Category Archives: Future of War

The Future Fighter Force

To discuss the future US Air Force (USAF) fighter force requirements, the basic strategy for future air support of major combat operations (MCO) conflict needs to be understood.  The USAF has to be ready to prosecute air superiority missions in an environment where adversary’s modern air defense systems and fighter aircraft could deny the US the ability to operate its 4th generation fighters.  The future fighter force has to be capable of eliminating that threat.  However, once the air defenses are eliminated there is no need for the 5th generation aircraft to conduct missions.  Without air defenses, a 4th or a 3rd generation fighter aircraft can be effective, especially when combined with precision weapons.  Similar to what is currently happening in Iraq and Syria where the 4th generation US fighter aircraft dominate.  What the USAF needs is a mix of very capable and moderately capable aircraft.  The future composition of USAF fighter force should consist of the minority of very capable “day one” of the war platforms and the majority of still capable but less expensive “day one” plus platforms.  That is, a platform to kick the door down by destroying the adversary’s aircraft and air defense systems and then a platform to bring the majority of the firepower to battlefield after the air defenses have been destroyed or degraded.  Additionally, the less advanced and less expensive to operate fighter platforms could also be used in other conflicts such as counter-insurgency or any other operation short of full scale MCO not requiring a 5th generation fighter.

It is not news that the USAF needs a replacement for the aging fighter aircraft that compose the bulk of its frontline fighters.  The current fighter fleet is old, with many fighters dating back to the 1980s.  The F-35 program which was initially conceived for all three services to replace the aging fighter fleets does not appear to be the answer.  There is an example, 40 years in the past, of a program that produced a similar outcome, the F-111.  Just as the F-111 was initially conceived as a multi-service platform, the F-35 is one as well.  However, that same mix of differing requirements is what limits its performance.  At the base of it, the F-35 is not as good of an airplane design as other current fighters because of multi-service compromises.  The F-111 experienced similar problems, which was one of the reason the US Navy bought the F-14 instead.  However, as the F-111 transitioned to the electronic warfare (EW) platform the EF-111, the F-35 can transition to a similar platform, the EF-35.  The F-35 aircraft is well suited for that role and has inherent self-defense capabilities for Beyond Visual Range (BVR) engagements that the EF-111 lacked, such as the AIM-120 internally carried air to air missile.  Its EW mission will also keep it outside Within Visual Range (WVR) engagements of adversary aircraft, the engagement range where it appears to perform worse than the currently fielded F-16.  The F-35 can transition to become the EF-35, a fighter EW aircraft, possessing a capability the USAF does not currently have but could definitely use in the future.

So what is the exact mix of fighters that the USAF should possess?  The two aircraft needed are the upgraded F-22 and the upgraded F-16.  To remain as a viable form of US instrument of power, the USAF has to plus up the F-22 fleet with upgraded F-22s, and completely replace the current F-16 fleet with an upgraded one.  Both aircraft are a good fit because both are inherently well designed airplanes.  The F-22 is a 5th generation aircraft without equal and performs well both in BVR and WVR engagements.  While the F-16, if upgraded to the F-16 E/F+ level, can become a lethal 4.5+ generation fighter aircraft capable of surviving in a modern air defense environment and still perform well in BVR and WVR engagements.  The F-16 E/F+ would be the US version of the United Arab Emirates F-16 Block 60 aircraft.  That model is the best F-16 design to date and, if updated, would provide an equivalent upgrade of an F-16 from a 1990s cellphone to a today’s smartphone.  Both upgraded aircraft would complement each other, with the F-22s capable of destroying or disrupting the most capable air defenses, while the F-16s would provide support and the bulk of ordinance. With modern and integrated avionics the F-16E/F+ would be capable of supporting the F-22s even on “day one” of MCO, especially combined with EF-35 electronic warfare support.

To be even better, both F-16 and F-22 airplanes could be redesigned with ease of maintenance and upgrades in mind because at any given time a certain number of fighter airplanes are down for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. The benefits in reducing the number of hours the airplanes are unavailable and the number of maintenance personnel required for their servicing could be immense.  The savings in maintenance personnel will also result in the corresponding savings in support personnel, leaving more funds available for training and platform upgrades.

