US commanders say 5th-gen fighters will be ‘critical’ in a war. Here’s how F-35s and F-22s stack up to Russia’s and China’s best jets.
At a House Armed Services Committee hearing in April, Reps. John Garamendi and Donald Norcross — chairmen of the tactical air and land forces and readiness subcommittees, respectively — made clear their frustration with the program and told the military not to expect additional money for it.
In March, Adm. Philip S. Davidson, then head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that fifth-generation fighters “are the backbone of any of our planning for a crisis forward in the theater” and called them “critical to any future war-fight we might have.”
Two days later, Adm. John C. Aquilino, Davidson’s successor, told the committee that he “would be concerned if we lessened our capacity of fifth-generation airplanes. I think they are needed to win.”
At separate Senate and House Armed Services Committee hearings in April, Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, said the F-35 was needed “to ensure that we have the competitive advantage” and that the US and its allies would be “weakened” if its production was reduced.
Introduced in 2005 and 2016, respectively, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II were intended to usher in a new era in which stealth technology played a dominant role in the Air Force’s fighter inventory.
“The F-35 and the F-22 are fundamentally related. They are cousins,” Douglas Birkey, the executive director of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Power Studies, told Insider.
The jets were to work in tandem, with the F-22 as the air-to-air dominance platform and the F-35 excelling at ground-strike missions, though it was also capable of air-to-air combat.