From this story, it at least appears that my fear of a potential "F-15 overreaction" to push for more F-22s has come true.
Top Pentagon officials are planning to extend production of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-22 fighter jet amid concerns over the airworthiness of the aging fleet it is replacing, an analyst with close ties to the Pentagon said on Friday.
"Pentagon insiders say the Office of the Secretary of Defense is planning ... to continue production" beyond the 183 F-22s due to be delivered by the end of 2011, said Loren Thompson of the Arlington, Virginia-based Lexington Institute, noted for links to the Pentagon and industry.
"Policymakers are under pressure ... because Cold War fighters are falling out of the sky due to age," he added, referring to the second grounding this month of older Boeing F-15 models.
Representatives of the Air Force and the Defense Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Now, I know this story is shaky since it's based on comments from one person. But Loren is pretty tapped in and though is sometimes given to hyperbole, he's been a very reliable source of mine over the years. And the Reuters reporter, Jim Wolf, is top notch and wouldn't have let the story go to print if it wasn't accurate and properly sourced.
Sure, the F-22 is a kick ass airplane, and we can debate the merits of the planes and the proper number. But to shoehorn more of them into the inventory by cynically grounding the fleet they're to replace as a public relations ploy to make a better case, if true, is disappointing.
Now let's keep our eyes on Congress. If this keeps going, there's going to be hearings with their own parochial histrionics, then the inevitable added money and production authorizations. Then the Air Force will finally have gotten its wish, and the sky itself won't even be the limit for F-22 buys.