So what about the numbers?  The number of F-22s should be increased from the current sub two hundred to at least five hundred.  Some of which could be stationed in the Pacific theater to deter China and some in European theater to deter Russia, with the rest located in the US and available for either theater support.  The new F-16s would completely replace every US active duty, reserve, and guard squadron F-16, which according the F-16.net is about 1,000 aircraft.  Combined together the future fighter force would be ready to handle any contingency from MCO to counter-insurgency.  The total price for the F-22 and F-16 buy would also be less compared to the current projected F-35 program price.  Given the F-16 estimated price of approximately $50M per aircraft, the total would come out to $50B dollars.  The F-22s, using the $187M per unit price would come out to $53B dollars, for a combined total of $103B, which is much less than the estimated $300B plus budgeted for the current F-35 program.

The future of USAF fighter force, and by extension the US military’s ability to project power, is at stake.  Without adjustment the Combat Air Forces are on the way to equipping their fighter units with an airplane that is less capable of WVR combat than the existing platforms.  As more and more studies are coming out showcasing the F-35 limitations, USAF has a choice.  It can continue with an airplane that has demonstrated limitation in multiple areas, or change direction and create a fighter force which will secure air dominance for the US well into this century.  Without air superiority nothing else the USAF does or any of the other Services do will be possible.  The reason for the dominance of the US military as an instrument of power is the ability of the USAF to assure complete air dominance anywhere in the world.  Such will only be possible in the future if the US is willing to invest in the fighter force of the future which is capable of destroying adversary air defenses and engaging the adversaries both in BVR and WVR combat.  For that, a mix of upgraded F-22s and F-16s would ensure US air supremacy anywhere in the world.

 

Update of the previous post “F-35 – The Echoes of F-111”

Joint Force and Baltic Defense

Using Joint Force the Baltic States can be successfully defended.  Though during the recent testimony before Congress, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said that: “Yes … the ones in Europe, really Russia. We don’t like it, we don’t want it, but yes, technically [we are] outranged, outgunned on the ground.”  This makes it appear that the US Army would not be able to repel possible Russian aggression against Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia.  The statement also appears to be backed up by the Rand Corporation Wargame Studies which concludes that the Russian military would conquer the three Baltic NATO States in a matter of days.  The study estimates that 60 hours is the time required for the 450 Russian tanks and accompanying troops to enter three capitals and win the war.  However, the study does not address air operations as they would happen in the real world.

As JP 3-0 publication, Joint Operations, 11 August 2011 states: Although individual Services may accomplish tasks and missions in support of Department of Defense (DOD) objectives, the primary way DOD employs two or more Services (from two Military Departments) in a single operation, particularly in combat, is through joint operations. US Army would not operate alone in such scenario.  Both US Air Force and US Navy would be there to support operations and contribute to the fight.  Unlike the study’s assumption, the Air War between US and Russia would not be a drawn out equally neutral conflict, but rather a decisive US victory as it has been the case in every air campaign for the past 25 years. Following which, combined arms employment with emphasis on air power can stop any Russian military aggression in its tracks.

In order to assess the possible Russian moves against the Baltic States and the ability of US military and NATO to defend against them, several possible courses of action need to be examined.  There are two different ways the Russian aggression could unfold.  First course of action is an operation similar to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014; the second is a war similar to the invasion of Georgia in 2008.

An operation similar to the annexation of Crimea is unlikely to succeed against a state willing to defend its territory.  It should be assumed that the Baltic States will do so if threatened by Russia.  The reason for Russian success in 2014 was not that they figured out some kind of never before seen brilliant tactic and strategy that baffled the Ukrainians.  The reason for their success was that Ukraine gave up Crimea without a fight.  That same strategy, called “hybrid warfare” involves combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, was also attempted in Eastern Ukraine, only at that time the Ukrainians finally decided to fight.  Their resistance led to initial setbacks for the Russian backed forces.  Only massive Russian material support and commitment of Russian combat units prevented separatist defeat and provided some measure of Russian success.  The lesson there is self-evident; in order for any state to survive in face of aggression, it has to have the will to fight.

While initially, the same “hybrid warfare” could be used by Russia in the Baltic States, the solution to the uniformed soldiers without insignia suddenly appearing in country is simple; fight them.  No government could allow its monopoly on force to be challenged by foreign or domestic enemies and still maintain legitimacy in the eyes of its people.  As such, should troops in Russian uniforms without insignia suddenly appear in the Baltics, the right way to deal with them is through force.  However, NATO needs to be ready; as the force used against disguised Russian troops could lead directly to a full scale Russian invasion, similar to what happened in Ukraine.

