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Should the U.S. Scrap F-22 Raptor?

Yes: Jet has no security mission; program’s end won’t alter this recession
  • and Krista Brewer, Larry Lawson
Weapons programs should not be about jobs; they should be about security. And on this front the F-22 wins low marks.
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The F-22 Raptor combat aircraft is in the middle of a pitched battle for its existence. Georgians are paying close attention because the main assembly plant is in Marietta at Lockheed-Martin.

Supporters say canceling will cost jobs and national security. However, the reality is that the F-22 is at the top of the list of Cold War weapons that should be eliminated.

Weapons programs should not be about jobs; they should be about security. And on this front the F-22 wins low marks.

At a total unit cost of $351 million per aircraft, including research and development, the F-22 is the most expensive fighter plane ever produced. Yet its mission remains unclear. Originally developed to do battle with a Soviet fighter plane that was never built, the F-22 is not necessary for dealing with the current generation of enemy combat aircraft. Our most likely adversaries —- non-traditional warriors from Iraqi insurgents to the Taliban in Afghanistan -- do not have air forces, nor do they have the ability to shoot down the current generation of U.S. planes.

Potential future adversaries like China are also decades behind us in fighter plane development, and can be more than adequately dealt with by the next generation F-35 aircraft, also built by Lockheed-Martin.

That leaves the jobs argument. This is clearly more than just an academic concern in the Atlanta area and for the workers in Marietta. But a number of points should be noted before mounting a full-court press to save the F-22.

Cuts in military spending are inevitable given its unbridled growth in recent years, the state of our federal budget and the depressed economy. If the F-22 is not cut now, most experts feel it will undoubtedly be cut in a year or two.

As for the argument that spending on the F-22 and other military projects is a good economic stimulus, the time to save or create jobs is now. Even if taxpayers don’t spend another dime on the F-22, the production line is scheduled to stay open until December of 2011, long after the current recession should have ended. Ordering more planes and more spending now will have no net effect on our current economic problems. And additional weapons systems are in the pipeline that will absorb some of the workers displaced by the end of the F-22 program.

Arms expenditures also produce far fewer jobs than any other form of government spending, including a tax cut. A recent study from the University of Massachusetts found that spending on housing weatherization, education, health care, or mass transit would create one and one-half to two times as many jobs as spending on weapons. More F-22 spending crowds out other public investments and will actually lead to a net loss of jobs nationwide. Many other expenditures, such as mass transit and energy efficiency, will have long-term economic and environmental benefits that military spending cannot provide.

The reality is that none of our current F-22s has ever flown a combat mission. It is a fighter jet without a fight. The F-22 is not needed for national security or for economic stimulus.

Bill Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Initiative of the New America Foundation. Krista Brewer is president of Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions.


No: Stealth fighter provides air superiority we may need in future


The new administration faces some tough choices on spending while working to stimulate the economy. Spending money on a needed military requirement that preserves thousands of jobs across the country would seem to be an obvious choice. Continuing production of the F-22 Raptor, the world’s only operational advanced stealth fighter that would guarantee American air dominance for the next 30 years, falls squarely into that category.

Few will dispute that the F-22 is the world’s most advanced aircraft, offering an unmatched combination of speed, stealth and agility. Its radar-evading technology offers a huge advantage over current aircraft and ground-based defense systems. The F-22 is a force multiplier that protects ground forces and other aircraft by providing surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as incredible firepower. Its mere presence is a deterrent to potential adversaries.

The Air Force says it needs more than the 183 Raptors it’s currently authorized to buy. China and Russia are at work on advanced stealth fighters that are expected to go into production and be operational or available for export in five to 10 years. Sophisticated and highly lethal air defense systems are proliferating worldwide and are available to smaller countries with unclear or hostile intentions.

Since the mid-1970s the U.S. air superiority mission has been performed by the F-15, a great fighter that has served this nation well. But our aging legacy fighters cannot operate or survive within this threat environment without putting those who defend us at incredibly high risk.

Critics of the F-22 are quick to challenge the relevancy of the aircraft because it hasn’t been used in Iraq or Afghanistan. Our military leaders have chosen other systems which meet the needs of the commanders in that theater. Many of the essential systems used to defend us are not being used in Iraq or Afghanistan. That is because Iraq and Afghanistan do not define all future possibilities for conflict.

Just as we were surprised by 9/11 or the current economic situation, our ability to predict the future has not been reliable. The best policy is to be prepared.

It was 16 years after the F-15 became operational before U.S. forces used the F-15 in combat, but it was essential when the time came.

Our Air Force has provided air superiority since 1953, and as a nation we have invested to assure that. Historically, when we have not been prepared, we have suffered the loss of our most valued human capital.

We complete final assembly for the Raptor right here in Marietta, where we employee about 2,000 people on the program.

Additionally, the F-22 program provides more than 95,000 jobs in 44 states and generates $12 billion annually for the national economy.

The F-22 is a model production program --on-budget, ahead of schedule, with an efficient production line delivering top quality jets. The total flyaway cost for each F-22 is $142 million but one F-22 will replace two F-15s. This results in significant logistical savings. America has invested $32 billion and 20 years to develop a fighter that will dominate the skies for the next three decades.

Now is the time to recoup that investment.

Larry Lawson is executive vice president, F-22 general program manager at Lockheed-Martin.