Once taboo, talk has resurfaced about the possibility of buying more F-22s.
—John A. Tirpak
Until recently, USAF was under strict orders not even to think about it, but recent developments have caused the possibility to crop up in some "what if" PowerPoint slides.
Those developments include likely further slips in the F-35 strike fighter's schedule and an upcoming defense acquisition board review of the F-35 expected to be fraught with bad news on cost.
That would come on the heels of various deficit-cutting proposals that already suggest cutting the F-35 buy.
Without F-35, Air Force fighter inventories will plummet below minimums in coming years as F-16s age out.
Extending F-22 production could be the dealmaker if F-35 foes carry the day and compel USAF to take mostly new-build F-16s instead.
The Raptors would provide the extra stealth force required to make the non-stealthy F-16s acceptable.
Also, if you’ve listened carefully, USAF has gone from saying it will retain a "portion" of F-22 production tooling to "most" and, most recently, to "all."
Gen. William Fraser, head of Air Combat Command, acknowledged last week that Lockheed Martin is filming all F-22 tooling processes as the earliest parts of production shut down, so that it can go back to production of parts—ostensibly for repairs or service life extension—in the future.
Also last week, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said he might spearhead an effort to get more F-22s into the budget. But he acknowledged it could be a difficult task given pressures to rein in spending.
Gingrey complained bitterly that the Pentagon prematurely terminated F-22 production, centered in Marietta in his Congressional district, before Russia rolled out its own F-22 clone, the PAK FA, last year.
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