According to previously mentioned Rand study, the following are the parameters of such invasion.  The US would have a week of warning.  The air war would be indecisive and the US and allied forces would be defeated in 60 hours.  The study devotes just a few paragraphs to combined arms operations, and focuses mostly on how the US Army could win if it had more ground forces at its disposal.  Therein lays the problem.  Without US air superiority, how would these additional troops be able to fight effectively?  Without air superiority how would they be supplied?  The US Army has not faced an adversary air attack in more than 50 years.  While the Russian Air Force is not the world’s premier, it has recently demonstrated some capability in Syria against ground forces lacking air defenses.  It is fallacy to think that the US armored and mechanized formations could operate in face of adversary air superiority.  The way to victory on the ground is control of the air above.

Given one week’s worth of warning, the US and allies, according to Rand, would have 18 squadrons of combat aircraft in theater against an estimated 27 Russian combat squadrons.  The study also concludes that given the Russian Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) combined with the Russian squadrons, the US and allies would be incapable of establishing air superiority.  Nothing is further from the reality.  The absolute number of airplanes means very little.  It would matter a lot if unthinking robots flew those airplanes, but not when people are involved.  What matters then are unit training, skills, experience, and the will to fight and win.  Even the numerically outnumber 18 Allied squadrons mentioned in the study would be able to neutralize the 27 Russian squadrons in very short order and while at the same time suppressing the Russian SAMs.  US Air Force is designed exactly for this kind of fight.

The ability to create an effective integrated air defense by the Russian Air Force is also doubtful.  More likely the Russians would lose a lot of their airplanes to friendly fire if they attempted to employ aircraft and SAM systems to contest the same piece of airspace.  Even the US military lost more fighters to friendly ground fire during the invasion of Iraq and it had complete control of the air during the invasion.

With the Russian Air and Surface defenses eliminated, Russian armored columns would be defenseless.  US and allied bomber and fighter aircraft would then find and destroy every Russian military vehicle moving inside the Baltic States.  As the Rand study mentions the Baltic region has good roads, but the off-road capability is difficult.  As such, the Russian armored columns, restricted to roads, would be an ideal target for US and allied air power.  Once stripped of their air defenses, the Russian armored forces would be quickly rendered non-combat effective, similar to what happened to the Iraqi army on “the highway of death” during the First Gulf War.  That result was accomplished with a 1980s air force, not a modern air force outfitted with precision weapons.  Today, precision fighter and bomber strikes against enemy ground forces traveling along predictable routes have only one possible outcome, complete destruction.  A more recent example of that effect was during Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011 which shows exactly what happens to an armored ground force attacked by aircraft.  With Russian armor destroyed, the 12 allied battalions, estimated to be present at the start of hostilities including indigenous Baltic infantry battalions, could round up the disorganized Russian troops and stop the invasion.

Despite the recent pronouncements, the Baltics can be defended.  If the US wants to make an even clearer point to the Russians that it is ready to repel any aggressive move against the three Baltic members of NATO, then more fighter squadrons permanently located in Europe is the answer.  However, the Baltic States can be defended with the current force structure.  The US Army could be theoretically outgunned if it operated in the world where US Air Force does not exist and has no ability to establish air superiority/supremacy.  Then again, it would be extremely difficult for the US Army to be combat effective if it had to fight in the face of established enemy air superiority.  To win against a near peer adversary such as Russia, air power is the decisive factor.  US Army will not be outgunned if called to defend the Baltic States because the US Air Force and US Navy will be there to contribute and shape the battlefield as part of a Joint Force as codified in the Joint Doctrine.

Time to Retire the A-10

It is long past time for the A-10 to retire.  There are many reasons to get rid of the aircraft and only one to keep it.  It is an outstanding Close Air Support (CAS) platform, but it lacks in every other mission a fighter aircraft is expected to perform.  This is especially important if the US is confronted by near peer adversaries employing 4th and 4.5th generation fighters and double digit Surface to Air Missiles (SAM). It is not the fighter of choice for strategic attack (SA), air interdiction (AI), defensive counter air (DCA), or suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD).  All missions which are performed by the multi-role aircraft.

