When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.
He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”
Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.
Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.
The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.
More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.
Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.
“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”
Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”
He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.