Trouble In River City

With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stand for Pull the F-22 from the DoD Budget.

The F-22 Raptor. Pretty sweet plane. Does some awesome manuevers and has an unmatched capability. We’ve got a sweet 187 of them.

Problem is, they cost one helluva shiney penny. So, in an age where we need to get the most bang for the buck, President Obama tells Congress to pull the F-22 from the DoD Budget submittal, or he’ll *gasp* veto it.

Seems SECDEF’s got his back..


the F-22 is clearly a capability we do need – a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios – specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet. The F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict. Nonetheless, supporters of the F-22 lately have promoted its use for an ever expanding list of potential missions. These range from protecting the homeland from seaborne cruise missiles to, as one retired general recommended on TV, using F-22s to go after Somali pirates who in many cases are teenagers with AK-47s – a job we already know is better done at much less cost by three Navy SEALs. These are examples of how far-fetched some of the arguments have become for a program that has cost $65 billion – and counting – to produce 187 aircraft, not to mention the thousands of uniformed Air Force positions that were sacrificed to help pay for it.

I think this is going to turn into a great fight.

I’m getting popcorn and ordering it on Pay-Per-View. Who’s in?

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7 Responses to Trouble In River City

  1. Niall says:

    I’ve been watching this debate with some amusement. Something tells me the F-22 is the B2 of our generation. The Air Force can’t give up the idea that the next war will involve heroic dog fights between vast fleets of fighters. They’re stuck in WWII, just as much of the Navy seems to be.

    I also love how the mission of the plane keeps changing. First it was air dominance. Then it was ground attack. Now it’s suppression of enemy anti-aircraft batteries. Pick a lane, people.

    Also I think at 187, the F-22 outnumbers every fighter that Russia and China have combined, so I think we’ll be OK.

    And Hamas and Al Qaeda have none.

  2. Niall/

    You couldn’t be more wrong. The F-22 was ALWAYS air superiority all the way. The F-35 was the USAF’s answer to critics who said that a new hi-performance CAS aircraft was needed and the separate needs of the Navy and Marines which were rolled into the 35 program. In point of fact, the AF initially saw the 35 as a way to insure the viability of the 22 program buy as use many of the same components were envisaged.

    The other options for the 22 have been trotted out only because the AF seems too inarticulate to explain to people like you (or people like you lacking the ability to fully understand) what happens to everything else–EVERYTHING–once air supremacy is lost. Hence the bells and whistles.

  3. Niall says:

    From the Air Force Times:

    “For 10 years, the Air Force has argued that the F-22’s incredible dogfighting capabilities will ensure the U.S. remains dominant for decades. And for 10 years, critics who say the fighter is an overpriced Cold War relic have steadily whittled down the service’s Raptor budget.

    It’s time for a new argument.

    The F-22’s superior dogfighting capabilities are barely relevant. Yes, formidable new fighters are being fielded by potential adversaries, notably the Russian-built Su-37 and MiG-31 and the Chinese F-11. The F-22 is far superior to these older-technology, nonstealthy aircraft, but the F-35 would also far outperform any of these models. As a consequence, the dogfighting rationale for the F-22 has never gained much traction outside the Air Force.

    Air Force leaders need to regroup and posit a rationale that the administration, Congress, the services and the American people can understand and support. The dogfighting gambit has not worked, but the need for maintaining air superiority is very real. The F-22 should become our chief asset for taking down enemy air defenses.

    Air superiority has two aspects: We prevent the enemy from using air power to attack our forces and facilities, but he cannot prevent us from attacking his. This second element is the most challenging.

    Since World War II, the Air Force has lost more than 2,700 aircraft in combat. Of those, fewer than 200 have been shot down in air-to-air engagements — and none since Vietnam. The other 93 percent have been either destroyed on the ground, or downed by anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles.

    Now Russia has built new SAMs that are far more dangerous to our aircraft than anything we have yet faced. The S-400 system has an impressive range of up to 200 miles and would devastate nonstealthy fighter aircraft. Large and less maneuverable aircraft — tankers, airlifters and C2ISR platforms — would not stand a chance. These new SAM systems are proliferating, and we can expect that they will soon be in the arsenals of China, Iran, North Korea and Syria — if they are not already there.

    To employ our assets near the combat zone, we would have to take out the enemy SAM belt. Our current Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses assets could not do this — our anti-radiation missiles, carried by nonstealthy F-16s, are far outranged by the SAMs. It would be the classic case of taking a knife to a gun fight.

    But the F-22 could.”


    Oh – and why the nasty tone? Aren’t we all friends here?

  4. virgil xenophon says:


    Didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, but forgive me for thinking that someone who states that the only reason the AF is pushing the F-22 is because it is “stuck in WWII” might not fully understand the implications for the loss of air supremacy (not just temp., local, tactical “superiority”.) And your portrait of the AF as “stuck” in the past along with snarky characterizations of AF visions of “heroic” engagements, just possibly might lead some like me to conclude that a certain writer approaches the subject with a certain amount of ” ‘tude.”

