- The Air Force’s top general is thinking about a future fighter fleet that does not include the F-22.
- Brown said recently that a future fleet could include the A-10, F-16, F-35, F-15EX, and the NGAD.
- The F-22 was the first fifth-generation stealth fighter.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The US Air Force is thinking about what its future fighter fleet might look like, and that picture apparently doesn’t include the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown said at a McAleese and Associates conference Wednesday that the service is trying to find the right mix of aircraft for the future fleet through an internal tactical air study, according to multiple reports.
“Right now we have seven fighter fleets,” Brown said, according to Defense One. “My intent is to get down to about four … really a four plus one,” with the A-10, a ground-attack aircraft rather than a pure fighter, as the plus-one.
The general said that the mix could include the A-10 and F-16 “for a while,” the F-35, which “will be the cornerstone” for the fleet, the F-15EX, and then the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter.
As Military.com notes, absent from Brown’s list were the F-22 and F-15E Strike Eagle.
An Air Force spokesperson told Air Force Magazine that the “F-22 is still undergoing modernization” and that “there are no plans to retire it in the near-term.”
The Air Force official explained that Brown is thinking more about the long-term. The F-22 will “eventually” retire, the spokesperson said, explaining that the platform’s likely successor will be the NGAD fighter, which Brown reportedly called “the air-superiority fighter of the future.”
The F-15EX, which is replacing the ageing fleet of F-15C/D fighters, could potentially replace the F-15E as well, the Air Force previously suggested.
Although the A-10 and the F-16 made the chief of staff’s list, the A-10 is not expected to serve beyond the 2030s, according to Air Force Magazine, and the Air Force, Brown said, is already thinking about the F-16 replacement, which could be “additional F-35, or something else into the future.”
“I don’t need to make that decision today,” Brown said. “That’s probably six, seven, eight years away into the future.”
Talking about the Air Force’s internal tactical air study, Brown stated the service will “look across the board, [at] all of our combat aircraft, our attack, our fighter portfolio,” adding that the Air Force is really looking “for a window of options, because the facts and assumptions based on a threat will change over time.”
The F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, fifth-generation stealth air-dominance and multi-role fighter that first flew in 1997 and entered service in 2005.
The fighter did not fly a combat mission though until 2014, two years after the Air Force received its last F-22 fighters. The program was capped at 187 jets, and 186 are currently in service.