U.S. Air Force's F-22 production stopped at 187 aircraft

U.S. Air Force's F-22 production stopped at 187 aircraft

Bethesda : MD : USA | Nov 19, 2009 at 6:40 PM PST
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Senate Strips Money for More F-22 Planes
President Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign called for change, the biggest of all was the U.S.’ spending habits. Since being elected, he’s called for major Defense budget costs in the wake of President Bush’s extremely high defense spending. To help his administration get a better grasp of how to cut defense spending, President Obama elected to keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates in office from the Bush administration’s departure. Despite Obama’s wise choice, the two politicians will face strong opposition in Congress. Many of the legislators want to keep Lockheed Martin’s F-22 program running, if nothing more than for the sake of the number of jobs at stake. What many don’t realize when they look at the F-22 program is how the economy is affected by defense programs, the amount of jobs directly and indirectly related to the program, and the technology it offers to our national defense, including the relief it brings to the U.S. Air Force and the impact on foreign policy. President Obama took the presidential oath back in January, entering an office required to meet the demands of the nation. At the moment, the biggest demand was, and remains to be the nation’s economy. With so many people unemployed, his main priority became focusing on a way to stabilize the economy. One way to do so was to increase the number of jobs available to the unemployed. Another, was to look at how the nation is spending its money. Obama’s economic stimulus principles are that it should be timely, targeted and temporary. Many agree that defense programs meet his criteria because compared to the standard infrastructures, they require lengthy planning, design and approval processes. Whereas, extending efficient, already running defense procurements would have brief “flash-to-bang” times. Money would circulate rapidly and have a multiplying effect. They sustain jobs among prime contractors and their suppliers. Increasing the size of the military have more direct and immediate effects on employment. Second effect would give thousands training, skills, and valuable traits of personal discipline and leadership. The current legislation in use split hundreds of billions of dollars amongst the states, but the White House and Congress have no way of knowing how the money will be spent. If they were to continue production of the F-18 and F-22 for the next two to three years, it would provide a bridge for the airplane industry until the F-35 is ready for full production. The F-22 contributes over $2 billion annually to the economy. Once the F-35 program is online, they can then cancel the F-18 and F-22 production with little work disruption. During the previous Bush administration, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld tried to convert the U.S.’ Cold-War military arsenal into a lighter, more flexible fighting force. Rumsfeld and Gates’ arguments for the need of defense cuts, are that the U.S.’s defense budget is filled with obsolete weaponry that should have been abandoned years ago. America spends more on national security than the rest of the world combined. Obama hopes to save the U.S. money by cutting back the defense budget. Gates’ decided to stop the F-22 production, but increase the Joint Strike Fighter’s production rate to thirty aircraft in the upcoming budget decision. This will increase the F-35’s funding from $6.8 billion to $11.2 billion. This is part of his plan to rid the defense of “obsolete” aircraft, since the F-22s cost at $140 million each. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) accused Gates of altering planning scenarios to ensure such analysis would conclude that no additional F-22s needed. Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said, "it’s not the responsibility of this building to worry about the economic impact of budgetary decisions.” Then he contradicted himself by saying, “The Secretary of Defense and his staff are charged with providing a budget that protects the American people and our interests around the world.” Although cutting the F-22 production will probably save the taxpayers millions, if not billions of dollars, there are thousands of jobs at stake. Lockheed said that although 38,000 people are now working on the JSF, which will rise to 82,000 by 2011, almost 95,000 jobs are at risk with the F-22 production stop. Most of these are in California, Texas, Georgia and Connecticut. Compared to what Lockheed predicts, Gates said the number of jobs directly related to the F-22 will drop from 24,000 to 13,000 by 2011. Senator Chambliss argued that Gates’ moves look “purely budget-driven” and lack the “analysis of risks of how [the decisions] will affect our ability to achieve [strategic] goals.” And that Gates’ budget details “do not appear to be oriented to a real strategy.”[/quote] General Gregory “Speedy” Martin (Ret.) argues, “there was no analysis to it. It was driven by the budget drill.” 187 aircraft won’t be enough to assign one squadron of F-22s to each of the ten air expeditionary forces. The 187 aircraft will have to somehow find a way to last 30 years until a substitute can be planned, designed and produced. Even with 243 jets, the Air Force would be shortening the numbers needed for training, testing and reserves. 187 jet fleet would only give 126 combat coded planes. Senator Chambliss argues that only 126 F-22s, won’t clear the way through hostile zones for the less stealthier F-35s. Former Air Force Secretary Mike Wynne says 391 F-22s will account for every contingency plan and claims, “quantity has a quality ass its own. No modern war has been won without air superiority, and the first time the American Air Force gets its (butt) kicked, our version of Dunkirk will be upon our Army.” The F-22 is directed to replace the aging F-15. The 2010 fiscal year budget retires 250 F-15s, F-16s and A-10s, which will enable the Air Force to redistribute $3.5 billion over the next six years to modernize its technology. Many of our allies are worried about Gates' plans to stop the F-22 production. The F-22 is vital to the future of the U.S.' posture in Asia, but also to our allies. President Obama is already following a trend towards unsettling the U.S.' longstanding democratic allies in Asia by skimping on defense. Senator Chambliss claims the F-22 is required to maintain worldwide airspace control. Larry Lawson, Lockheed’s manager of F-22, said “it’s an effective deterrent. People don’t want to come out and fight it. It tamps aggression.” Former AF Sec Mike Wynne says, “Quantity has a quality all its own. No modern war has been won without air superiority, and the first time the American AF gets its (butt) kicked, our version of Dunkirk will be upon our Army.” Over last decade China has acquired highly sophisticated set of capabilities designed to thwart US’ air superiority in any possible fight, including Su-27 Flanker and its variables. The Su-27 was the Soviet response to the F-15 and F-16, establishing the requirement for the F-22. Many people think we need to consider exporting F-22 to Japan and Australia, as they’re security pillars in Asia-Pacific. By not allowing Japan to get the F-22, it implies distrust of Tokyo and makes the Japanese want to develop own autonomous national strike capabilities. Australia doesn’t think Obama is serious about maintaining US military presence in Asia. Buried in budget policy paper is “balancing the capabilities required for unconventional ops, such as counter-insurgency and stabilization, while retaining strong high-tech conventional forces, will be a major challenge for U.S. defense planners” This is defense planner speak for, “We’re nervous you aren’t going to spend enough money to keep ahead of China and maintain security in Asia.” Besides the U.S.' responsibilities in Asia, we have more in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do not agree with Gates' decision to stop the production. I personally believe this is a huge mistake. As Senator Chambliss said, "We don’t know who our enemy is going to be… We know we must be prepared.” The F-22 combines stealth, speed, maneuverability, and the ability to fly at great height, and do so economically without using too much fuel. To rebuke the argument that the F-22 is untested as it has yet to serve a mission in the Middle East, how could it have? It didn't become operational until 2004. They're just now becoming more organized and beginning to prepare for overseas deployment. We will need them in the future to help protect our allies in Asia. I hope that they can resolve these issues and make better decisions in the future.
KeraEllingson is based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States of America, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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