« Bare-Faced Go-Away Bird | Main | On Empathy »

July 15, 2009

Comments

Are there no numbers that compare the statistics to other similar aircraft? In isolation, it seems raally bad, but it is hard to take a position if there is no comparison to other high performance aircraft.

I would personally cancel the F-22 because there is no need, but I have no way of comparing the rest of the statistics to other aricraft.

Well looks like a Starfighter deja-vu.
Corruption, ill-devised subcontraction etc. all included.
---
Could someone remove the spammer at 04:25 AM, please?

"And yet, at a time when we need to save money"

We also need to spend some money.

Such as on this.

"Are there no numbers that compare the statistics to other similar aircraft?"

From that WaPo article (which came nearly a week ago, incidentally):

[...] The Air Force says the F-22 cost $44,259 per flying hour in 2008; the Office of the Secretary of Defense said the figure was $49,808. The F-15, the F-22's predecessor, has a fleet average cost of $30,818.
And we're not exactly lacking for a new plane, what with the F-35 in production.
[...] On 6 April 2009, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the US would buy a total of 2,443 JSFs.
That doesn't sound like too few, offhand, does it?

And:

[...] The F-35 appears to be a smaller, slightly more conventional, one-engine sibling of the sleeker, twin-engine F-22 Raptor, and indeed drew elements from it.

Unit cost US$83 million

Compared to:
Unit cost US$137.5 million (2008 flyaway cost)
The F-35's costs are being shared by a wide variety of our allies, and it will be a multi-role plane with three main variants. It's true that there are trade-offs involved here, but there are trade-offs in every single plane design. So far, the F-35, while not immune from questions of its own, doesn't seem to remotely have the maintenance problems that have cropped up with the F-22, and neither has a great case been made for the sort of specified air-superiority of the F-22 over any mid-term contender, compared to the more-than-good-enough specs of the F-35, or even simply updated F-15s and F-16s.

The article Hilzoy quotes seems to have missed an essential question: do you want your country to have, and take on the job of maintaining, absolute control of the skies over any country you choose? Do you think your country, and especially your politicians, should have that power? Do you think your citizens should make the sacrifices necessary to pay for a program of "full spectrum dominance"? It seems to me that you have to answer that question first, because unless you believe you should attempt to control any adversary, then this plane makes no sense.

If the United States ought to pursue the kind of dominance this plane promises, then you can start to address the question of whether or not it can deliver the goods. You can then get into the details of flight physics and military theory relevant to these questions.

I'd be inclined to be more favorably inclined toward the F-22 if it had dropped one bomb on Al Qaeda or the Taliban. But it has not.

In order to stimulate the economy there should be more emphasis on the http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=104x2385701>Family Assault Vehicle and the Sports and Utility Fighter.

Without doing a lot of research, Gary, it's probably not a good comparison between an aircraft still early in life cycle with one having a lot more years, and problems solved, under its belt. Case in point: F-102 crash rate.

Not the best analogy, as earlier fighters were debugged much more in the air than today's models, but there is a certain point that holds. I'm not sure, though, that we're going to see enough of a production run on F-22 to see any kind of maturation in maintenance cost that you'd expect from a large-volume aircraft.

All that aside, I'm not at all averse to cutting the F-22. I'm just a wondering, a bit, why we need any more reasons than the ones we already have.

Slarti, some people might not be persuaded by a "we don't need this" (a theoretical argument) but mabye by a referral to tangible problems and alternatives.

Do you think your citizens should make the sacrifices necessary to pay for a program of "full spectrum dominance"? It seems to me that you have to answer that question first

Hear, hear.

For one thing, it's not clear that our biggest need right now is for an even niftier fighter plane, as opposed to something that might come in handy in, say, Afghanistan.

Jumping off from John Spragge's question: "come in handy" doing what, exactly?

John hit the nail on the head.

Remember "tough choices?" Well, it seems to me that at some point (fairly soon), we Americans have to choose between "full spectrum dominance" and things like health care, education, etc. Guns vs. Butter (instead of Guns and Butter, just put it on the credit card!).

That the F-22 is a particularly poor investment in "full spectrum dominance" is secondary.

Ok, so if our upcoming experiment with national health insurance develops a bunch of bugs on the initial roll out, and particularly if we experience cost over-runs in excess of 10% of the projected cost in the first two years, can we cancel the whole thing?

@mckinneytexas: We'd be able to safely cancel the new healthcare system easily if there were a perfectly functioning F-15 and F/A-18 healthcare system that does the same thing already, as well as a much cheaper F-35 healthcare system that works better on the horizon.
The F-22 is the multi-billion dollar, imperfect cure for smallpox. It's a treatment for an adversary that was defeated a long time ago.

mckinneytexas

Tell you what -- if it turns out the whole freaking point of creating NHC in the first place suddenly disappears beneath our feet, and we suddenly have a new priority in the same realm* that the proposed HC reforms are utterly useless in addressing -- then, sure, we can go on and "cancel the whole thing".

Until then, don't go comparing apples and oranges.

*(the way Afghanistan war replaces Cold War)

From what I've read, the F-22 program is also intended to keep American military casualties to the absolute minimum (viz., zero deaths outside of pilot error). The fear is that sticking with "obsolete" F-15s or only upgrading to a limited number of F-35s will eventually lead to an airman getting shot down by someone's (?) next-generation anti-aircraft technology.

