An Era Begins Closing On F-22

"We support the final four F-22s proposed in the fiscal 2009 supplemental request, as this will aid the long-term viability of the F-22 fleet. But the time has come to close out production. That is why we do not recommend that F-22s be included in the fiscal 2010 defense budget.

"Make no mistake: Air dominance remains an essential capability for joint warfighting. The F-22 is a vital tool in the military's arsenal and will remain in our inventory for decades to come. But the time has come to move on."

So concludes a piece in the Washington Post by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz is chief of staff of the Air Force.

One week after Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended cutting the F-22 and other high tech programs, Donley and Schwartz gave their reasons why.

It's another reminder about the choices that even the budget-rich Pentagon is having to make these days. Despite lobbying, ad campaigns and such from manufacturers Lockheed Martin and Boeing, it looks like the end of production is near.

Here's the Air Force Times' take:

"The Air Force's top two leaders explained in a newspaper op-ed Monday that they recommended capping production of the F-22 Raptor program because they couldn't justify spending billions more on stealth fighters when other higher service priorities exist and money is tight."


"Schwartz and Donley acknowledged they had wanted an F-22 fleet of 243 but came to realize "buying more F-22s means doing less of something else." The $13 billion for the 60 additional fighters could be better used to repair the service's nuclear enterprise, ramp up its unmanned aircraft fleet and better fight irregular wars.

"The leaders pointed out they remain dedicated to air superiority and have confidence that a combination of the 187 F-22 fleet Congress has approved and the 2,443 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters the Defense Department plans to buy will provide that.

"As Gates continues to guide the Defense Department away from Cold War-era weapons programs and shape the services to fight both irregular and conventional wars, Schwartz and Donley said F-22 requirements changed."

The folks at the Project On Government Oversight have given a great deal of thought and scrutiny to Pentagon spending. Here's what they had to say after the Post piece appeared:

"Donley and Schwartz say that while the Air Force's warfighting assumptions have differed from the Department in the past--the DoD/Air Force tomaeto-tomahto fight has been a pronounced difference from the Air Force favoring 60 additional aircraft--they recognize that budget constraints are forcing them to make choices:

"Within a fixed Air Force and overall Defense Department budget, our challenge is to decide among many competing needs. Buying more F-22s means doing less of something else. In addition to air superiority, the Air Force provides a number of other capabilities critical to joint operations for which joint warfighters have increasing needs. These include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, command and control, and related needs in the space and cyber domains.

"All of this largely echoes Gates's themes that DoD needs to set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs. In addition to all of the spending we're seeing through the stimulus and TARP, it's great to see another signal that DoD is seriously considering costs as part of their procurement strategy."

By Robert O'Harrow |  April 13, 2009; 4:46 PM ET defense
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Don't worry, China will build at least 243 of their 5th generation fighter, and then when we are considering engagement with our most forimdable conventional adversary, we'll wish we fully funded the F-22.

Posted by: jessestubbs | April 13, 2009 9:15 PM

Stop whining Jesse. The F-35 is coming. You have to have some chutzpah to think you know more about this topic than the Air Force Chief of Staff. The F-35 won't stimulate the economy, especially Lockheed Martin's bottom line as much, but surely it will get the job done.

The Air Force's F-35A version of the craft is a conventional takeoff and landing airplane to replace the F- 16 Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II. It will partner with the F-22 Raptor. The Marine Corps, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force need and want a short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft, dubbed the F-35B. The Marines want new aircraft to replace their AV-8B Harriers and F/A-18 Hornets. The British want to replace Sea Harriers and GR.7 Tornado fighters. The Navy's F-35C version of the plane is a carrier-based strike fighter to complement the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. It will replace earlier versions of the F/A-18 as well as the A-6 Intruder, which already has left the inventory.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be:

Four times more effective than legacy fighters in air-to-air engagements
Eight times more effective than legacy fighters in prosecuting missions against fixed and mobile targets
Three times more effective than legacy fighters in non-traditional Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses and Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD/DEAD) missions
About the same in procurement cost as legacy fighters, but requires significantly less tanker/transport and less infrastructure with a smaller basing footprint

Posted by: cdierd1944 | April 13, 2009 9:45 PM

Actually, Jesse is right. The Air Force Chief of Staff wanted more than just 187 F-22s -- he just can't have them. The last Chief of Staff that asked for more than 187 was fired. So it's obvious that Gates simply fired anyone who openly disagreed with him and appointed a "yes-boy".

And cdierd1944 - simply copying and pasting Lockheed Martin's F-35 press kit information into your post doesn't make you an expert on high-performance aircraft.

The F-35 is a "strike" fighter - designed to avoid entanglements with other fighters and attack ground targets. It was designed to complement the F-22 - not act as a substitute. The F-22 was designed specifically to take on enemy fighters - the F-35 was not.

