The F-22 debate: Sestak vs Chambliss


Joe Sestak is a retired vice admiral and now a Pennsylvania congressman. Saxby Chambliss is a senator from Georgia, where the F-22 is assembled.

They did not actually debate each other at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) this morning. Chambliss spoke first in favor of extending F-22 production, then left for a Senate vote while Sestak argued against it.

It will be several more weeks before the F-22 debate in Congress in earnest. The Department of Defense is not expected to deliver its final budget request until at least mid-May. But the remarks by Sestak and Chambliss provide a worthy preview of the arguments on both sides.

One note about the technology. It was my first time using the Vado flip cam I bought yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive my tripod until tonight. The video is shaky and unfocused in places. Please bear with me this one time.

Sestak: 187 F-22s is enough

Chambliss: Buy more F-22s

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13 Responses to The F-22 debate: Sestak vs Chambliss

  1. Jawaralal Bernstein 24 April, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    As a country we are in deep trouble when a mil procurement needs to be justified as a jobs program rather than overwhelmingly as a strategic necessity. Joe Sestak proved that we don’t need more of these quarter-billion-dollar revenue boosters for LockMart. Many military experts agree. And Senator C needs to stop talking about defense funds as if they were an entitlement. That money is discretionary, and if the American people are heard, we won’t be buying more F-22s. We would do better to plow the cost of one plane into improving supply and logistics so that primitive, but life-saving things like body armor and humvee armor can get to the troops in something less than years. That’s money worth spending.

  2. Dave 24 April, 2009 at 9:24 pm #

    Is Chambliss insane? He wanted to F-22s to attack Russian SAM sites in Georgia?!! Nice… Georgia is SO totally worth starting WWIII over.

  3. 3rdFloor 24 April, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    Sestak’s Big Lie about F-22: (paraphrasing) Yes, OSD has done lots of analysis to justify the 183-187 buy being enough. Yes, its about China. They do this analysis all the time–every day.

    THE TRUTH: Barry Watts, former-PAE guy admitted 2 wks ago the fact that everyone in Pentagon knew already and the Hill Staff suspected: There was never ANY analysis justifying the termination at 183–not in 2004, not in 2006 when PAE briefed the Hill. It was a lie. There is not any campaign-based analysis by PAE or ATL now. They are not smart enough and dont trust the AF experts. Soo, they hired their own guys, WBB. The WBB analysis done in 2006 for OSD they looked at the real Peer threat laydown and came up with a minimum buy of 260 F-22. Then in 2008 the AF re-looked at the latest synergies and weapons and lowered it to 243-265. ACC said it was 260-280. CSAF chose 243. Gates never took the 243 briefing. Canceled it 5 times. Bad Gates. Bad Sestak.

  4. Prometheus 25 April, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    near peer aside.
    How many of the 187(or is it 186 since one was lost not long ago) will last till 2040 or whenever the 6th generation fighter comes?
    And the other question:
    how about rogue states the likes of venezuela, iran, pakistian and so.
    in all those terrorist fighting plans there will always pop up some states you support them and you have to deal with them. some of them will have modern Flankers, fulcrums and SA-XX. so therei s always the risk of losting some Raptors, F-117A kosovo style.
    There are 660 F-15 and 60 retired F-117A.
    By 2040 ig there are still more then 100 Raptors I will be suprised.
    Seenig as everybody is so sure that there really will be 2440 JSF and the AF gets all it 1760 F-35A(I dont believe it, seenig as the price of those will be almost Raptor level)
    My guess:
    USAF 2025
    175 Raptors(some lost)
    150 F-15E
    1250 F-35A

    My idea:
    480 Raptors
    70 F-15E
    140 Strike Raptors(200 planned, also maybe the 2018 bomber seening its goals, could do that if the AF gets 200+ of them)
    890 F-35A

  5. SMSgt Mac 25 April, 2009 at 4:58 am #

    I agree with 3rdFloor, and offer these points in addition.

    Sestak plays loose with the facts from the opening statement in his comparison of the F-35 and F-22 low observables. If his simplistic statement were actually true, it could be viewed as casually leaking pretty sensitive (at the least) information, Fortunately for him, relative LO characteristics are not that easy to summarize such that they are meaningful: Anyone in the know in any technology-hoovering intelligence organization would not be able to tell in what way he is blowing smoke. As Sestak probably knows this as well from any briefings he is likely to have received, he also probably knows he his blowing smoke on what he hopes is a sympathetic-to-ignorant audience. In leadership seminars and workshops I’ve participated in, Sestak would be playing the guy who thinks everyrhing he says is true simply because it is coming out of his mouth. He was interesting and off-base enough to be worthy of further research

    Sestak’s naval experience as commanding a carrier battle group as mentioned in his own bio is somewhat misleading. He is speaking here on issues of the utility, effectiveness, and efficiencies of Airpower weapons as someone with a dual background – neither of which would mark him as an authority on the ‘F-22 need’ in my view. Sestak’s most public Naval background is that of a career Naval Surface Warfare Officer i.e. ‘He drove ships’. I would be somewhat interested in his views on Sea Power. His less public background is that of a life-long politician. It seems he has been a politician at least since his Annapolis days. His NA degree is a ‘Bachelor of Science Degree in American Political Systems’ . He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Ph.D. in ‘Political Economy and Government’ from Harvard, He later served on the Joint Staff’s Politico-Military Assessment Division. It has been noted he was the “first director of the Navy Operations Group (Deep Blue), which sought to redefine strategic, operational and budgetary policies in the Global War on Terrorism” under CNO Clark, and it looks like he got sacked by CNO Mullen as soon as Mullen arrived. Sestak is a lifelong politico who drove ships on the side. He is a budget and dollar wonk. He is a ‘policy’ maven of the Liberal/Progressive ideology.. He is NOT an authority on ANYTHING “Airpower”.