How much is an American pilot "worth"? In monetary value, political capital, and ethical persuasiveness? It's a touchy question, to say the least.

John Spragge: "The article Hilzoy quotes seems to have missed an essential question: do you want your country to have, and take on the job of maintaining, absolute control of the skies over any country you choose"

Absolute control of the skies - for a couple of hours, tops, before the planes start failing?

Stick to video games, kid.

S.G.E.W wrote "From what I've read, the F-22 program is also intended to keep American military casualties to the absolute minimum (viz., zero deaths outside of pilot error). The fear is that sticking with "obsolete" F-15s or only upgrading to a limited number of F-35s will eventually lead to an airman getting shot down by someone's (?) next-generation anti-aircraft technology"

Yeah, I'm sure that's what the sales pitch was.

If pilot survivability is the important factor, then the F-22 will soon be obsolete, because cheaper remotely-piloted drones will offer zero chance of flight crew losses and better performance because they won't be limited to human tolerances for g's.

So what's the point?

In order to stimulate the economy there should be more emphasis on the Family Assault Vehicle and the Sports and Utility Fighter.

Or the dragon-shaped tank.

More proof that we need you to keep blogging, hilzoy ;-)

How much is an American pilot "worth"? In monetary value, political capital, and ethical persuasiveness? It's a touchy question, to say the least.

It's a lot touchier if we recall this is a guns or butter situation. The question becomes "Should we be throw countless billions (with sharp diminishing returns) to seek to avoid preventable deaths for a handful of pilots who've volunteered to put their lives at risk instead of e.g. financing healthcare reform which could avert the preventable deaths of thousands of citizens?"

what good is the health of America if brown people aren't being blown to bits by our expensive and purposely non-shiny technomarvels ?

Hilzoy,

Please stop linking to the WaPo.

If you value the public service provided by journalism, if you wish you had some power to diminish the corrosive effects of beltway-focused, substance thin, "he-said/she-said" reporting, if the conscious effort of the editorial section to mislead and misinform grates, you do actually do have some agency:

boycott.

It's not like there aren't other avenues of information about the F-22.

WE don't need no F-22.

The US has two perfectly good air superiority fighters - the F-15 and the F-16.
As backup, we can look forward to the cheaper F-35 option. That's all we'll need till the Alien Space Bats show up.

What the Air Force REALLY needs , of course, are more A-10 type ground support aircraft. They are lot cheaper and we could use them right now in the wars that we are actually fighting. But of course ground support is not as sexy as having a great AIR SUPERIORITY fighter with the latest , greatest, super stealth technology.
The pity of it is that if we continue with the f-22 program, we would be blowing a lot of money that could be better spent on other defense programs-to say nothing of other, more deserving government programs.
Where is the Republican concern with government waste when you really need it?

How much is an American pilot "worth"? In monetary value, political capital, and ethical persuasiveness? It's a touchy question, to say the least.

I would have a much easier time believing that pilot safety was really the reason for such an expensive boondoggle if the military had shown an equal concern for much cheaper ways of saving lives. Instead, our troops got inadequate body armor, vehicles that couldn't handle IEDs, barracks with unsafe wiring, and criminally inadequate care at Walter Reed.

Statistics are amazing thing, 1.7 hours of flying time before a critical failure. The only way you get that is a calculated Mean Time Between Failure or MTB Maintenance Actions. I suspect (I can only suspect because, of course, we are only talking about off the record second and third hand info quoted in suspect publications)that we have lots of these planes that fly dozens of missions before Failure, less between Maintenance Actions and the stats include some number of planes that have significant issues that may not fly at all.

We do want to own the skies, sorry if we are only likely to fight small wars, but in both Iraq and Afghanistan we want to own that airspace when needed.

Cancelling any major weapons system is a huge cost and potential danger. It takess decades to plan, design and build the first one of anything at huge costs. Starting over is always problematic.

And, by the way, I don't want to hear from a Major on this issue, they typically run parts of these programs and are not, for the most part, the folks with a broad enough insight to decide the strategic value of the systems.

Marty wrote: "We do want to own the skies, sorry if we are only likely to fight small wars, but in both Iraq and Afghanistan we want to own that airspace when needed."

We already own that airspace with just A-10s and Blackhawks. F-22s haven't even been to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Are you expecting the Taliban to develop and field a high-tech stealth fighter?

Roger wrote: " Instead, our troops got inadequate body armor, vehicles that couldn't handle IEDs, barracks with unsafe wiring, and criminally inadequate care at Walter Reed."

Ah, but pilots are worth so much more. :/

Marty wrote: "Starting over is always problematic."

Except that's not the situation here. There's already a better, cheaper plane in development, so starting over isn't really the issue.

We do want to own the skies, sorry if we are only likely to fight small wars, but in both Iraq and Afghanistan we want to own that airspace when needed.

How did their land get under our sky?

"We already own that airspace with just A-10s and Blackhawks. F-22s haven't even been to Iraq or Afghanistan."

We do have F-22s in range of the whole Middle East, I wouldn't suspect that the iraqi's will have a new Air Force soon, or that we have had no F-22s in that airspace over the last 8 years.

