BREAKING: 60 More F-22s for the USAF

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The Air Forces chief of staff was careful to withhold his professional military advice until Defense Secretary Robert Gates gets it, but Gen. Norton Schwartz told reporters this morning that he would not dispute comments by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs late last year that the service would get an additional 60 F-22s, for a total of 243.

Schwartz then poured cold water on any hopes the Japanese and Australians might have of buying F-22s, saying some of the technologies in the plane are just too sensitive to export. However, he said it was a possibility that allies could pay for planes that were modified extensively enough to eliminate the export concerns. Given how expensive that would be, Schwartz has probably put the kibosh on export sales.

The Air Force chief of staff defended the decision to scale back the long sacred Air Force requirement of 381 F-22s, saying the service had performed honest and objective analysis to determine the new number of planes. Ill be happy to defend the numbers once they become available, he told us, adding that the new fleet size offers moderate risk to the nation.

Of course, this doesnt necessarily mean that 60 is the exact number everyone has decided on, but Schwartz didnt try to pour cold water on it either He did say the final decision should be out very close to the congressionally mandated date of March 1.

Asked about John Youngs comments last November that the F-22s mission capable rate was too low and expected enhancements too expensive for the country to afford, Schwartz said the truth of the matter is the F-22s rate is 60 percent including stealth issues and is in the mid- to high-70s without low observable issues. Looking at the system overall, the F-22s reliability is respectable, he said.

Read the rest of this story and more acquisition news at DoD Buzz.

-- Colin Clark

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