Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.) wrote about the Air Force's plan to buy 339 new F-22 fighters at a cost of $40 billion over the next 10 to 15 years ["Why the F-22 Fighter Plan Doesn't Fly," op-ed, Aug. 2]. They rightly questioned the Pentagon's proposal in the face of budgetary concerns.

However, they do not face the fact that advancements in science and technology do not stop future adversarial nations such as China and Russia from developing advanced air-to-air and ground-to-air missiles that pose a threat to our aging F-15 fighters.

To delay F-22 fighter production would increase costs and overturn estimated budget caps on the program. A termination of the program would be even more illogical in the face of future threats and the $25 billion in engineering, manufacturing and development costs already spent. The development of a new fighter design in the next century would be more costly.

The representatives are right that the Pentagon's tactical aircraft modernization plan for the F-22, F/A-18E/F and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is too costly when other areas need funding as well. The proposed $223 billion JSF is an aircraft development program that neither the Air Force nor the Navy wanted in the first place. It is another F-111 in disguise.

The Air Force needs to rethink its force mix of tactical aircraft. Without the F-22 fighter, the air battle would be left to the F-15, and U.S. air dominance likely would be diminished. The need for the Joint Strike Fighter disappears if we cannot control the air battle. With control of the air, the F-16 fighter can maintain its role right behind the F-22; therefore the JSF replacement is not needed at this time.

A force mix of F-22s and F-16s can meet our need for future air dominance. Buying more F-22s would significantly drop the cost per unit. In addition, selling F-22s to our allies would help reduce per-unit costs.

Rep. Lewis and Rep. Murtha should stop attacking the F-22 program and request an Air Force review of its role in the Joint Strike Fighter.

DAVID AKERS

Marietta, Ga.

The writer is a senior engineer specialist at Lockheed Martin.