But, I could be wrong, they don't send me a note every time they are deployed.

"We do want to own the skies, sorry if we are only likely to fight small wars, but in both Iraq and Afghanistan we want to own that airspace when needed."

Who exactly are we seeking to control it against? Russia? China? India? Cos I'm pretty sure that neither Afghanistan or Iraq had an air force capable of competing with our older planes or with the less sexy multi-role fighters. We don't usually get belligerent with countries unless military superiority is a foregone conclusion from the outset. Just ask Georgia.

If this is really about Russia and China, then make it about them rather than trying to piggyback on the latest bugbears. At least Russia and China are credible political threats. But if we are talking about them you need to include the capabilities of our allies in the calculations as well. They have their own air superiority fighters in service.

Marty wrote: "We do have F-22s in range of the whole Middle East, I wouldn't suspect that the iraqi's will have a new Air Force soon, or that we have had no F-22s in that airspace over the last 8 years.

But, I could be wrong, they don't send me a note every time they are deployed."

You would seem to be wrong.

"The reality is, we are fighting two wars ... and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater," Gates said in an appearance before a Senate committee last week.

It takess decades to plan, design and build the first one of anything at huge costs.

sunk - need I say more?

"You would seem to be wrong.

"The reality is, we are fighting two wars ... and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater," Gates said in an appearance before a Senate committee last week.'

Other than to pioint out that he said this in some other year and was quoted as saying in in 2008 (rather than the stated last week) I will concede that I can't prove this is not true.

My point is not really different though, we don't own the skies anywhere with a-10's they help us own the ground.

My point is not really different though, we don't own the skies anywhere with a-10's they help us own the ground.

What is the specific threat in Iraq or Afghanistan that requires an F-22? I.e., what specific threats cannot be dealt with using existing aircraft. Please name them.

Marty wrote: "Other than to pioint out that he said this in some other year and was quoted as saying in in 2008 (rather than the stated last week) I will concede that I can't prove this is not true."

Feb 2008. Since Gates is a prime mover in wanting to get rid of the F-22, I rather doubt the situation has changed in the 17 months since then.

I'm not sure what use it'd even be in Iraq or Afghanistan. The job it was designed for doesn't exist in either place.

Maybe if Putin gets ergot poisoning and sends a wing of their top jets in to fight us, there'd be some reason to have F-22s over there.

Marty wrote: "My point is not really different though, we don't own the skies anywhere with a-10's they help us own the ground."

Given that there is no air war in Iraq or Afghanistan, A-10s are more than adequate.

Given that there is no air war in Iraq or Afghanistan, A-10s are more than adequate.

Given that there is no air war in Iraq or Afghanistan, P-38s would probably be adequate.

In fact, I seem to recall that during the Panama invasion of 1989 the Panamanian air force put a WWII-era fighter in the air. Beautiful symbolism (though I don't remember whether the pilot survived), but the simple fact is that the plane was probably perfectly effective for intimidating non-state actors, and a more modern plane, or fleet of them, acquired at tremendous expense, would have made no difference against the US.

There was a good, if limited, article in a recent Atlantic that strongly hinted that swarms of cheap antiquated jet fighters with upgraded electronics, sensors, and missiles, would probably be much more useful than insanely expensive jet fighters in severely limited quantities.

"What is the specific threat in Iraq or Afghanistan that requires an F-22? I.e., what specific threats cannot be dealt with using existing aircraft. Please name them."

I am not sure what they might be, the Air Force did want to deploy them, refused by Gates. I don't think there is necessarily a need for nuclear subs, and many other weapons in our arsenal, in Iraq. That is not a reason to stop having them.

It also doesn't follow that we don't need the capabilities of the F-22 because we haven't said we used them. Certainly there has been significant concern over using them that close to Iran,enough reason not to advertise it.

There is just a lot of assumption, supposition and statistics being used to deny the Air Force a tool they have identified as key to their success.

It's obvious that the F-22 is purely about Russia and China. There are no other meaningful opponents for it. For all other functions the existing 4.5 generation planes (F-15/F-16/F-18) are just fine and much cheaper.

Both Russia and China have less than 1,000 fighters that are remotely modern, and many of those are effectively obsolete compared to the last revs of the US 4.5 generation fighters.

The US has 350+ F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, 1245 F-16s, and 630 F-15s. Plus various other fighters - Harriers, older F-18s, etc. It intends to buy 2,500 F-35s. In other words, it has, and will continue to have, more fighters than Russia and China combined, and those fighters are more modern, and there's no question that the pilots are better-trained and that US C3 capabilities are vastly better.

Oh yeah, and it also has 11 or 12 aircraft carriers. Russia has one and not a very good one. China has zero. Which makes their fighters not terribly threatening to the US mainland. So let's get really real: the F-22 exists to fight an air war *in Europe or Asia* with Russia or China.

Can you see that coming to pass? Should it happen, do you think that the US's 187 F-22s, and 2,500-some other modern fighters, plus those of its allies, would not be up to the task?