A-10 excels at unopposed CAS, which means that the air superiority or supremacy has been established by other air platforms.  The A-10 aircraft was originally designed to engage Soviet armor with the precision weapon of the day, the Maverick missile, supplemented by the 30mm Gatling gun. While an outstanding design for the time when most of the US Air Force fighters carried only non-guided bombs, the airplane has outlived its usefulness in the current day and age.  For today’s wars, the USAF has a whole family of GBU (Guided Bomb Units) precision weapons available to engage the enemy.  They can be used and are employed by a variety of platforms.

The idea that you need to fly slow and low for CAS is also false. It is actually about 30 years out of date.  Today, all of the fixed wing fighters carry some variant of a targeting pod which allows them to provide precision air support while remaining outside of visual range of the adversary troops on the ground.  In both Iraq and Afghanistan the vast majority of CAS missions are flown by other aircraft such as the F-16, F-15E, B-1B, and even the B-52.  These aircraft provide the same amount of firepower and precision, while also being much faster than the A-10, which actually makes them better platforms to perform the CAS mission in a time sensitive situation.  Given a hypothetical troops in contact situation where there is an immediate danger to the US or allied personnel on the ground, do the troops under enemy fire want to wait for an hour for the slow flying A-10 to get there or do they want an F-16 which can be overhead in 15 minutes, ready to employ weapons?  I know which I would choose, the F-16.

Other fighters are also capable of conducting other diverse missions such as SEAD or DCA, while the A-10 is incapable of doing so.  It is a slow aircraft and lacks radar to track and engage other aircraft.  The A-10’s armor also means nothing if it gets engaged by double digit SAM systems or enemy aircraft, the adversary systems which can only be suppressed or destroyed by the multi-role fighter such as the F-16CJ.   Armor is only a good investment if you are planning to fly close to the ground, in full view of ground troops, a course of action which is not necessary if the aircraft is equipped with a targeting pod.  It is no coincidence that over the past 15 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq not a single fighter has been shot down by the insurgents, this despite the fact that none of the fighters except for the A-10 are armored.

Even while executing the CAS mission, the A-10 has limitations.  It would be hard pressed to conduct CAS if the adversary is capable of conducting air sorties to oppose it, since the aircraft is not designed to engage in air combat.  While on the other hand, a pair of F-16s can provide CAS in contested environment, detect enemy aircraft that are threatening them, eliminate them via air combat and go back to providing CAS to the troops on the ground.  A flexibility the A-10 is incapable of.  The A-10 is really good at a few missions only, such as unopposed CAS, while other aircraft such as F-16, F-15E, or F-35 are multi-role and provide the best mix of capabilities for the money spent.

Lastly, the best reason to get rid of the A-10 is to free up the fighter pilots for other aircraft.  This is especially important, given the current fighter pilot shortage in the US Air Force.  While the F-35 is not the best way forward for the Air Force, it is vastly better and provides a lot more capabilities than the A-10 ever did.  At the end of the day the specific aircraft platform is not that important, what is important are the capabilities that platform provides.  The troops supported by CAS aircraft don’t care what specific aircraft provides them that support.  If they had a choice I’m sure they would opt for something that is above them 24-7 every day of the week, stocked with unlimited weapons.  I’m exaggerating slightly, but at the end, the effects by the multi-role aircraft operating as CAS platforms are essentially the same as the A-10.  While at the same time the multi-role aircraft are capable of conducting the wide variety of mission A-10 is incapable of.  Missions such as SEAD and AI which are essential to establishing air superiority/supremacy, an outcome upon which the rest of the US military power rests on in every conflict.

 

 

 

One Small Step in the Right Direction

This week’s announcement that the naval variant of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft is being cancelled and redesigned as a tanker is a small step in the right direction.  You can read the article here about the program’s change of direction “Carrier-based unmanned jet is DOD budget loser.”  The idea of unmanned fighter is long overdue to be consigned to the dustbin of history.  The design of such an airplane, while sounds like a winner, is actually one of the worst ideas in fighter aviation.  The idea that at some point in the future an unmanned fighter will rule the skies can only be fathomed by someone who understands nothing of fighter operations and air combat.

There are a number of problems that go in hand with having an unmanned fighter/bomber combat aircraft system (UCAS).  First and foremost, the pilot in the fighters of today is not just there to push buttons; rather he/she is there to use their creativity to adjust the initial battle plan to the situation in the air.  War, unlike what some may believe, is one of the most unpredictable events and only human mind can provide the creativity needed for victory.  That is, unless artificial intelligence is developed; in which case it could rival human creativity. But then, why would it fight for us?  I’ve mentioned this in my previous posts, that the idea that you can force a thinking machine to fight for you is ludicrous.   So assuming the UCAS would be a robot, not an AI, it would have a number of significant disadvantages over human fighter aircraft.

