View Full Version : F-22 versus F-18G growler

07-09-2009, 03:23 PM
The need for more F/A-18G electronic warfare aircraft played heavily in the decision to halt F-22 production at 187 jets, says U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says it is important for operational reasons to keep the F-18 production line running. (JEWEL SAMAD / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE)

Cartwright told the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 9 that he was one of the "most vocal and ardent supporters" of ending the Raptor program at 187. Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the decision, along with about 50 other program cuts, in early April.

Cartwright, appearing before the panel for a confirmation hearing as part of his nomination for a second stint as vice chairman, said the Joint Staff and Air Force had just concluded a study on sizing the F-22 fleet.

He said the study concluded it was more important to focus on fielding fighters for all three services "because of how we deploy." It ultimately endorsed ending the F-22 program at 187 jets and fielding more F-35s and both models of the F-18 fighter.

Cartwright said the latter jet's Growler model, designed for electronic warfare tasks, became a key part of the decision to halt the F-22 program.

That's because the military's war fighting commanders, in conversations with Cartwright, all expressed a desire for more aerial EW capability. And right now, that means more Growlers.

Cartwright said Pentagon brass have three priorities for tactical aircraft: field fifth-generation fighters; "keep a hot production line"; and keep open the F-18 production line, largely to maintain the flow of new Growlers.

The latter is key, he told the panel, because a hot F-18 line means "we can also produce front-line fighters" - the F/A-18 E and F models - for traditional fighter aircraft missions.

Lockheed Martin makes the F-22 and F-35 fighters; Boeing makes the F/A-18.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee in their versions of 2010 defense authorization legislation have added funds for more F-22s.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the 2010 defense authorization bill is scheduled to lead off the full Senate's agenda next week.

Meantime, in written answers to policy questions posed by the Senate panel, Cartwright called for changes in the makeup of the Pentagon's Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC). The panel is composed of the vice chairman and the vice chiefs of the military services; it is charged with validating service requirements for new weapon systems.

He advocates officially designating the Joint Staff vice chairman as the chair of the council, with new powers.

One idea he endorsed is "investing the chairman of the JROC with the authority to make the final decision on the requirements after having heard and reviewed the membership positions of the members of the council."

He also wants to expand the council by adding members from the combatant commands, the Pentagon policy shop, the office of the Pentagon acquisition chief and the Defense Department comptroller's office. Such a move, he wrote, would "ensure the JROC clearly understands the war fighter's concerns and issues before decisions are made."

Under his proposal, the acquisition, policy and comptroller representatives would be made "permanent members."

Cartwright also wants the JROC chair to be given the authority to field out work to military commanders.

The vice chairman "should have the authority to delegate, when appropriate … decision-making authority to the commander of a functional combatant command for specific capabilities or a portfolio of capabilities," Cartwright wrote.

Cartwright's written testimony also told the panel Pentagon leaders have concluded "there are not enough ISR assets to support requirements in Afghanistan, and those are growing." The vice chairman did not disclose any efforts to field more ISR systems.

Additionally, under questioning from Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Cartwright said the military will need to develop a new nuclear-capable bomber aircraft.

Adm. Robert Willard, appearing before the panel at the same time for his confirmation hearing to become U.S. Pacific Command chief, agreed.

The military officials said the Pentagon is conducting a high-level Nuclear Posture Review that will play a large role in determining how the department will proceed with future bomber plans.

The next-generation nuclear bomber they envision, Cartwright said, could be a different aircraft than the military's next conventionally armed bomber, or "it could be a different variant" of that plane.

The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review ordered the Air Force to field a new bomber by 2018 - but that date is now in question. Gates has frozen that program, pending outcomes of the nuclear study and the 2010 QDR.