Unabashed F-22 advocate former Air Force secretary Michael Wynne, sacked by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2008, penned a piece yesterday over at the Second Line of Defense site making the case for a limited buy of 75 more of his cherished aircraft.
After a somewhat convoluted argument that ventures across industrial base issues and the eventual production of a sixth generation fighter, Wynne argues that at $173 million per copy, the F-22 is a “bargain,” particularly as a hedge against what appears to be a very delayed delivery of the F-35 JSF. He urges Congress, as the final arbiters, to examine the cost of continuing F-22 production versus developing a sixth generation fighter that wouldn’t be fielded for many years.
The $173 number comes from the RAND team, which calculated the per unit F-22 cost if the production line was shut down for two years and then restarted ($20 billion total cost). An alternative option RAND considered found that continued production of 75 more F-22s from a hot production line would yield a unit cost of $139 million per aircraft. RAND went with 75 aircraft because it’s consistent with previous production lot sizes.
With F-35 development approaching $40 billion, and delayed, compared to $20 billion already invested to develop the F-22, Wynne argues that another $20 billion put into a shutdown and restart gets you “75 deployable aircraft almost as a bonus and you get them in five years, instead of twenty.”
Wynne contends that the performance characteristics of the F-22, the “best air dominance fighter this nation has ever produced,” are not “transferable” to the F-35. Moreover, as the Air Force looks at a sixth generation fighter, “the F-22 might not be exceeded in any of its attributes,” especially accounting for previously scheduled F-22 development blocks.
Wynne also points out the industrial base implications of the F-22 shutdown: “There is no doubt that the strain on the F-35 cost is a direct result of the impending closedown of the F-22 line.” RAND only looked at alternative options of shutting down the F-22 line, not an analysis of the Air Force’s sought after fleet of 381 F-22s.