On Gordon England’s personal vendetta to kill the F-22

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.
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12 Responses to On Gordon England’s personal vendetta to kill the F-22

  1. Loren Thompson 11 February, 2008 at 4:57 pm #

    FROM LOREN THOMPSON — Where did you get the idea that I am a “paid Lockheed mouthpiece”??? The brief you cite identifies several senior defense officials from industry who all exhibited the same pattern in their program decisions, and Gordon is only the latest example. I mean, don’t you think it’s a little odd that he tried to kill the Air Force version of the F-35 in the QDR, and now is trying to kill the F-22? Most of the people I know think it’s downright strange.

  2. elp 11 February, 2008 at 5:07 pm #

    >>>>spitting my coffee all over the screen with a shocked look on my face<<<<

    My..the things one wakes up to on Monday.

    Good work Stephen.

  3. elp 11 February, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    Loren,

    I read with interest a piece from the past where Mr. England, in a F-35 cost saving move, suggested cancelling the CTOL variant JSF and have all non STOVL people use the carrier variant. Is that right?

  4. Peter Goon 11 February, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    Mayhaps this goes some way to explain why GE was supportive of the political interplay around the F-22 by the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson when he was Defence Minister down here in Aus.

    A buy of 50+ Raptors for Australia would certainly put to bed any such conspiracy theory – tip over this little apple cart as it were, as well as makes sense for the US (and us all) to have a trusted ally in this part of the world able to project air dominance.

  5. Loren Thompson 11 February, 2008 at 8:12 pm #

    LOREN THOMPSON AGAIN — The respondent is right concerning England’s attempt to kill the CTOL version of F-35 in 2005. Participants in the QDR were incredulous that he would seek to kill the variant representing 70% of the joint production run and almost all of the overseas market demand, but that’s what happened. I should mention that he also sought to kill the STOVL version of F-35 during his first run as Navy Secretary, but was rebuffed by USD(AT&L) Aldridge. If any reader can identify an operational or budgetary logic to the positions DepSecDef England has taken concerning the tacair programs of his previous employer, I’d sure like to hear what it is.

  6. The DEW Line 11 February, 2008 at 8:28 pm #

    Thanks for all the input so far.

    Loren’s right that Gordon England has opposed both aircraft — the F-22 and parts of the F-35 — in the past. The difference this time is that England’s boss, defense secretary Bob Gates, is linking the F-22′s demise to the need to preserve the F-35′s long-term viability.

    That certainly helps make Loren’s case that there’s something personal going on here.

    But I still don’t know. I need more proof.

  7. ELP 12 February, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    Maybe some of the answer is in entertainment. Maybe we would better understand it if we were to conduct a stage play with all of the actors playing out a scene from a budget meeting, in the style of the Sopranos.

    England: “Hey Paulie, I don’t wanna hear no more about this F-22 thing. What did I say before to those goofs? I want it dead you hear me? DEAD! You tell those m*%$#r f&#%@rs that if I hear one more thing about long lead time parts and crying about this and that, I’m gonna come down there and clip all of em. They better start getting more personally involved in their work”.

    No? The style of Fawlty Towers? “Manuel!!!!!!”

  8. Martin Barak 16 February, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    Quite strange nobody mentioned the fact that F-22 will be around at least until 2040, and F-35 was designed with strike/bomber missions in mind first, leaving air supremacy to F-22. So does that mean that the whole US Armed Forces will have to live only with 183 fighters for next 35 years or so, as IMHO neither F-35, not to mention Super Hornet are fighters (air air area)? I wonder who may predict what will come in three years, and thirty? It this is called strategic thinking by DoD, how did they come to such conclusion? Like China/Russia will give their fighter development a break for next 30 years or so, I´m sure they will do that. It really has a taste of personal crusade.

    Just my five cents

  9. rickusn 23 February, 2008 at 9:57 pm #

    And another thing the planned cuts to the Raptor program had nothing to do with England as I thought.

    The decision was made in 1984 and was reported on in February 2005.

    Gordon was then Sec. of the Navy:

    October 1, 2003 – January 3, 2006

    ” Feb. 19th, 2005 || Source: airforcetimes.com

    President Bush’s budget request for the Pentagon calls for reducing future purchases of the $130 million-per-plane jets from the current planned level of 268 to 179, terminating the contract early in 2008.”

  10. michael 2 July, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

    I always liked the F-22 program and growing up reading about it i was so imopressed that we’d have such a capable fighter craft coming in but i dont understand why the amount we get is dropped to 180 aircraft. I mean, since they cut down the production amount the unit cost skyrocketed. The F-35 is a good fighter plane, but the F-22 is better in its role. So are politics behind this whole issue? I often wondered if Lockheed could just lower the cost of the aircraft but that wont work as all the work and hours the employees put in must be paid. Having it purely as an air superiority fighter wont cut it as all our new fighter craft seem to need a secondary gound attack capability. I saw a concept of an enlarged ground attack version and it was pretty cool. To make up for the lwo numbers of F-22′s, couldnt they upgrade a large number of F-15′s with the electronics and technology of the former? It might not be as stealthy as the raptor but it will become more effective

  11. Richard T 6 May, 2010 at 6:51 am #

    It’s quite amazing isn’t it. The F-22 was always going to be Americas little jewel that was never going to available for sale. The US realizing that customers is big business, and business will keep development costs down, so out comes what appears to be a little less capable fighter (F-35) that is to hold Americas allies close to their hearts and keep their military aviation industry booming with profits form overseas.

    They never predicted that the F-35 would turn out to be such an expensive lemon and even countries like Japan are now looking to build their own more capable 5th gen fighters because the F-35 won’t cut it. Russia is poised to make a killing because all EU nations will start with at least one 5th gen squadron of F-35 killers.

    America could have mass produced the F-22 with a less capable avionics/engines for it’s allies. The F-22 sale & development would still be on going & F-22′s would be cheaper every year. Allies would not be looking for alternatives or indigenous solutions.

    America could have been developing… who knows a 6th gen special whilst F-15′s were being replaced by export variant F-22′s to keep purchase / production costs nice & low with help from allied sales. and there is nothing any country could have done if the US put a little software bomb in the F-22 if they were really paranoid.

    America has actually introduced more independence from allies rather than cooperation & with the advances in technology & design available to most people now days, what is to stop a private business from designing specific weapons (air/land/sea) for specific countries. We are already witnessing more and more private military developers in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are plenty of companies that could design an affordable lightweight 5th gen Aircraft that could kick the F35′s butt with off the shelf avionics/engines… especially on what’s been wasted in the F-35′s costs.

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