“If we don’t keep F-22 Raptor viable, the F-35 fleet will be irrelevant” Air Combat Command says

The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.

In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.

First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“.
Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.

Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2” and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.

Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35” since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.

But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.

Something that seem to confirm what we have written some time ago….

Image credit: Lockheed Martin


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. I’m just old enough to remember when the national press lamented the unbearable national cost of Eagles, Tomcats and the B-1A. One of the greatest complaints was that they had mission capable rates well below 50%. Another was that they were so vastly superior that their capabilities were wasted in the real world. Finally, the pundits lamented that they would be swept from the skies by superior numbers of MiG-25’s and the uber-secret and ultra-superior Ram-K and Ram-L (MiG-29 and SU-27). Ahem. Really? Uh … yeah.
    So what likely air-to-air threat is the J-35 going to face? Rafales and Eurofighters? God, I hope not. And what likely combatant is going to put more than 20-30 advanced (snicker) versions of the SU-27 up against a US/EU coalition? In any conflict more serious than that I’d like to hope that it won’t just be only F-22’s escorting JSF’s, but also the Rafales and Eurofighters.
    I’m still furious that the X-Wing … er, I mean F-22A … has been taken out of production, but I’m not ready to abandon hope in the JSF. Not for the USA, anyway.

  2. From my armchair I would say the cancellation of the f-22 is mysterious and nearly treasonous. Less than 200 built and as with any aircraft, maybe 2/3 will be able to actually fly at any given point. How on earth is that a replacement for over 1,000 f-15’s? Why was it cancelled? Plus, even with it’s teething problems it is a miracle plane. The f-35 debacle has sounded scary from the beginning. How dumb are the politicians and planners in this country to put all (or most) of our eggs in one basket? Everything seems based on the assumption we will never again have a real war against an adversary who could conceivably beat us. I am more scared of our own leaders than our putative enemies.

  3. Just as I figured , the fat pudgy , SLOW f-35 is a piece of crap by itself in future combat . I hope Canada grabs a brain and cancels it . The US should have mass produced the YF23 instead of the crappy f35

  4. it will be able to relay an enemy airplane lock to the b1’s in the distance armed with many aamraams which will be able to fire at the enemy planes while the f35 is long gone

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