And this nonsense about the F-22 being a "cold war" weapon "designed to fight a Russian aircraft that doesn't exist" is complete hogwash, that is dogmatically repeated by journalists who don't know the first thing about aircraft.
The fact is, the F-22 was designed to fight the Su-27 - who's more capable derivative - the Su-30, is rolling off assembly lines and being sold all over the world.

The F-35 doesn't have the ability to super-cruise like the F-22 does. The F-35 doesn't have the maneuverability that the F-22 does. It doesn't have thrust vectoring, IR supression or the all aspect, low-RCS (stealth) that the F-22 does. It also can't fly at the altitudes that the F-22 can.

The Australian RAAF, Israeli air force and the Japanese air force all want to purchase the F-22 and don't want to get stuck with the watered-down dog that they know the F-35 to be.

Cancelling the F-22 only makes sense if you assume we're going to be fighting nothing more than guerilla wars for the next 40 years - which I think is a pretty stupid assumption on the part of Secretary Gates.

Posted by: mark78 | April 14, 2009 12:02 AM

If two nuclear armed, permanent Security Council members end up engaged in a full scale armed conflict, the lack of 60 F-22's will be the least of our concerns.

Posted by: ShaunEvans | April 14, 2009 9:23 AM

Two questions. What fifth generation Chinese fighter? The Chinese have yet to produce an effective indigenous first generation fighter. Their most notable effort to date, the Shenyang J-8 which first flew in 1981, is generally described as incorporating the very best 1950's Soviet technology. Second, if Su-30's are "being sold all over the world" just who is doing the buying? China bought a few export models some years back due to their lack of any effective modern alterative (see first question) but who else?

Posted by: brcolorado | April 14, 2009 10:24 AM

Many Pentagon officials propose a smaller and more effective and maneuverable force. Their equipment will effectively create more Jobs and employment opportunities.

The Pentagon's former acquisition boss, John Young, recently detailed why more F-22s might be a poor investment. The F-22s that exist are ready to fly only 62% of the time and haven't met most of their performance goals. "The airplane is proving very expensive to operate, not seeing the mission-capable rates we expected, and it's complex to maintain," Young said.

See: “Can Robert Gates Tame the Pentagon?”,9171,1879176,00.html

Money spent on Big ticket items is money not spent on creating jobs for other products in the best interests of our military forces. Why waste hundreds of Billions on a plane that has never saved a single life and is only operational 62% of the time, instead of thousands of more well trained and equipped troops with the latest body armor and automated weapons systems. Based on track record, we are better served with thousands of flying Drones like the Predator than tens of F-22s.

Many Pentagon officials propose a smaller and more effective and maneuverable force. Their equipment will effectively create more Jobs and employment opportunities.

The F-35 is what we need in terms of operation, cost, application; as the Billions not spent on on 200 F-22 will buy more than 2,444 of these. That's a much better return on investment, Jobs, and lives saved.

Posted by: liveride | April 14, 2009 11:35 AM

Mark78 and Jesse are correct. The AF desperately needs 60 more F-22. We in the Staff gave the classified air campaign analysis to the 'new' CSAF and SecAF. They said 243 was 'their' number and tried to brief SecDef Gates to no avail. Then suddenly a change of heart over 2 days? GIVE ME A BREAK.

Congrats Gents, you will rip the AF apart like no other 2 leaders. You should have been true to AF combat requirements and stood up to Gates like your predecessors who got blamed for "Bad Nukes" that rightly belonged to STRATCOM Gen Cartright (the same guy also dogging F-22 for Gates). There was NO change in requirements. There were NO new facts coming to light--only the lies of Young and PAE being spread like the plague. We are discarding the future keys to conventional deterrence and peace to the enemy, and buying into the fools' gold of "cheap stuff is good enough." We will pay the price with 100s of dead airmen and 10,000s of dead soldiers and marines for not investing in the best air superiority we could afford. And speaking of "affordable:" In the last 3 months, We, the USA taxpayers just gave 600 times what 20 F-22s would cost to those banks and investment companies who sold US investors assets that weren't worth anything. Now that's something the Chinese will laugh about as they buy/build 500 brand new Su-30/35 Flankers by next year and we're still talking about Carbon Tax and the President's new puppy.

Posted by: CentristWarrior | April 14, 2009 3:00 PM


As the other posters have said in so many ways: "What fifth generation Chinese fighter?

But more importantly, how will they buy all of these airplanes? The Chinese defense budget is one-tenth of the USA's, and we can't afford the F-22.

And we have a full fleet of submarines and surface ships and an Army with acres of tanks, not to mention a dozen spy satellites. The Chinese have none of that, and before they can ever be a technological match they will have to buy it or build it.

On second thought that's not such a bad idea. Why don't we get some of that foreign reserve of ours back, that the Chinese are sitting on, by demanding that they buy the rest of the F-22s?

