What happened after the F-22 died — in 1999



The Lockheed Martin F-22 production line is dead — or is it?

As we all know by now, the US Senate voted yesterday to strike $1.75 billion for seven more F-22s, but that was only one version of the authorization bill. Senate appropriators will take up the issue next week, and support for the F-22 on the defense subcommittee remains strong. The House of Representatives has already added $360 million to buy long-lead parts for 12 F-22s.

This isn’t the first time the F-22 faced an existential threat. If Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had his way in 2004, funds to buy new F-22s would have finally dried up last year. The US Air Force avoided Rumsfeld’s budget axe by stretching a two-year production plan to three years, which is where we are today.

Ten years ago this week, the F-22 really looked dead. Rep Jerry Lewis, possibly waging a personal vendetta against perceived slights by Lockheed, shocked the US Air Force, Lockheed and — for that matter — everybody. Lewis proposed postponing the first production contract for F-22s by two years, which would have added about $6 billion to the program’s cost and essentially killed it. The House appropriators on the defense subcommittee went along with Lewis’ proposal, again shocking Eisenhower/McCain’s military-industrial-congressional complex.

The F-22 was ultimately saved at the eleventh hour three months later by the program’s powerful supporters in the US Senate, led by Senator Ted Stevens.

The moral of this story: Don’t bet against the F-22. 

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4 Responses to What happened after the F-22 died — in 1999

  1. Dave 22 July, 2009 at 7:09 pm #

    The Senate side is a pathway to many abilities that some consider… unnatural…

    I’m sure that this isn’t over- the F-22 is proving that it is very, very survivable, even in the most dangerous threat environment- which is in fact Washington DC, despite what people will have you believe about double digit SAMs.

    Many more Raptors will lost in the halls of the capital than will ever be lost over a battlefield.

  2. Polaris 24 July, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    Let it go for christ’s sake. It’s too expensive

  3. Stephen Trimble 24 July, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    Too expensive in comparison to what? This is a huge issue in this debate, but I don’t think it’s been fairly addressed by the F-22′s critics. The USAF can buy an F-22 off the line today for about $130-$150 million. It will cost another at least $80-$100 million to upgrade each aircraft to the Increment 3.1 standard. The GAO estimates that the F-35 will cost $120 million per copy over the long run. (It costs about $170 million to buy now.) The F-35 will also inevitably require a block upgrade plan after it reaches an equivalent level of service life as the F-22 does today. When you compare the costs between the F-22 and F-35, they will probably not be very different. Boeing has estimated the F-15 Silent Eagle, by comparison, will cost about $100 million.

  4. Greg 5 August, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    “Too expensive in comparison to what?”

    Very simply… “too expensive vs. the combat robots that are gradually taking over the skies”.

    The F-22 is *very* clearly the swan-song of human-guided fighter aircraft. As the clear leader in UAV tech, the U.S. needs to keep forging ahead- this is the real future of air combat.

    It’s not sexy, but war isn’t sexy, either. And fighter planes are pretty obviously going the way of the knight on horseback.

    At its cost, we could have a *dozen* next-generation UAVs, piloted by people who would not be suffering as much fatigue for the same number of flight hours and would be able to perform maneuvers that simply aren’t possible with humans on board.

    With communications systems getting more powerful and harder to disable (and tomorrow’s nanotech radios will be even better in this regard), the idea that some enemy will just EMP UAVs to death is becoming laughable. They can’t do that, without EMP’ing their own infrastructure back to the Stone Age.

    It’d be smarter if we all just admitted that this is where it’s going and dealt with this rationally, instead of behaving like this isn’t inevitable. Human-piloted aircraft have no real future in military contexts, short of some amazing new stealth technology that somehow nullifies the inherent advantages of UAV design or something that allows human brains to remain fully functional under far more physiological stress.

    The U.S. should just keep forging ahead with the technology that will actually matter, and leave this plane in the dustbin of history, instead of spending ridiculous amounts of money on Top Gun stuff that’s increasingly obviously not going to work against our future adversaries. Whether our next major conflict is against a major power or a minor one, UAVs offer better time-on-station, area coverage, mission flexibility, automation, stealth and less fatigue for pilots, while still being able to deliver practically any modern weapon system.

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