How would such a system find other enemy aircraft or ground targets?  In the real world, there are a number of issues that would limit its ability to do so including concealment camouflage and deception (CCD) and electronic counter measures (ECM).  In any combat scenario a robotic aircraft would have to figure out who and where the enemy was without having 100% of information available due to the fog of war, CCD, and ECM.  The same would apply to the unmanned bomber aircraft.  While it would be pretty easy to program it to fly to a point in space and release weapons on a set of coordinates, what happens if the target it was programed against is not there or it can’t find it.  It would have to adapt.  As such, it would need human touch and intuition.  That could be provided by long range datalink.  However, those could be jammed by an adaptive adversary, in which case the unmanned aircraft would have to rely on their programming to succeed.  And as mentioned before, no program can be more creative than a human, except possibly AI.

Air combat would be especially difficult for a robotic aircraft to handle.  What most people don’t understand is that air combat is not just aircraft shooting missiles at each other to see who gets hit first.  It is an art that has certain tactics which are adjusted by the pilots in unexpected and creative ways based on the changing combat situation.  This is only possible because of the inherent human creativity.  Such creativity cannot be programed into a robot.  As such, the fighter aircraft will always have a thinking pilot in it if we want to have the most lethal Air Force in the world.  Every air combat situation is different and impossible to model to a 100% certainty.

However, there is still a future for the unmanned aircraft in the armed forces.  Surveillance is one of the tasks it is ideally suited for.  Another is listed in the article mentioned in the first paragraph, air refueling.  Yet another place an unmanned airplane is a great fit is cargo transportation.  What do all of these tasks have in common?  They don’t required human creativity and ingenuity to succeed.  Even now the pilots flying these missions spend 99% of their time just monitoring the systems and the other 1% taking off and landing.  Really, when you think about it, all of the mundane and unchanging tasks can be automated with robots.  What can’t be replaced are those tasks requiring human mind to succeed and air combat is definitely one of those areas.  As such, it is good to see the Navy recognizing the limitations of the UCAS and transitioning the program in the direction where it could actually work, air refueling.  A step in the right direction.

F-35 Fiasco – The Echoes of F-111

New F-35 Mission

It becomes clearer and clearer every day that the F-35 airplane is a failure as a future frontline fighter aircraft.  A failure we can ill afford to pursue as the possibility of the inter-state conflict becomes more real every year.  The program which was initially conceived for all three services to replace their aging fighter fleet is the victim of that same design.  Just as the F-111 was initially conceived as a multi service platform, a task at which it failed, the F-35 will fail as well.  One need only to type “F-16 vs F-35” into Google and the latest failure report comes out.  At the base of it, the F-35 is just a bad airplane design because of multi-service compromises, just like the F-111 was.  The Navy, as with F-111, saw the fiasco coming and invested in only 200 or so F-35 units, which is why they slowly recapitalized their fighter fleet with the proven and upgraded F-18E/F.   It wouldn’t even be surprising if at some point in the future the Navy totally pulled out of the F-35 program as they did with F-111 and focus on something better.

For the US Air Force (USAF) the time has come to admit failure and change direction.  While given its technologies the F-35 will at some point be an okay Beyond Visual Range (BVR) platform, the poor design is a proven a failure at the Within Visual Range (WVR) fight.  The recent F-16 vs F-35 test showed exactly that.  The report would have been even worse if the F-16 would have been flown in a combat configuration without wing tanks, which any pilot would jettison prior to engaging in the WVR air to air combat.  While the defenders of the F-35 are saying the F-35 will never need to engage in WVR fight, it sounds as if we have been transported 50 years in the past.  The same was said of the F-4, and that turned out to be completely wrong.  To imagine that in major combat operations that the F-35 will not need to engage in WVR is folly.  For every electronic capability, there is a counter electronic capability.  To think that our adversaries are not working on counter F-35 technology is naive.  If the F-35 stealth and electronic capability was ever neutralized it would be in a world of hurt, just like the stealthy F-117 over Bosnia in 1999.  However, there is a different way forward.