The F-22 proponents like to mutter darkly about a fighter gap, and Russian & Chinese plans to build fleets of 5th gen fighters. Well, there is a fighter gap. As far as I can tell it's about 1,500-2,000 aircraft in favour of the US. Counting NATO the gap is probably more like 5,000. And as to 5th gen fighters - well, Russia might say that it "intends" to build 300 of this or that fighter but they've *actually* built only a handful of prototypes. Saying you "intend" to build something is a lot cheaper than actually building them. (See also: the F-22.)

But even if they really ramped it up and fielded 600 5th-generation fighters, in the time it takes them to actually do so, the US will be well on the way to those 2,500 F-35s. While still having a zillion F-18s and F-16s and whatnot lying around. And if the Russians get really enthusiastic about building 5th gen fighters well maybe we would get nervous enough to knock out a few hundred more F-22s - but Russia can't produce planes overnight, or effectively hide them from the US.

I'm all for unfair fights. But for god's sake how unfair do you need it to be? The balance of power is already wildly stacked in favour of NATO - and, hey, I'm happy for it to be that way. But does the US really need to be able to single-handedly take on every conceivable opponent at once, on their home territory, with no advance notice?

It is not an apples to oranges comparison to hold progressives to the same cost/benefit analysis on national defense as national health care or, for that matter, economic stimulus. The progressive view of the first stimulus was, in effect, any dollar spent is a dollar well spent, regardless of how cynics on the right might view it.

Pretty much every new generation, high performance jet (or tank--I remember the same objections being made by the progressive left to the M-1) has a good deal of bugs to work out. The progressive left considered the F-15 to be too expensive, too buggy, redundant of other less expensive jets, etc. And, even then, the F-15 and M-1, among many other now essential weapons systems, were condemned as misplaced priorities. The progressive left was demonstrably wrong on both systems, as time as proven.

The F-22 is not needed for Afghanistan or Iraq, although that is not to say that future Mid-East conflicts won't cry out for the F-22's profile. The F-22 could well be decisive in the Taiwan Straits, over the Balkans or over North Korea, all future potential points of conflict.

Pilot survivability is both a moral and a cost issue. The cost of pilot training is quite high. The moral cost of sending someone out to fight with less because of a premeditated to save a buck seems even higher. I don't buy the 'they volunteered for it argument' since 'they' volunteered to fight when and where directed by our elected leadership.


The F-22 is not needed for Afghanistan or Iraq, although that is not to say that future Mid-East conflicts won't cry out for the F-22's profile.
Fair enough, as far as it goes. But what is to say that future conflicts will cry out for the F-22? What reasonable claim is there that the foreseeable future involves a situation where we prefer having an F-22 instead of two F-35s, or four modern F-15s, or a dozen high-tech drones, or dozens of upgraded F-4s? Let alone a combination of aircraft and other military expenditures made possible by a decision not to squander money on this white elephant?

All your woolgathering about the value of human life, while not actually wrong, could wind up looking a bit silly if we save a few pilots' lives but end up losing far more lives either of other soldiers or of our civilians because the expense of the F-22 has limited our ability to appropriately budget for other military needs or has meant that the continued growth of military spending on useless and unnecessary weapons systems has continued to limit our ability to provide healthcare, to maintain bridges, or to prepare for natural disasters. Indeed, despite your odd allusion the only connection I can see to the health care debate is that in both we need to address the continuing growth in the cost to the nation, and in both people are lobbying in order to secure their profits (and jobs) instead of genuinely debating actual national priorities.

People like McKinneytexas don't seem to realize that there are limits to our resources, and that spending a dollar on an F-22 means that weraren't going to spend a dollar on something else--like, say, infantry.

OK, let me make this a bit more specific. No imperial power has ever held sway over the whole (known) world for very long; about 400 years stands as the record, and in modern times, the limit stands closer to fifty to a hundred years. By that rule, the US will lose its absolute predominance not much later than 2040, well within the lifetimes of your children.

Weapons systems rust, but the ethical rules our choices teach us and others tend to persist. So: do you want the next superpower or superpowers to decide that they "must" dominate the skies over Texas?

The progressive left considered the F-15 to be too expensive, too buggy, redundant of other less expensive jets, etc. And, even then, the F-15 and M-1, among many other now essential weapons systems, were condemned as misplaced priorities.

Cite, please.

The F-22 is not needed for Afghanistan or Iraq, although that is not to say that future Mid-East conflicts won't cry out for the F-22's profile.

Yeah, heaven forfend we just, like, stay out of the Middle East for a while.

And, even then, the F-15 and M-1, among many other now essential weapons systems, were condemned as misplaced priorities. The progressive left was demonstrably wrong on both systems, as time as proven.
Please cite the conflict in which the United States would not have done just as well flying more numerous Grumman Tigersharks (the alternative proposed for the F-15 at the time). As for the M-1, while tanks present very different technical issues from combat aircraft, in which war did the United States need that particular tank, rather than a less expensive, easier to produce version?

I do not think time has justified the decision to purchase high-end weapons systems, even if we focus only on the success stories, in which military maintenance and contractor modifications successfully work the bugs out, and that distorts the picture. Sometimes, and in some cases quite late in the procurement process, the bugs overwhelm the project. Does the name Sergeant York ring a bell? Sometimes, gee-whiz, unfair fight, technical marvels make it right into the war, there to prove harmless to the enemy. Case in point: the World War II Mark XIV torpedo, which may well have lengthened the war in the Pacific by seriously hampering the US submarine offensive.

