This article first appeared in Aviation Week & Space Technology.
An early look at the U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) reveals major force and capability alterations that are being described as "high-g changes in direction, and high-g causes pain," says a senior U.S. Air Force official.
Moreover, the pared-down, reshaped, multifunctional forces under consideration are expected to cost $50-60 billion over five years above the planning target of no real growth in defense spending through Fiscal 2015.
The Pentagon analysis does point to growth in some areas, says David Ochmanek, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for force planning. A longtime Rand researcher, he is now in the "engine room" of the QDR.
Asked about his assessment of U.S. military might if the QDR recommendations are adopted, Ochmanek replied, "I think there will be enough forces to handle a war on the Korean peninsula and against Iran at the same time."
How that might happen is illustrated by the F-22 force that is expected to be capped at 186 [187 minus one destroyed in a crash].
"You dont need F-22 for both simultaneous wars -- just the biggest one," Ochmanek says. "With programmed modernization of the rest of the force -- specifically the F-35 -- it is deemed adequate to deal with other regional threats. The judgment was made that the mix was adequate."
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, 3rd -- a former Oklahoma judge who is now director of the Air National Guard (ANG) -- will not argue for more F-22 production, but he does contend that ANG units must train with the same equipment as the regular Air Force; otherwise they could become irrelevant. Moreover, he says reserve components will be critical in long conflicts when troops must be rotated regularly.
The singular features of the F-22 are critical for missions such as cruise missile defense. They include an operational altitude of 65,000 ft., supercruise and the ability to find small, stealthy targets with the Raptors infrared search-and-track, electronic surveillance, sensor fusion, beyond-line-of-sight communications and advanced radar arrays.
"This is not a call for more F-22s," Wyatt says. "Im only interested in capability," but that needs to start moving into the reserves and ANG soon. He believes that a bridge of fourth-generation aircraft would help, but only if they are equipped with fifth-generation sensors like those on the F-22.
Read the rest of this story, groove to the "assassin's mace," see how the Lightning II keeps its wings up and check out the Blue Berets' "dream machine" from our friends at Aviation Week, exclusively on Military.com.