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F-22 Raptor Acquisition - A New Tragic-Comedy in 4 Acts
F–22 Raptor Acquisition - A New Tragic-Comedy in 4 Acts


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June 22, 2004

[Have an opinion about the views expressed in this article? Sound off in the Hot Issues with Defensewatch Forum.]

By Everest E. Riccioni

Comedic Acts
I) Cost History
II) The Justification Farce
III) Operational Evaluation
Tragic Act
IV) Our Acquisition System

The USAF, 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 the aircraft.

Act I, The Cost History — During the initial advocacy for the F-22 Raptor it was claimed tha it would cost not 1$ more than the F-15, 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 unidentifiable.

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 $300B.

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 at ericcioni@earthlink.net. © 2004 DefenseWatch. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.



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