The progressive left considered the F-15 to be too expensive, too buggy, redundant of other less expensive jets, etc. And, even then, the F-15 and M-1, among many other now essential weapons systems, were condemned as misplaced priorities.

The F-15 never has been essential. The debate over the F-22 vs. the F-35 pretty much mirrors the debate over the F-15 vs. the F-16, and the result is pretty much the same. Has we never built any F-15s, the F-16s would have done the job. Now, of course, we have the F-15s, and it's worth keeping them, but we never really needed them overall.

The M-1 Abrams is something of a different story, because there was no other tank designed for the Army at the time, so there was no equivalent of the F-16. If the choice was between the M-1 and nothing, you take the M-1. It's possible that simply upgrading the M-60 would have done the job, but not necessarily. However, if the choice had been between the M-1 and a cheaper modern alternative, I'm not at all sure that the M-1 would have been the better choice.

The mindset of American military hardware design seems to be stuck in exactly the same stupid place that the Germans ended up in during World War II. The emphasis is on producing the most amazing piece of engineering possible without regard to all of the opportunity costs of that choice. It isn't any better an idea now than it was then, but you can sure get a lot of armchair historians who fall in love with how cool the Panther was, and how it was, tank-for-tank, the best of the war, without thinking through the implications of the qualifier.

"The F-22 is not needed for Afghanistan or Iraq, although that is not to say that future Mid-East conflicts won't cry out for the F-22's profile.

Yeah, heaven forfend we just, like, stay out of the Middle East for a while."

This is an argument for what? Yes,we can continue to design and build the best systems our collective imagination can come up with, or someone else will: or, become Switzerland and only defend our borders with the best stuff we can get at the good enough store. I dont believe we are secure to afford the second option

However, the President gets the title of Commander-in-Chief for a reason. The first and most important reason for a Federal government is to protect the United Statess against all enemies foreign and domestic. It is the first budget ever provided for in our country. If you want to trade off SS, Healthcare, ten other department budgets, etc. we should discuss that. We shouldn't barter for the best weapons against the rest of the budget.

.

Marty, if your comment were taken seriously and implemented as policy the defense budget would be unlimited - after all, there are always more and better weapons to be considered, and the only arguments against buying them are the trade-offs involved. Somehow I don't think this would actually promote the security of the country against foreign enemies in the longer run, and I don't think it would effectively protect the country against domestic enemies - military spending on that scale would eventually turn the military into a domestic enemy.

"Marty, if your comment were taken seriously and implemented as policy the defense budget would be unlimited - after all, there are always more and better weapons to be considered, and the only arguments against buying them are the trade-offs involved. Somehow I don't think this would actually promote the security of the country against foreign enemies in the longer run, and I don't think it would effectively protect the country against domestic enemies - military spending on that scale would eventually turn the military into a domestic enemy."

There is no conflict here, I believe we don't buy every weapon, just the best weapons for the missions defined. Those missions include many where the F-22 would be the best tool. We should not limit the tool set because we can buy a "good enough" tool for 25% less.

"From what I've read, the F-22 program is also intended to keep American military casualties to the absolute minimum (viz., zero deaths outside of pilot error)."

As plenty of military experts have pointed out, there's very good reason to believe that the F-22 may be the last piloted fighting plane it's ever wise to build, given our ever-increasing drone capability, and the simple fact that drones can pull g-forces vastly in excess of what a human can remain conscious through.

It's true that that time isn't now, and it's possible that it might be further off than it looks now, but it certainly seems inevitable in the relatively near future (the next thirty years, if not the next twenty).

"And, by the way, I don't want to hear from a Major on this issue, they typically run parts of these programs and are not, for the most part, the folks with a broad enough insight to decide the strategic value of the systems."

So you're saying that your rank in the military is colonel or higher, Marty? You really should have mentioned that earlier.

"We do have F-22s in range of the whole Middle East,"

Cite?

"But, I could be wrong, they don't send me a note every time they are deployed."

They do to me: it's called the internet. F-22 Deployment:

[...] Beddown of the F-22 and drawdown of the F-15C would occur at Langley AFB, with part of a squadron of F-22s arriving and an equivalent number of F-15Cs from that squadron being removed until the full squadron is composed of 24 PAI F-22 aircraft. This pattern would apply for two of the three F-15C squadrons with 24 PAI aircraft. The third squadron would receive 24 PAI F-22s to replace its 18 PAI F-15Cs. In total, Langley AFB would support 6 additional PAI aircraft (66 F-15Cs versus 72 F-22s) as a result of the proposed beddown.

The F-22A Raptor achieved Initial Operational Capability [IOC] on 15 December 2005. The first combat-ready Raptors were assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, one of three squadrons assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing. The 27th FS combat deployment capability with the F-22A is a 12-ship deployable package designed to execute air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

At Eglin, Elmendorf, and Mountain Home alternative bases, the operational F-15Cs would be replaced with operational F-22s. At Tyndall AFB, all F-22s for the Operational Wing would be additive to the base since there are no operational F-15C aircraft to drawdown. The three operational F-22 squadrons at Tyndall AFB would be under a new, separate wing. Personnel changes to support the beddown would follow the same sequence as the aircraft beddown.

