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The Facts About the F-22

Why We Don’t Need Any More

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SOURCE: AP/Navy

A pending amendment from Senate Armed Services Chairman Levin (D-MI) and Ranking Member McCain (R-AZ) will delete authorization for the purchase of an additional seven F-22 fighter planes in the Fiscal Year 2010 defense authorization bill. The F-22 was conceived over two decades ago to battle waves of Soviet fighter planes during the height of the Cold War, but it is now a plane without a clear mission. Indeed, the F-22 has never been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan.

The U.S. military now has 187 F-22s after four additional planes were added during debate on the Fiscal Year 2009 supplemental appropriations bill. This is the exact number recommended by Presidents Bush and Obama and Defense Secretaries Rumsfeld and Gates.

Congress is now poised to authorize the purchase of additional F-22s against Air Force leadership’s clear wishes. Here’s why the United States does not need any more F-22s:

Increasing F-22 production does not enhance our national defense

  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, 2008: “The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater.
  • The F-22 jets were designed for dogfights against Soviet-era fighter planes—a threat that no longer exists.
  • The F-35 is a newer, cheaper, and more capable aircraft for the types of missions we are currently facing and will face in the future.
  • The United States already has 187 F-22s on hand or on order—a number more than adequate to deal with any likely contingency.

The Defense Department wants to end production of the F-22 at 187 planes

  • President Obama, Secretary Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen, Air Force Chief of Staff Schwartz, and Air Force Secretary Donley all recommend halting production of the F-22 at 187 planes.
  • Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called in April 2009 for Congress to end production of the F-22 with “a blueprint for reorienting U.S. military purchases that calls for more to be spent on immediate battlefield needs and threats while eliminating programs designed in the Cold War-era and those exceeding budget estimates.”
  • Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen said, “The Department of Defense has determined that 187 aircraft are sufficient, especially considering the future roles of Unmanned Aerial Systems and the significant number of fifth generation stealth F-35s coming on-line in our combat portfolio.”
  • Air Force Secretary Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Schwartz recommend that, “the Air Force not pursue F-22 production beyond 187 aircraft” after having “reviewed this issues from multiple perspectives” including “emerging joint warfighting requirements; complementary F-22 and F-35 roles in the future security environment; potential advantages of continuing a warm F-22 insurance line as a protection against possible delays/failures in the F-35 program; potential impact to the Services and international partners if resources were realigned from the F-35 to the F-22 and overall tactical aircraft force structure.”

The argument that F-22 production will create jobs is largely a false claim

  • There are currently 24,000 workers directly employed in producing the F-22 for Lockheed Martin. This number will be reduced to 11,000 by the end of 2011 when the economy is expected to be on more stable ground. These losses will be dramatically offset by jobs created by the increase in F-35 production.
  • The F-35 program, also administered by Lockheed Martin, currently employs 38,000 people. According to Secretary Gates, more than doubling F-35 production in FY2010 will mean adding 44,000 American jobs in 2010, which will bring the total F-35 workforce to 82,000.

The F-22’s opportunity cost is too high

  • According to Secretary Gates, “If the Air Force is forced to buy additional F-22s beyond what has been requested, it will come at the expense of other Air Force and Department of Defense priorities—and require deferring capabilities in areas we believe are much more critical for our nation’s defense.”
  • Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not lining up to support continued production of the F-22, especially since the F-22 has never flown in either war. According to Iraq war veteran and Chairman of VoteVets.org Jon Soltz, “The funding for these F-22s is wasteful and takes money away from equipment we do need, plain and simple…The question for lawmakers is this—do you value contractors more, or our troops more?  Because that’s what they’re voting on.”

The F-22 is expensive to maintain and its stealth capacity is flawed

  • There’s a problem with the F-22’s “skin,” the critical coating that absorbs radar rays. It’s vulnerable to rain.
  • The “plane’s million-dollar radar-absorbing canopy has also caused problems, with a stuck hatch imprisoning a pilot for hours in 2006 and engineers unable to extend the canopy’s lifespan beyond about 18 months of flying time.”
  • A new Pentagon study shows the F-22 needs 30 hours of maintenance for every hour it flies, bringing hourly flying cost to $40,000. 

For more information on the F-22, see the Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities Action’s Sensible Defense campaign.

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