By John T. Bennett - 03/17/11 03:55 PM EDT
Under questioning from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said it would be his "expectation" that F-22 fighters "would be in use" during "the early days" of a no-fly zone mission.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chambliss pressed the air chief about whether non-stealthy U.S. combat jets like the F-15 could safely evade Libyan anti-aircraft systems and radars.
Schwartz said the service would use multiple kinds of aircraft to electronically disrupt Libyan radars, while fighter jets and bomber aircraft slipped in to take out missile batteries and other systems.
"But isn't this what the F-22 was designed for?" Chambliss asked, prompting Schwartz's confirmation that the Raptor fleet likely would see its first combat action if Washington goes forward with the mission.
Chambliss has long been perhaps Congress's biggest supporter of the F-22, which is built by Lockheed Martin in Georgia. The Pentagon halted the program at 187 models, with officials saying the price tag had become too expensive for a jet designed for Soviet-era threats.