[...]

The Air Force has decided to establish (beddown) the Second Operational Wing of F-22A Raptors at Elmendorf Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska to support the F-22A program. The purpose of the Elmendorf AFB-based F-22A Operational Wing is to have national assets positioned to rapidly respond to the directives of the President and Secretary of Defense and to provide the Air Force with the capability to meet mission responsibilities that include rapid worldwide deployment. The Elmendorf AFB beddown would involve basing 36 F-22A Primary Aircraft Inventory (PAI) and 4 Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI); constructing new facilities, modifying existing Elmendorf AFB facilities; changing personnel; and conducting flight training operations in existing Alaskan Special Use Airspace (SUA).

The Air Force announced in March 2006 that Holloman AFB, NM, and Hickam AFB, Hawaii, are its preferred third and fourth beddown locations for the F-22 Raptor. Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley unveiled the plans in a statement that his office released on 01 March 2006. He noted that the Air Force "must still complete the environmental analyses required under the National Environmental Policy Act" before finalizing the decision on these two sites. Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) said in a joint statement issued on March 1 that Holloman will host two Raptor squadrons, with the first aircraft arriving in late 2008. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), said in a statement dated 01 March 2006 that Hickam would be home to "a squadron of 18 F-22 aircraft."

I'd ask for your own cite for your claim that "We do have F-22s in range of the whole Middle East," but I believe you've already admitted that you don't know what the hell you're talking about.

To be sure, we can keep an F-22 flying as long as we can keep a pilot awake, and refuel it in midair. What topline fighter plane we'd need it to fight in the Mideast, however, remains a highly open question. Iranian F-4E of Vietnam War vintage? Some of the jets they impounded from Iraq? Say, how do you think their supply system is going, given that getting supplies for a system that was already failing for lack of them was their incentive for the Iran-Contra affair twenty-five years ago?

"I will concede that I can't prove this is not true."

Here's a helpful hint in commenting on blogs: only make assertions you can provide citations to support for, and you won't have to constantly be saying things that are proveably wrong. Do your homework. Don't just have an opinion: have an informed opinion. Actual facts help no end in convincing other people that you actually have a point.

"Certainly there has been significant concern over using them that close to Iran,enough reason not to advertise it."

I don't know what this means, but you're suggesting we've been engaging in secret air fighter combat with Iran? WTF?

Are you saying we've been engaging in fighter combat with anyone near Iraq or Afghanistan, or in the Mideast lately? Against who? Do you even know what the F-22 does?

"There is no conflict here, I believe we don't buy every weapon, just the best weapons for the missions defined."

No matter what they cost? If we could produce a single super-duper ground attack vehicle that costs $100 billion per copy, we should buy it?

Have you considered thinking about what you're writing, before writing it?

Buying things mandate trade-offs. The military budget for the U.S. is:

For the 2009 fiscal year, the base budget rose to $515.4 billion. Adding emergency discretionary spending and supplemental spending brings the sum to $651.2 billion.[1] This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance and production (about $9.3 billion, which is in the Department of Energy budget), Veterans Affairs (about $33.2 billion), interest on debt incurred in past wars, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely funded through extra-budgetary supplements, about $170 billion in 2007). As of 2009, the United States government is spending about $1 trillion annually on defense-related purposes. [2]
That's:
[...] The 2005 U.S. military budget is almost as much as the rest of the world's defense spending combined [11] and is over eight times larger than the official military budget of China (compared at the nominal US dollar / Renminbi rate, not the PPP rate). The United States and its close allies are responsible for about two-thirds of the world's military spending (of which, in turn, the U.S. is responsible for the majority). In 2007, US military spending was above 1/4 of combined industrial and agricultural production in the USA.

In 2003, the United States spent about 47% of the world's total military spending of US$910.6 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Chart and info on world military spending here.

No matter how large you want the U.S. military budget to be, there comes a point at which we can't buy more. No matter how large you want the U.S. military budget to be, we wind up being unable to buy other things for it, if we spend the money on yet other things. If we spend $137.5 million on each F-22, that's $137.5 million we're not spending on infantry troops, or their gear.

You can't just argue that we should buy "the best weapons for the missions defined" with no context whatever defined, nor any limits placed, nor any specific context of what the overall military budget should be, and what our priorities should be. You might want to think about these things before making such absolutist claims.

There is no conflict here, I believe we don't buy every weapon, just the best weapons for the missions defined. Those missions include many where the F-22 would be the best tool. We should not limit the tool set because we can buy a "good enough" tool for 25% less.
Marty, try considering this: let's hypothesize that an F-22 can shoot down five opposing MIG-29s, and the F-22 costs $135 million to build, but the unit cost of the MIG-29 turns out to be only $11 million a copy. So the opposition can buy ten copies of their plane for every one of ours, and shoot down all our planes twice over.

Is that the sound military strategy you're advocating?

Because, yes, that's the military strategy you're advocating.

The U.S., as it happens, didn't defeat the Germans when it fought against them, in WWII, as has been pointed out here, because the U.S. had better weapons. The Germans had much better weapons. And, for that matter, until they used them up, better trained troops. The U.S. overwhelmed the Germans with more and cheaper weapons.

