Flying Against Reason
The House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Airland will meet today to receive testimony on the misguided F-22A multiyear procurement proposal.
The Raptor is arguably the most unnecessary weapon system currently built by the Pentagon. The performance of the current generation of Air Force fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as during the first Persian Gulf War, makes it clear that the Air Force already has the capability to easily achieve air superiority against any enemy or nation. Recognizing this strategic reality, the Air Force has added a ground attack or bombing mission to the Raptor.
Use of the world’s most expensive fighter for attacking ground targets is neither cost-effective nor technically feasible. This is a jet that travels at twice the speed of sound and costs $337 million to buy.
Last year the Pentagon requested and received $4.3 billion to purchase 24 more Raptor fighter jets during the 2006 fiscal year. In 1985, the Air Force claimed it could build about 750 of these stealth fighter jets for $35 million each, at a total cost of $26 billion. Yet during the last 20 years, the total program cost has increased and the number of planes has declined. Last year, the Air Force said it could purchase 279 Raptors for $72 billion; this year the Pentagon claims 181 planes for $61 billion.
The Air Force has spent $40 billion buying these fighter jets. Canceling it now will save $15.3 billion in anticipated future costs and leave the Air Force with about 100 of these planes or about four squadrons. This leaves more than enough capability to deal with a future competitor like China, which might develop a significant air-to-air capability.
In the summer of 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld understood this logic and moved to cancel the plane, backing off only when Secretary of the Air Force James Roche threatened to resign in retaliation. We urge the Airland Subcommittee to listen and act reasonably today when it hears testimony on the F-22A procurement proposal and to instead begin taking steps to place America’s defense funding into the channels that need it most.
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