Saturday, July 18, 2009

F-22 Raptor and other Oddities

The effects of the military-industrial complex upon our politics only becomes most obvious when an attempt is made to cut a program. A fight has broken out between the White House and congress over the F-22 program. The problem with the F-22 is it's a program looking for a justification and the very definition of a boondoggle. The Raptor is not of use to any of the current strategic issue for the United States. I heard one caller on the radio put it "the president and the Secretary of Defense want to prepare to fight terrorist, congress wants to prepare to fight aliens" One would think, with the President, the Defense Secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff supporting the decision to cut the program, congress would go along. Alas.
Congress decided to end production of the costly F-22 Raptor fighter jet at 187 planes after a debate on the 2009 supplemental war budget last month. But the very next day, the House Armed Services Committee stripped $369 million for environmental cleanup from the fiscal 2010 budget to fund an additional 12 F-22s. The Senate Armed Services Committee went a step further, providing $1.75 billion for seven more F-22s without clearly identifying the source of funds.
The F-22 costs nearly $150 million per plane - twice what was projected at the outset of the program. Factoring in development costs, the price tag increases to about $350 million per plane for the current fleet of 187.

It may look as if the House Armed Services Committee has added "only" $369 million. But given that it would provide funds for 12 additional F-22s, each with a price tag of $150 million (excluding development costs), the real cost to American taxpayers would be about $2 billion.

The F-22 is the most capable air-to-air fighter in the Air Force inventory. Yet it has only limited air-to-ground attack capabilities, which makes it unsuitable for today's counter-insurgency operations. In fact, the F-22 has never been used in either Iraq or Afghanistan. It was designed to fight next-generation Soviet fighters that never materialized, and, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has noted, it is nearly useless for irregular warfare.

The fact that the project has a massive budget overrun is not an accident, when the project was first proposed its cost was purposely lowballed. Part of congress's reluctance is also due to the fact that pieces of Raptor program were purposely placed in a number of politically potent districts.
The Raptor, by the way, is vulnerable to rain.
The United States' top fighter jet, the Lockheed Martin F-22, has recently required more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the skies, pushing its hourly cost of flying to more than $44,000, a far higher figure than for the warplane it replaces, confidential Pentagon test results show.

The aircraft's radar-absorbing metallic skin is the principal cause of its maintenance troubles, with unexpected shortcomings -- such as vulnerability to rain and other abrasion -- challenging Air Force and contractor technicians since the mid-1990s, according to Pentagon officials, internal documents and a former engineer.

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