"I believe we don't buy every weapon, just the best weapons for the missions defined" isn't advocacy for a particular kind of logistics solution; it's a bumper sticker. It offers no guidance whatever for how to make any decision whatever in the real world.

Marty, there is always a better weapon for any mission that could be designed. There are trade offs involved in everything in life. You can't have the theoretical best tool, and for *everything* in life, including weaponry, you have to settle for good enough.

Marty -- what exactly is it that keeps us from being secure with a smaller military? What unique, imminent threat necessitates us spending nine times as much on our military as either China or the UK does? China and Russia combined expend only 17% of what we do on their militaries and they seem to be able to do more than just protect their borders. The UK and France combined spend more on their militaries than do Russia and China combined, and they still manage to spend less than a quarter of what we do.

So what is it about the US that makes it so much less secure than the UK, France, China and Russia combined? What threat to the *US alone* exists such that the risk to our sovereignty is nine times greater than those same risks to the UK?

Justify our spending only 4% less than the rest of the world combined on our military.

I hardly think we're limiting anyones tool set here. I think that we need to talk to the brass about how they are defining their mission and their success parameters. And we need to reign in representatives that are more than happy to give the Joint Chiefs what they want with no serious questions so long as part of it is being built in their states.

Oh, hell. I wrote a really long response here earlier, and didn't notice that Typepad ate it. It was long enough ago that even my multiple clipboard saving hasn't saved it. Could one of the blogowners please dig it out of the bit-bucket, pretty please?

Yes,we can continue to design and build the best systems our collective imagination can come up with, or someone else will: or, become Switzerland and only defend our borders with the best stuff we can get at the good enough store. I dont believe we are secure to afford the second option
Sombebody conquered Switzerland? Why didn't I get the memo?

Let me remind Marty of two interesting records here. First, since World War II, the advent of the UN, not one existing country has conquered and completely incorporated another. Not one. Countries split through secession, and sometimes have voluntarily united, but the only time one country actually tried to turn another UN member into a province (Iraq vs Kuwait) the whole world gave them the boot. So the UN security system does generally seem to work, imperfectly, without needing the most advanced of American weapons.

The number of nations that have maintained absolute dominance over world affairs for more than a century and a half, since the fifteenth century: none. Proportion of civilizations that tried for dominance before that time and came to a sticky end: 99% (with China as arguably the 1%). So I would say that trusting in the UN system and not trying to dominate the entire world makes for a statistically better bet than trying to dominate world affairs.

"We shouldn't barter for the best weapons against the rest of the budget."

Oh right. Well, if we really want "the best weapons" without consideration for any other needs, we should devote our entire economy to researching and producing them.

And in that case we'd better decide which "best weapons" we should concentrate on - best nuclear warhead delivery systems? Best fighters? Best tanks? Best battleships? Best siege towers? Best ballistae? Best X-ray-laser satellites? Best doomsday bomb? Best weapon to DESTROY THE SUN?

Well gosh it's almost as if you have to pick and choose and decide how much you want to spend on any given area based on an assessment of potential threats and needs and the actual costs of the technology in some kind of tradey-offey, spendey-balancey sort of thing, I guess we can could call it a, a ... a schmudget?

It's really frustrating that I wrote all this relevant stuff and can't access it until someone else wakes up and finds it for me (maybe).

But among my other points were that, yes, if we could build the world's greatest superduper tank for one hundred billion dollars a copy, I don't think anyone would agree that that was a sound budgetary concept. Possibly even Marty might agreed that that would be an idiotic idea.

More specifically, if it costs us, say, $135 million per copy of an F-22, hypothetically, and hypothetically it can go up against, say, five MIG-29s at a time, and shoot them all down, but, as it happens, the cost of a MIG-29 is only $11 million dollars a copy, then our opponents can build ten copies for every one F-22 we build, and if we happen to have equal piles of money, hey, they win!

This sort of "we can't do cost-benefit analysis, we must simply spend money with no cost-benefit analysis at all!" is not exactly a way to win wars.

Similarly, as I believe someone mentioned, German weapons in WWII were generally far superior to U.S. weapons. When the U.S. won fights with the Germans, it wasn't because we had the best weapons (or the best trained troops); it was because we had a lot more weapons and troops and logistical support, overall.

And every dime spent on one weapon isn't spent on another. If we want to buy F-22s for $140 million a copy, for each one that's $140 million dollars we're not giving to, say, the infantry.

These are not exactly complex, sophisticated, issues to argue. Any sixth-grader who has played a war game should be able to figure them out, even if they're starting from a position of total ignorance about military procurement history.

What Gary said, with an already mentioned caveat: just a reminder that nothing in the American record, in war and peace, proves that the F-22 will shake off its problems. Also, the American political record suggests that, should the F-22 get through an entire "life cycle" doing nothing for the defence of the United States except appear for photo-ops, wow foreign dignitaries, and consume resources better spent elsewhere, we will never hear a peep of apology or retraction from its proponents.