With regards to the F-35, the Air Force should immediately halt the buys.  There is no reason to throw good money after the bad.  The small F-35 fleet of 200 airplanes should be capped as is.  And while the F-35 does not have a future as a front-line fighter aircraft, it can have a future as an electronic warfare (EW) aircraft.  Much like the EF-111, and the EA-18G, the F-35 can still serve a useful purpose.  The aircraft is well suited for the role and has inherent self-defense capabilities that the EF-111 lacked, such as the AIM-120 internally carried air to air missile.  With slight modification an F-35 can become an EF-35, a capability which at this time the Air Force does not possess.  With that modification the Air Force can still find a useful employment for the aircraft, and add its capability to supplement the fighter force of future.  While providing standoff EW support for the aircraft engaged in combat operations there would not be a need for the EF-35 to ever go inside a WVR engagement and as such its WVR limitation would not apply to future combat.

Future Fighter Force

The US Air Force does need a replacement for the aging fighter aircraft that compose the bulk of its frontline fighters.  To do so the basic strategy for a future conflict needs to be understood.  What the USAF needs is a mix of very capable and capable aircraft, much like a super bowl team that has a few pro-bowl level players with solid mix of slightly above average players complementing them.  In the same way the future of USAF will have to consist of the minority of very capable day one of the war platforms and the majority of the day after platforms.  That is, someone to kick the door down by destroying the adversary’s most capable air defense systems and then someone to bring the majority of the firepower to bear after the defenses have been destroyed or degraded.

Luckily for the USAF the platforms in mind already exist or can become feasible in a very short order.  The two aircraft are the upgraded F-22 and the upgraded F-16.  To remain a viable form of military instrument of power the USAF has to plus up the F-22 fleet and completely replace the F-16 fleet.  Both aircraft are a good match because inherently both are well designed airplanes.  The F-22 is a 5th generation aircraft with no equal and performs well both in BVR and WVR engagements.  While the F-16 if upgraded to the F-16 E/F+ level can become a lethal 4.5 generation fighter aircraft.  Both aircraft would complement each other with the F-22 destroying or disrupting the most capable air defenses, while the F-16 would provide the bulk of ordinance in pursuit of US objectives.  With modern and integrated avionics the F-16E/F+ would be capable of supporting the F-22s even on day one of the war, especially with EF-35 support.

To be even better both airplanes could be redesigned with ease of maintenance and upgrades in mind.  For those not familiar with fighter operations, at any given time a certain number of airplanes are down for scheduled and unscheduled maintenance.  If the time it takes to conduct each could be reduced, the benefits in reducing the number hours the airplanes are unavailable and the number of maintenance personnel required for their servicing could be immense.  The savings in maintenance personnel will also result in the corresponding savings in support personnel.  Add to that the coming robotics revolution and it is not too far-fetched to imagine robots doing most of routine maintenance with minimal human supervision, further reducing the personnel requirement.  While not possible now to incorporate robotic maintenance, both upgraded F-22s and F-16s could be redesigned with that future and ease of avionic upgrade in mind.

So what about the numbers?  The savings from stopping the F-35 program could be translated into new purchases for the F-22 and F-16.  The number of F-22 has to be increased from the current sub two hundred to at least five hundred.  Some of which could be stationed in the Pacific and some in Europe, with the majority in the US available for either theater support.  The new F-16s would completely replace every US active duty, reserve, and guard squadron F-16, which according the F-16.net is about 1,000 aircraft.  The number is about right, especially combined with added F-22s and EF-35s.  Combined together the future fighter force would be ready to handle any contingency.  The total price would also be reduced with the F-16 estimated price of approx. $50M per aircraft the total would come out to $50B dollars.  The F-22s, using the $187M per unit price would come out to $53B dollars, for a combined total of $103B.  Which is much less than the estimated $300B plus slatted for the F-35 program.

The future of USAF fighter force and by extension the US military power is at stake.  Without adjustment the Combat Air Forces are on the way to equipping their fighter units with a poorly designed airplane that is not ready for all contingencies.  As more and more studies are coming out showcasing the F-35 limitation, USAF has a choice.  It can continue with a plan that has failed or change direction and create a fighter force which will secure air dominance for the US well into this century.  Without air superiority nothing else the USAF does or any of the other services do will be possible.  The reason for the dominance of the US military instrument of power is the ability of the USAF to assure complete air dominance anywhere in the world.  Such will only be possible in the future if the US is willing to invest in the fighter force of the future which is capable of engaging the adversaries both in BVR and WVR combat.  For that to happen the F-35 program in its current state has to be stopped.