    Chambliss spoke the Ga. economic party line and has the luxury of being in the position of being on the right side of the argument AND being supportive of a constituency. No surprises there, except for ‘Ron Howard’ blocking the view too much.

    Finally, did anyone else find the audio levels mercilessly low? Yikes! It was doubly painful listening to Sestak AND having to striain to do so. How did that guy get elected with those public speaking skills?

  6. Peter Goon 27 April, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    Regarding Adm (Rtd) Serstak’s presentation…..

    Pray tell, what are these ‘triple digit SAMs’ he keeps referring to in this somewhat ‘dripping with confidence’ and ‘I know more than you’ oration?

    Is it usual (let alone acceptable) for US politicians to talk down to people like this, particularly with such a large amount of total indifference to what is real?

    If this is the quality of understanding of someone in the US Congress who has a military background, then no wonder American air power and US defense capabilities, in general, are going to hell in a handbasket!

  7. Peter Goon 27 April, 2009 at 1:08 am #

    At least Senator Chambliss appears to understand that the reference air defence threats are ‘double digit SAMs’!

    He also appears to understand the difference between Tier 1 and Tier 2 air combat aircraft and their particular roles.

    No matter what the range of the JSF, with an aerodynamic and maneuver performance of somewhat less than the F/A-18C, let alone that of the F-16C, the F-35A will not be competitive against the reference threat upon which their development was based, namely the MiG-29, let alone systems like the Su-35 Dash 1 and the Mig-35. Then, of course, there are other systems to consider, like the PAK-FA which will likely achieve IOC around the time the JSF is supposed to achieve its ‘as marketed’ operational capability, if not before.

    As for the cost and thus the ‘Affordability’ of the JSF F-35A, standard risk based costing analysis since 2003 shows that, in 2014, the Block 3 F-35A JSF will cost in the region of US$168 million within a variance of -10%/+30% per unit; and, this is before any considerations of the effects of the Global Financial Crisis and its more voracious offspring, the World Economic Crisis, are applied.

  8. Peter Goon 27 April, 2009 at 1:15 am #


    This is great reporting, Steve! Brilliant idea and many thanks.

  9. airplanejim 27 April, 2009 at 6:17 am #

    140 Strike Raptors? That is great, a quarter billion dollar each bomb truck. And not that many bombs at that and be able to keep its LO ability. Talk about a waste of money. I don’t know that 187 is the right number of F-22′s but air to ground missions can sure be handled with considerably less technology and a lot less cost.

  10. SMSgt Mac 28 April, 2009 at 3:49 am #

    RE: “We would do better to plow the cost of one plane into improving supply and logistics so that primitive, but life-saving things like body armor and humvee armor can get to the troops in something less than years. That’s money worth spending”

    Strawman alert!

    It isn’t a question of one or the other, and has not been since the end of WW2. It can alse be (and has been) easily shown that the Army for all practical purposes has been completely recapitalized and re-equipped since the F-15/16 were fielded. It isn’t a question of logistics and funds affecting delivery of systems to the GWOT, but the definition and quantification of NEED by the services themselves.

    The ‘discretionary spending’ point is always helpful and in this case telling. It is “Helpful” because it highlights the glaring disconnect between spending priorities and government responsibilities. One might ought to ask oneself how many F-22s could be purchased with TARP and bailout money currently being poured down the rathole on non-Constitutional spending or what kind of perverted logic makes Granny’s medicine ‘non-discretionary’? It is “Telling” in that it leaves this individual wondering how disconnected to reality must one be to even think that the fact that defense money is ‘discretionary’ has ANYTHING to do with ‘need’.

  11. Prometheus 28 April, 2009 at 11:59 am #

    I didnt say it is a must have.
    I was think about a F-15E replacement.
    And 30 SDB ant that bad.

  12. Peter Goon 29 April, 2009 at 2:36 am #

    SMSgt Mac,

    We appear to agree on more than we disagree…..

    Being disconnected from reality or having a total indifference to what is real (reality) is at the root of many of the woes we all face, today.

    For instance, there has been some really fine engineering done in the JSF Program but, sadly, the overall concept and overarching management is steeped in a total indifference to reality.

    See the following for one definition of this sort of behaviour -

    …then take a look at the questions provided to those who should be able and, moreover, be required to answer them.

    As for getting answers to these questions, take a look at the following –

    All quite a damned pity, really.

  13. Erin Clark 14 December, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    May I have permission to use this photo for display in my home? I came across it doing a google image search – we’re using an aviation theme in my son’s bedroom, and this picture is stunning! My husband is rather glad I stumbled across your blog site, and is likely hooked now, on your postings.

    I’d simply like to print a copy of this photo (probably 8×10) and frame it to hang in my son’s room.

    Thank you very much!
    ~Erin Clark

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