Let's make this a real war, and bankrupt them with our outdated Cold War technology instead of the other way around.

Posted by: Morganto | April 14, 2009 7:34 PM

Boys and Girls,

China is not going to have super dupper high tech equipements to ours! But you can take this to the bank, they will have mass in pilots and 2nd rated equipements as when during the Korean conflict after WW2. We have no problem with conventional war, but we suck big time with others as we continue to have our troops hands tied behind their backs in nonconventional wars. I hate to say this, maybe we should mind our own business as all others blame us for being responsibe big brother to the world. We should just sit back as in the past just before WW1 and WW2!

Posted by: emenot | April 15, 2009 12:22 PM


I watched the delivery of 18 Su-30MKM fighters to Malaysia, and I am aware of several other customers, one being Venezuela. It is rumored that Syria has purchased a number of those aircraft as well.

You might consider doing a little research before revealing your ignorance of common search engines such as Google.

Posted by: dwgerard | April 16, 2009 8:56 AM

I'm surprised "dwgerard" didn't mention the 12 Su-30s operated by Viet Nam. Besides our old enemy, the Su-30 operators so far are: Algeria, 18; China, 76 (plus an eventual +/- 276 Su-27s in a couple of variants if they can iron out local manufacturing problems); India 120 (230 planned); Venezula, 24; Malaysia, 18; -- and, Russia, +/- 19 (makes you wonder if the Russians know something their not telling their customers). Perhaps this constitutes "all over the world" for some but it certainly isn't comparable to the number of F-16 operators). Of those who have purchased the Su-27/30, only China and India even plan to have sufficient numbers to pose a problem for the reduced number of F-22s to be procured -- and, given their probably operational area, these are a far more credible threat to US Naval aviation than USAF F-22s (the one "shoot-down" achieved by a Chinese J-8 Finback was a USN P-3 Orion which managed an emergency landing after a J-8 ran into it). If some of us are a little cynical about this argument it might be because we heard it before, i.e., it's essentially the same one forwarded every time the former USSR introduced a significant new aircraft or a cutting a major US defense program has been proposed. Somehow we survived the Armageddon forecast with the introduction of the once vaunted, later busted, MiG-25, the supposedly supersonic Soviet M-50 bomber, the Tu-22 (which really was supersonic when Soviet aircrew didn't refuse to fly it), the cancellation of the XB-70 (and the very much more costly A-12 Avenger), the curtailment of B-1 production, etc., etc., etc. If we survive this one, the argument next time is likley be far worse since it almost certainly will involve replacing manned air superiortiy aircraft with UAVs -- which, I suspect, was a consideration in the decision to curtail F-22 production.

Posted by: brcolorado | April 16, 2009 1:54 PM

To CentristWarrior [and leaker, eh?] and other defenders of the F-22. Why do so many defenders of big, too-expensive defense programs act with a sweeping sense of entitlement and high tolerance for contractor waste and government sloth? And they have the gall to make a big deal out of the jobs, as if the point of our military services is job creation. How unbecoming the warriors we truly needs, thank, and value--when it comes to fighting, rather than buying systems, where they tend to be incompetent. We have no need for all of those planes, according to many senior flags and many well regarded defense seers. We should have continually enhanced the F15 and F16--for another few decades, just like the B52 and tankers. Please don't tell me people will die because we won't have more F22s. It is a fascinating part of modern American warfare that there is zero tolerance for hazard. Having been there myself, long ago, I recognized that without risk, we can't do much when we fight. The best example is WWII. Every life is precious. That includes Americans service members and all those "other people" that few politicians and military officers mention in public--the civilians, like the ones we can't stop collaterally damaging in Afghanistan. No more for the wastrels on the Air Staff, ACC, and anywhere in the defense establishment. Do your jobs and missions and suck it up when it comes to risk; take some with best equipment we can afford--which does not include more quarter-billion dollar revenue boosters for LockMart. Do us proud in defending our interests, like you do most of the time in the last couple of decades. But don't compromise our national well being by spending us into oblivion; you don't deserve to be able to do that if you want our continued respect. The country has other, higher-priority needs.

Posted by: axolotl | April 16, 2009 8:12 PM

Agree with so many of the points made by axoloti. The AF began the development of this program in 1987 (with "requirements" generation even before that. Things like the threat and technology evolve. If the acquisition monolith including our industry partners could get on with deliverying systems like these, maybe we could have actually delivered the 7-800 or so that the original program projected. We actually flew the F-86 18 months after the requirements were laid out on the back of an envelop. Not to say today's sophisticated technology would let us repeat that feat, but come on,nearly twenty years of so in development. Not only does the acquistion process face the expected changes in threat over that time, but as we see big time now, holding the political coalitionj together becomes more and more at risk when there are so many other "mouths to feed" that show up in the meantime. C'est la vie, c'est la guerre.

Posted by: DuffyD | April 20, 2009 10:48 AM

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