The latest critic of the U.S. Air Force’s ambitious — and pricey — plan for an all-stealth fighter fleet is one of the flying branch’s top stealth pilots.
Writing in the Air Force Research Institute’s Air & Space Power Journal, Lt. Col. Christopher Niemi, a former F-22 test pilot who later commanded a frontline squadron of the radar-evading jets, says the Air Force is making a big mistake by buying only the most expensive stealth fighters — namely, the F-22 and the newer F-35.
“An all-stealth Air Force fighter fleet deserves reconsideration,” Niemi asserts (.pdf). “Stealth technology demands significant trade-offs in range, security, weapons carriage, sortie generation, and adaptability. Stealth provides no advantage in conflicts such as those in Afghanistan or Iraq (since 2003), and (despite its obvious utility) it cannot guarantee success in future struggles with a near-peer adversary.”
“Most importantly,” Niemi adds, “the cost of F-22s and F-35s threatens to reduce the size of the Air Force’s fielded fighter fleet to dangerously small numbers, particularly in the current fiscal environment.”