    More to the point, the advanced SAM problem you mention is very real, but is probably best handled by swarms of UAV/Es. The 22 will still be needed because the the range of these newer, more advanced fighters is going to be even further extended beyond the 200 nm SAM coverage by the new carriers the Chinese are constructing and by tanker capabilities easily acquired. All this not a total threat today, of course, but coming.

    I should also add that statistics on numbers of aircraft shot down in air-to-air engagements is simultaneously misleading and meaningless within the context with which you use them. Like the keystone brick which is on the one hand just one of many bricks in the arch and wall, yet is “more equal” than all the other of it’s siblings; the air-to-air superiority aspect of the force insures the ability to perform all the others, and the more overwhelmingly superior it is the fewer the losses. But the # of losses is certainly no marker for relevancy if one takes low losses to mean that their capabilities are wasted on non-existant or meaningless threats.

    Rather, I would suggest that you confuse the concept of deterrence with defense. Defense is what happens when deterrence fails. Large numbers of “dog-fights” only means that we have failed to deter (i.e., scare) the enemy with our capabilities–unlike the Gulf wars which saw Iraq either bury their aircraft or send them to Iran rather than risk losing them in air-to-air engagements–thus ceding air supremacy to the Allied forces. The old SAC B-52s loaded with nukes and ICBMs in silos in corn-fields never killed anyone–but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t invaluable in the prevention of WWIII.

    Therefore, as outlined above, I would hold that the F-22 severely limits the planning options of potential adversaries and makes certain options more problematic than they would otherwise be–thus acting as a break on adventurism. The less likely the prospects for success, the less likely a given option will be attempted.

    Finally, in regards the F-35, you forget that it’s primary msn is that of long-range strike fighter, where losses are expected to be much higher than the air-to-air mode. If one attempts to use the 35 for both tasks, one must remember that, in dual-use mode, when a 35 is shot-down, one is not really losing a single air-craft, but two–as the air-to-air capability is also simultaneously degraded by each loss in the strike mode. This is the problem we had with the loss of B-52s in Vietnam at the height of the cold war: we were also simultaneously degrading our nuclear deterrent capability at the same time with each Vietnam loss when using it in it’s conventional role. Specialized aircraft for each task negates that possibility.

  5. just a guy says:

    A plane invisible to radar is just a superior day only fighter. Why? Because if it uses a radar it can be detected. F-22 does not have superior maneuverability over SU-33 variants or MiG-29, so why do we need to buy them at nearly 10x what those cost? If you can make an excellent missile you don’t need a fantastically expensive airplane. There is a dream, somewhere, that the radar on the F-22 is just undetectable. Bolderdash.

    So, check SecDef comments from the last several months, the F-22 is a niche. Moreover, the budget will not be able to pay for them. Why not build smaller planes we can fly by remote with geeks at computers instead of fighter jocks? Hehe, but USAF won’t answer that question up front.

  6. just a guy/

    You are plainly confused about both the F-22s capabilities AND the tactics utilized. First, maneuverability it;s it’s STRONG suit, and it is superior to the Migs and the Su-33s, NOT inferior–don’t know where you get that idea. More to the point, it is the low radar signature of the aircraft itself, NOT it’s radar, which makes it hard to detect. The tactics call for the 22 to operate in receive-only radar mode with a supersensitive radar receiver that can detect the bad guy’s own radar emissions WAY before the bad guys radar can paint the 22. in the same way a man entering a darkened warehouse with a low powered flash-light reveals his own position way before his flashlight beam reveals anyone hidden in the dark at the opposite end of the warehouse. In that way the 22’s supersonic missiles may be launched and the enemy killed before the enemy’s radar even detects another aircraft is in the area. You obviously don’t know much about either aircraft capabilities or air combat tactics. Hope this helps.

  7. Niall says:


    I was just pointing out, correctly, that the Air Force has been very candid about shuffling the raison d’etre of the F-22 around, trying to find a mission to justify making many, many more. As the article I referenced points out, ten times more US planes have been lost to AA than to enemy fighters. Also the article points out that “air superiority” means being able to take out anything that can take your planes out – not just opposing enemy fighters.

    The issue isn’t: F-22 or not? Because we already have it. The issue is: Do we need 300% more than we have now? I don’t think there’s any rational argument that tells us we need more of them.

    As for “swarms of UAVs”. Sure. 25 years from now when the technology is perfected. But that’s simply not possible now.

    In terms of the F-22’s stealth – we’ve only been taking about radar detection stealth. I don’t think the F-22 is terribly stealthy in infrared. ALl our enemies realize that as well.

    And what data supports your contention that the F-22 is more maneuvable than its competition?

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