Hey, the fact that a weapon system was never used would be cited as a proof that it was the best because the enemy quivered in fear of it and therefore never attacked.
Although Gary is certainly right about US vs. Germany in WW2, the Germans (unlike the US of today) had not much choices as far as basic weapons were concerned. The Russians had both the edge in quality and quantity with the T-34 and since Germany could not even dream about countering the latter, it had to be something like the Panther*. In other areas it was simply too many high-tech avenues followed at he same time.
And the shiny hypermodern solution is not necessarily the best. The V-1 was cheap as dirt, did more damage than a V-2 and slight improvements would have rendered most allied countermeasures ineffective.
The rocket has not replaced the gun either (despite attempts in the enthusiastic early days to do just that).
And although it is improper to put a monetary value on a human life, I consider it insane to throw unimaginable amounts of money out the window for a reduction of casualties from 'not very much in the first place' to 'none', which does not work anyway and has the absurd result that in the actual 'war' more soldiers are killed by their own side than by the enemy (and later are killed by means that all that high-tech stuff does not protect them from).

*I hear that during the split of Yugoslavia there were encounters between Panthers and T-34s on the Croatian-Serbian border. They were obviously still considered useful (and still worked) half a century after rolling out of the factory.

And I love that saying (source unknown to me) about the difference between the US and the UK military philosophy:
"The British equip their men, the Americans man their equipment."
And a note to Marty: Nuclear subs are used by the US in those foreign wars. They fire cruise missiles, escort carriers, patrol the Gulfs, probably do reconaissance/special operations. But even the US strategists have come to realize that two good subs that can be deployed worlds apart beats a single super-sub that costs the same or more than those two combined (a reason to drop Seawolf for Virginia* and to consider to 'go conventional' again by buying the main German design company).

*Which turned out to be almost as expensive though.

This is an argument for what? Yes,we can continue to design and build the best systems our collective imagination can come up with, or someone else will: or, become Switzerland and only defend our borders with the best stuff we can get at the good enough store. I dont believe we are secure to afford the second option

Sooooo... re-start development of e.g. the Crusader? Don't wanna risk "good enough", after all, even if the price tag is 3-5x higher...

Also, the American political record suggests that, should the F-22 get through an entire "life cycle" doing nothing for the defence of the United States except appear for photo-ops, wow foreign dignitaries, and consume resources better spent elsewhere, we will never hear a peep of apology or retraction from its proponents.

Now, John, that's simply not fair. Of course we'll hear nothing from them - they'll be too busy trying to protect America by lobbying for the development of the F-44 to overcome the shortcomings of America's aging fighter fleet. Sheesh!

In reponse to non use, we spent a lot of money on the GLCM, never used it but it certainly was a valuable weapons system. We had Tomahawks for 20 years before we "needed" them. As for no one occupying anyplace sonce WWII. The Czech Republic for one might have different view, South Vietnam might also.

"South Vietnam might also."

If you can find a time in history that South Vietnam was an independent country, before the French split it, get back to us.

Aha, my missing comment is here, from July 15, 2009 at 10:18 PM.

Thanks muchly!

"The Czech Republic for one might have different view"

What the heck is your point? That there's some weapons system we should have had that would have enabled us to stop the USSR from crushing a member of the Warsaw Pact?

Marty, do yourself a favor and read this. Try to make points that are relevant.

Gary, I would love to discuss relevant points. They are:
Mission tasking for the Air Force that makes them defend production vigorously
Sunk Costs in a program that has an identified end of life
Valid cost/risk comparisons with next generation replacements

They are not:
What the people here consider what missions are likely, that isn't how mission profiles are created

The Congress vs Gates,

Typed on bb
Sorry for brevity

Mission tasking for the Air Force that makes them defend production vigorously

Flying fast and cool planes around. It's as simple as that. In order to be promoted in the Air Force IIRC you need to be a fighter-jock, never mind that fighters are the most strategically irrelevant part of the service.

Also, junkets paid for by arms manufacturers.

Finally the principle of newer planes or older planes.

The Air Force loses absolutely nothing by getting the newer planes it's lobbying for. So of course it will lobby for them. It's every single other American that loses out if money is pissed away giving the Air Force another wave of new shiny toys to play with.

So that the Air Force is requesting them is not a particularly strong argument.

Sunk Costs in a program that has an identified end of life

Read: throwing good money after bad in a recession and time of deficit. Also continuing to give away contracts on Cost Plus and not penalising manufacturers for lying or screwing up.

Valid cost/risk comparisons with next generation replacements

Have been given. And the F22 does not look good.

But you miss the null case - Valid cost/risk comparisons compared with not buying the thing at all and remaining on the previous generation. At least until the JSF is ready.

And there again the F22 suffers badly.

To the extent that the USAF "task" includes winning wars, you can not do that with technology. Case in point: the Iraq war. The United States had such an overwhelming technological advantage that the Iraqis did not even put up an attempt at air defence. Major combat operations famously ended within weeks. Yet the insurgency that followed the war cost the Americans over 4000 lives and shattered American prestige in the area of post-war reconstruction. The negotiations that followed the first major wave of the insurgency ended in the abandonment of at least one of the major objectives that American politicians had identified for the invasion of Iraq: the "enduring bases".

American technology did not win in Iraq. Why does the air force think this supposedly irresistible fighter can win wars anywhere else?

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad