STEALTH FIGHTER IN CONGRESS' SIGHTS

Good government groups and military analysts have been taking aim at the F/A-22 stealth fighter plane program for years. The jets cost too much, they say. Designed for Cold War, air-to-air combat, the planes aren't needed in the anti-terror fight. Osama doesn't have an air force, after all.The critics got a big pile of new ammunition yesterday, in the form of a new report from the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. The Air Force still hasn't said "why this aircraft is needed given current and projected threats," according to the GAO. And the F/A-22 program is way, way over-budget: once scheduled to buy 277 of the planes, the Pentagon can now only purchase 218, due to inflated costs."What's more, the Air Force plans to add extra air-to-ground missions to a plane designed for air-to-air combat, which could push costs up another $8 billion or more," according to the Washington Post.

The Air Force originally wanted to see the plane's sophisticated avionics, or electronics gear, achieve 20 hours of uninterrupted flying time without a software failure. When the plane couldn't achieve that, the Air Force changed its goal to flying five hours without a software failure. As of January, the plane could average no better than 2.7 hours.In addition, the plane's microprocessor is an obsolete model no longer manufactured. The Air Force plans to switch to a newer type, including one created for the upgraded F-16 fighter jet, a type of plane far older than the F-22.
It's no surprise, then, that watchdog groups like the Project on Government Oversight are asking the Pentagon to put this sick puppy of a program to sleep."There's no place for weapons without a mission like the F/A-22 given the current budget squeeze," POGO's Eric Miller said in a statement.
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