proponents, critics, or those in the middle, agreed that there appeared to be no strategic analysis in the decision and that the debate is just starting. (Read Measure Twice, Cut Once and Questions Continue and Hamre, F-22 Debate Just Starting from the April 24 Daily Report)

Martin went on to say that the 18-aircraft squadrons are a “moderate” risk, compared with a “relatively low risk” fleet with 24 F-22s in each squadron. The 243 figure—which Martin said the Air Force did present to top Pentagon leaders, but USAF leaders were rebuffed—allows for the 18 fighters in each squadron plus a “minimal number” for test and evaluation, training and attrition.

The analysis on how many F-22s the nation needs shouldn’t be a revelation, Martin continued. He said the Air Force’s requirement for “at least” 243 F-22s, and preferably 381, survived umpteen previous reviews and the experience of a great many “real-world” conflicts.

“What about the scenario?” Martin asked and continued: “I think we know about all we need to know. We had the Bottom-Up Review, Commission on Roles and Missions, the Deep attack Weapons Mix Study, three [Quadrennial Defense Reviews], [and] multiple real-world missions—Operation Deliberate Force, Allied Force, Southern Watch, Northern Watch, Noble Eagle, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom.” If the Air Force’s numbers held through all those confrontations with reality, there’s little more to say, Martin asserted.

Now, he concluded, “the American people need to say” what the right number is.