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April 7, 2009

RIP F-22 Raptor

So the Obama administration is killing the F-22 fighter, which probably should never have been allowed to see daylight. From Greg Schneider's prescient story in The Sun 10 years ago:

Now the program has put the Pentagon in a predicament. Even if the Air Force can overcome the past and keep the F-22 program perfect from here on out, affording it is going to be a major challenge for a military swamped with other needs -- including two other types of fighters, a new generation of ships and costly missile defense systems.

"Looking at current defense budgets, the money will not be there around 2006 or 2008 when you have the cost," said Rep. Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican who won an award last year from the aerospace industry for advocating the F-22 and other warplanes in Congress.

The looming defense budget problem is a "train wreck" waiting to happen, Chambliss said. "There's no answer yet. One answer is to put more money in it. ... I don't know where it's going to come from, but we've simply got to put more money into defense."

Even President Clinton's plan to add $112 billion to defense spending over the next six years would not crack the problem of affording all the weapons the Pentagon has on order. And despite the promised "peace dividend" of the post-Cold War era, the nation already spends as much each year on the military as it did throughout the Cold War -- adjusted for inflation -- except for the peaks of Vietnam and the Reagan buildup.

Chambliss hasn't changed his support for the F-22, but he seems to be a lot less worried about budget deficits. Sez Chambliss:

“I am extremely disappointed in this decision by the Obama administration. America has maintained air dominance in every conflict since the Korean War, and now this administration is giving that advantage up and is willing to sacrifice the lives of American military men and women for the sake of domestic programs favored by President Obama,” said Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"This is purely a budget-driven decision. When this administration is spending trillions of taxpayer dollars on everything from bailing out a failing auto industry to policymakers’ pet projects at the expense of protecting our military men and women, its priorities are apparent. This decision will likely have long-term repercussions, as we don’t know who our next enemy will be."

Posted by Jay Hancock at 10:05 AM | | Comments (4)


So your saying that there aren't any countries out there looking for a fight? Because the F-22 is not a weapon of mass destruction or a ballistic missile platform. It is an anti air weapon made to dominate the sky and the political battlefield we live in. After seeing all the new iterations from the Sukhoi firm and the Mikoyan firm, I think you have no right to say that the F-22 should ever have existed.

Anyone reading this that is concerned with the F-22 should directly refer to Look up the F-22 Raptor and it’s (replacement) the F-35 Lightning II. What Sec. Gates stated was that he intends to complete the 183 F-22’s ordered then probably cancel production in favor of the F-35. Don’t get me wrong, the F-35 is 95% capable of what the F-22 is capable of at an extrememly reduced cost. The reasons for the cost difference is a combination of factors such as single engine (F-35) vs dual engine (F-22), smaller airframe, and most importantly that the F-35 is being developed, manufactured and exported by countries other than the US. It’s kind of a catch-22 (no pun intended) when talking about other countries’ involvement with the F-35 program. The US alone expects to procure over 2000 F-35’s to replace F-15’s, F-16’s and F-18’s. But that 2000 number does’t take into account how many other countries are going to build and/or buy. Look, I know that the USA needs her allies but we are not just selling F-35’s to the UK and Israel, we also are in contract with Turkey and in negotiations with China to sell them F-35’s as well. Take what you want from my rambling but I just feel as though we should keep the best for ourselves (which is why there is an export ban on F-22’s, even to our allies), but limiting ourselves to 183 F-22’s just turns my stomach. Sure the F-35 can do 95% of the job of the F-22 but Turkey will have them and maybe even China (and what’s to stop China from reselling them to other countries, we all know China does what it wants). Again, I really urge everyone to read the wikipedia pages on the two jets and I believe that anyone who is in favor of canceling the F-22 production over the proliferation program of the F-35 will change their minds. The Raptor is the Ferrari Enzo of fighter jets and the F-35 is more like a Porsche Carrera GT. Anyone can buy the Porsche who has the money but in order to buy the Enzo, you must have owned at least two Ferrari’s already. Both are very amazingly fast capable cars but the Enzo barely edges out the GT and is a car with exclusivity rights attached to it, just like the F-22. We have the Raptor and NO OTHER COUNTRY WILL EVER HAVE IT!

Ok, for starters the F-35 CANT do 95% of what the F-22 raptor can do. The raptor is an interceptor. Its such a lethal machine that they changed the name air-superiority (of F-15 fame) to air-dominance fighter. The red flag numbers state that the F-22 has a 30-1 kill ratio where the F-35 has a 3-1 kill rate (compared to the current top soviet fighters)(the F-15 and F-16 are about 1-1 now depending on the quality of the pilots). That being said, the F-22 is a “first day of war” fighter. It is intended to establish air-dominance while the F-35 goes and drops the bombs. An F-22 pilot said that shooting down top soviet planes or simulated soviet planes “F-15’s” was like “clubbing baby seals”. No contest.

Also, F-22’s don’t cost that much more than F-35’s. I don’t remeber the exact “correct” numbers but its about 150 million for an F-22 and 120 million for an F-35. Also keep in mind that the non-stealth eurofighter is about 135 million and the new “silent eagle” is about 110 million in todays dollars. Reporters play with the numbers so much that its hard to get a real idea of the true amounts spent. Some reporters that want to kill the F-22 always say its a 350 million dollar aircraft. What they dont tell you is about half of that has already been paid for in the 1985-2008 budget as research. Oh, and when you build 2500 aircraft as opposed to 186 aircraft the numbers fluctuate wildly too. So next time you see a report on how much a military item costs. Do a little digging and find out what the “per unit/ per units built” cost is. Its a much more accurate number.

The F-22 is going to be around for 50 years. So in 2060 it is a much better bet than an F-35 v. whatever the Russians and Chinese come up with in that time. The main US advantage in any war is control of the sky. We achieved this with the P-51 Mustang, Saber, F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle. The chain must continue. This is the most important piece of military hardware that we field. If we ever went to war with a “real” opponent the first and most important struggle will be ownership of the skies. If we were to lose that, we would be in big trouble.

Stalin said, “Quantity has a quality all its own”. In WWII the Germans had 6000 Panther tanks and 1500 Tiger tanks. It can be argued that these were the best and most powerful tanks on the soviet front. Germans have a nack for going quality over quantity. Well, the Soviets churned out 60,000ish T-34’s. They were good enough and you know how the rest of this story goes. 186 is NOT ENOUGH F-22’s. The F-22 can carry 6 medium range missiles internally. So your 30-1 kill ratio really turns into a 6-1 kill ratio. If you use guns or short range “sidewinders” you loose “stealth” and it becomes a more 1-1 up close and dirty dog fight. Point being. You need more than 186 planes to give you that “club a baby seal” dominance all over the world. There are about 600 F-15s in the US Air Force and you aren’t gona replace that coverage with 186 of anything. Sure, sure the F-35 will fill in now…but what about 2060?

From what i have heard of the F-22 Raptor, it probably shouldn't have been built, due to the cost and how little it has been used since it was built. My idea is to put the few Raptors we have to use more often, and save the designs for when the rest of the word actually ketches up to the point that we actually need the Raptor.

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About Jay Hancock
Jay Hancock has been a financial columnist for The Baltimore Sun since 2001. He has also been The Baltimore Sun's diplomatic correspondent in Washington and its chief economics writer. Before moving to Baltimore in 1994 he worked for The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk and The Daily Press of Newport News.

His columns appear Tuesdays and Sundays.

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