June 22, 2004
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By Everest E. Riccioni
Comedic Acts —
I) Cost History
II) The Justification Farce
III) Operational Evaluation
Tragic Act —
IV) Our Acquisition System
The Congress, the contractors, and their claques are trying desperately
to justify the F-22 acquisition. This despite the fact that its
reason for existence disappeared with the evaporation of the Cold
War, and a complete change in the possible inimical forces the
US faces. The aircraft has been in a continual state of development
for two decades — and unreasonable length of time — and has remained
the alleged number one priority of the USAF.
The three comedies are the results of, a) the unabashed gross distortions
of its cost, b) the continually changing rationalizations for the
Raptor, and, c) the fanciful claims for the battle capability of
Act I, The Cost History — During the initial advocacy for
Raptor it was claimed tha it would cost not 1$ more than the
then well into its production cycle, i.e., $50 millions or $50M
for 800 aircraft. The month the F-22 and F-23 prototypes flew the
USAF claimed the cost of the program had risen from the claimed
$40,000,000,000 ($40B) to $70B for 750 aircraft for a unit total
cost of $93M — essentially double the original claim! At the first
government check of the funding, the USAF claimed it could buy only
680 aircraft. At president Clinton’s request for clarification the
USAF claimed it could purchase only 480 aircraft. On the formal
Quadrennial Air Force review of its budget it claimed that it could
purchase only 333 Raptors for a unit price to the taxpayer of $193M.
General Jumper quoted the cost as $257M each for only 275 aircraft
for a total expenditure of $70 billions. Will the cost increase
ever end? This set of unconscionable cost distortions is ludicrous
and the cost obscene, — Comedic Act I.
The second set of continual distortions are the constantly changing
roles for the aircraft. During the Cold War it was reasonable to
consider an advanced aircraft for air superiority, though its avowed
role offensive counter-air operations deep in Russia, a fairly fanciful
aspiration. To do this the aircraft was intended to possess unprecedented
stealth, maneuverability and performance, with modern avionics for
unprecedented situation awareness and weapon effectiveness. At the
same cost as the F-15 that had none of these features — ludicrous.
The dreamers put a unit flyaway cost ceiling of $35M (equals a total
program cost of $50M), and a weight limit of 50,000 lbs. The result
was an aircraft that cost 5 times as much and a weight increase
of about 30 percent causing the performance to fall precipitously.
Then United Socialist States of Russia fell apart without warning,
taking the rationale justifying the F-22 with it. Of course, the
program could not be cancelled for lack of need so the search for
a mission was engaged. It became air superiority to control the
air above our ground forces. But there was no air superiority threat
facing our forces. One had to be conjured. We had sold high performance
fighters to friendly nations and they could turn on us. So we needed
the Raptor to defeat our high performance aircraft. Then Lockheed
sought license to sell the Raptor overseas and received it. Now
the USAF has created a never-ending arms race with ourselves! Added
to this was the seeming need to make a ground attack fighter of
the F-22, the F/A-22. But it carries half the bomb load of the F-117
— a battle tested aircraft 1/2 the cost of the Raptor. Then the
dreams went to making it a fast, long-range strategic bomber, the
F/B-22—even more irrational since its design for stealth is very
unsuitable to such modification. There were many more modifications
including that of interceptor for which it is particularly unsuited
for reasons of slow launch, lack of numbers and low readiness rate.
Lost in all of this sea of irrationale is the nature of our current
and future wars.
Our foreseeable enemies emanate from the Camel Countries with deserts
stretching across North Africa through the Middle East, down the
Persian Gulf, and into India and parts of China Our enemies are
the fundamentalist Moslems schooled from childhood to hate Jews
and the West and even non-fundamentalist Moslems. Religion is their
license to kill all unbelievers. Their stated purpose is to collapse
the non-Moslem world using terrorist and insurgent tactics, and
ultimately to place them in a single caliphate. Their methods are
subversion, destruction of critical facilities, and the spread of
terror with surreptitious attacks and human bombers. And they are
winning! And the war will be protracted. The insurgents are normally
Important here, is that the F-22 can play no fruitful role in such
combat. To believe otherwise is ludicrous — Comedic Act II.
The third comedic act results from the claims made of the operational
superiority of the Raptor against (non existent) Camel Country fighter
aircraft. Colonels, generals, and pilots are all claiming vastly
superior capability based on scripted, specialized, jousting tests.
This, before the operational tests were begun, and before they are
complete! “It is declared better than a Hollywood death ray”, and
(literally) “infinitely better than the F-15s and F-16s
of which we have thousands.” To believe this, in light of past distortions,
and to believe that a few F-22s can replace the now irrelevant air
battle capability of our thousands of F-15s and F-16 is ludicrous
— Comedic Act III.
Act IV, — the tragedy — is the eventual loss of more than
$100B — an expenditure that has no rational combat purpose. This
monetary loss comes in a war which is destined to cost more than
The greatest tragedies lie in all the “spin” and distortions used
by the USAF to confuse The Congress, The Public, and even Itself
to justify a mistaken acquisition. Lost is the great tradition of
the USAF officer corps to be honorable, truthful, and to serve the
Nation, not itself.
Guest Contributor Col. Everest E. Riccioni
USAF (ret.) is a prominent military aviation engineer, consultant
and author. He flew 55 military aircraft of all types for a total
of 5,500 hours in the air during his 30-year career. He can be reached
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