Will The F-22 Destroy The USAF?

Posted: July 10, 2009 in Acquisition, Air Force, F-22, Modernization

R. Jeffrey Smith’s WaPo article has so much that should be discussed. Here are a few things that come to mind:

  • F-22 maintenance costs per flying hour are about 150% of the F-15. Ok, but is the F-22 twice again as good? That is, if we only need half as many F-22s, that would make it a bargain, right?
  • Most importantly, will the plane’s massive cost preempt most other USAF modernization, driving the Air Force towards long-term obsolescence? Will this create what former Pentagon tester Thomas Christie characterises as “unilateral disarmament”?
  • The prime, Lockheed, farmed out over 1,000 subcontracts to vendors in more than 40 states. Everyone can feed at the F-22 trough and cancellation becomes much more difficult.
  • Former OSD Comptroller John Hamre says the F-22 program was approved despite the fact it was underfunded. Telling Congress what the real costs were would have been politically unpalatable.
  • One unnamed DoD official says its a disgrace the F-22 can only fly 1.7 hours on average before it has a critical failure. I’m thinking that official is one of the folks who supports capping the program at 187 planes.

In many ways the F-22 is emblematic of almost all our space systems. It has the characteristics of an exquisite system that make it difficult to design, engineer, build, and employ.

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