It's getting personal with the F-22 and Gordon England.
I first noticed this a few weeks ago when Loren Thompson, a paid Lockheed mouthpiece and industry analyst, in so many words accused the deputy secretary of defense of using his current clout to settle old scores from his days as a defense industry executive.
England "lost a succession struggle" at Lockheed, Thompson wrote, and "now wants to kill his creation".
England's "creation" apparently means the F-22, which he is indeed trying to kill to secure the future of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
I know what you're asking: Both aircraft of course are built by Lockheed, so why would England's industry past alone presuppose him to favor one or the other? Could Thompson's mercurial hint about a past "succession struggle" at Lockheed have played a part in England's current Raptor antipathy?
Hey, I love a completely unsupported, gossipy and self-serving conspiracy theory as much as the next guy, but this one I thought needed a bit of investigation.
After almost 20 minutes of exhaustive investigation -- well, exhaustive for a blog anyway -- I found an article in The Washington Post, dated May 8, 1995. The headline is "Volleying for big positions at Lockheed Martin," and buried in the story lies either the smoking gun of England's guilt, or a completely irrelevant anecdote. I'll let you decide!
To summarize, the article traced the fall-out of the Lockheed-Martin Marietta merger on the combined company's executive ranks. Keep in mind this merger came only a year after Lockheed purchased the General Dynamics Fort Worth Aircraft Company, where England was posted as President.
One of the jobs up for grabs in the spring of 1995 was president of the restructured Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth-based aeronautics division. The position was left vacant after the previous occupant, Kenneth Cannestra, decided to "retire" early in the wake of a bribery scandal in Egypt. The article says:
"There was a struggle for Cannestra's powerful Lockheed Martin position, and the winner was James A. 'Mickey' Blackwell Jr., formerly head of Lockheed's Georgia-based military aircraft division. Blackwell's elevation prompted England, one of the other competitors for the job, to leave, company officials said."
So there you have it.
The guy in charge of the Georgia-based F-22 program got the job. England got the ticket to that place where ousted defense industry executives briefly retire to until they can win a political appointee job in the next administartion, where they can indulge their revenge fantasies on their former colleagues.
On second thought, maybe England just thinks it makes more sense to allow the F-22 line to die in order to preserve what's left of the long-term viability of the F-35 production line.
Naaaahhhhh ... couldn't be.