Video Above: F-22 Refines Dogfighting & Air-to-Air Combat Ops
By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven
(Washington, D.C.) The Air Force F-22 blasted onto the scene years ago as quite possibly the fastest and most capable air-to-air fighter ever to exist, a development which inspired hope and optimism among Pentagon weapons developers looking to ensure U.S. air dominance moving into the future.
The aircraft, which introduced what were at the time unprecedented levels of speed, aerial maneuverability, thrust to weight ratio, engine performance and “supercruise” flight performance sustaining speed without needing fuel-consuming afterburner. Along with some growing pains and questions in the early years, the aircraft showed great promise and was increasingly in demand.
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Then, in 2004, the initial aims, fleet size and scope of the program was massively cut in what appeared to be an abrupt shift. While reasons for such a cut can include many variables and be tough to fully discern, one possible reason may simply have been that Pentagon planners and Congressional budget masters simply took too much of a short-term view. In 2004, of course, just following Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. was immersed in the throes of an intense counterinsurgency war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a conflict in which air supremacy was completely established. Therefore, simply put, F-22s were not needed at that particular time, and terrorist-inspired or aligned insurgencies appeared likely to persist as an ongoing threat for years into the future. That certainly may have been, and may still be true, however the future warfare planning vision of weapons developers at the time, may have been much too narrowly focused and simply lost sight of any kind of large-scale great power warfare threat context. Could warfare futurists have underestimated or not fully anticipated the seriousness of the emerging great power threats? Possibly, as the nation and its military were understandably distracted by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In subsequent years, particularly following the F-22s combat debut against ISIS in 2014, demand for the F-22 skyrocketed … but there were not enough. Nowhere near enough. The demand for F-22s was so great that the Pentagon and Congress came very close to restarting an F-22 production line, an idea which was ultimately dropped for what at the time were explained as budget reasons. In years since this 2004 cut, there has been widespread consensus among many Air Force leaders, Pentagon strategists and lawmakers that that move may have been a huge mistake.
Could that same mistake be possible with the F-35? That is a serious concern for senior members of Congress seeking to avoid any kind of large scale F-35 reduction.
“I hate to keep comparing — my fear for what might be happening to the F-35 with what has happened and did happen back in about 2004 with the F-22,” Sen. James Inhofe, (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee mentioned during a recent budget hearing with senior members of the Air Force.
Kris Osborn is the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Master's Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.