Little noted is the fact that amidst the deficit-exploding spending increases, one part of the budget is in fact experiencing downward pressure - national defense. While the spending spigot has been opened up all across the budget spectrum, it is defense spending which will bear the brunt of the President's promise to scrub the budget for efficiencies and cost savings.
At the top of the list of proposed cuts is the new F-22 Raptor fighter plane, the most advanced fighter in the world.
Defense secretary Robert Gates (whom I respect greatly) has decided the program is no longer needed due to the unconventional nature of the conflicts we are currently fighting, conflicts where the need for an expensive (and it is very expensive!) fighter such as the F-22 is eliminated. The plan now is to use the new and less expensive F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as a stand-in for the F-22.
A recent editorial in the Investor's Business Daily rightly questions this decision:
Military historians know well that when new conflicts break out, armies are often caught unprepared because the are prepared and equipped to fight not the opponent before them but the one in the rear view mirror.
On May 30, with North Korea huffing and puffing about nuclear war, the first of 12 high-tech U.S. F-22 Raptor fighter jets landed at Kadena Air Base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa. It was just days after North Korea unnerved the region by detonating a nuclear device.
There were reasons the F-22 was deployed to Japan. The stealthy, radar-evading fighter jet is quite simply the best aircraft of its kind in the world. It can slice through enemy air defenses and clear the skies of enemy planes virtually undetected. So why aren't we building more than we have?......Gates and F-22 critics have acted as if the planes are interchangeable. They are not. The Raptor is designed as an air superiority fighter. The F-35, as its description implies, is designed for ground attack. It does not have Mach 1.5 supercruise capability or high-altitude vectored maneuvering.
During exercises in Alaska in 2006, 12 Raptors "downed" 108 adversaries without losing a single F-22. In a test of its ground-attack capabilities, a Raptor dropped a 1,000-pound JDAM precision guided bomb and struck a moving target 24 miles away.
Gates argues that wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown the need for such high-tech weapons are over. But not every potential enemy is armed only with an AK-47 and a copy of the Quran. Some are trying to shoot ballistic missiles at us.
The F-22 is perhaps the only plane that could evade the sophisticated S-300 surface-to-air missile-defense system Russia has contracted to sell Iran. The S-300 is "one of the most lethal, if not the most lethal, all-altitude area defense" systems, says the International Strategy and Assessment Service, a Virginia-based think tank.
Policy analyst Michael Fumento notes "the newer S-400 system, already deployed, is far better able to detect low-signature targets at far greater distances" than the S-300. "Only the F-22 can survive in airspace defended by increasingly capable surface-to-air missiles," declared Air Force Association President Mike Dunn in December.
"In my opinion, a fleet of (only) 187 F-22s puts execution of our current national military strategy at high risk in the near to midterm," Gen. John Crowley, head of Air Combat Command, wrote in a June 9 letter to Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Republican from Georgia, where the plane undergoes final assembly..... Full Editorial
For example, in 2000 who thought we were on the cusp of a decade long military conflict (against an unconventional foe) that would severely strain our will and our resources. The end result was an army that was in many ways unprepared for the conflict it was being asked to fight.
How do we know we will not fight a major convetional war in the next 5-10 years? Against China, or North Korea, or Russia, or Iran? All are countries that possess or are developing sophisticated missile technology. If we have a weapons platform that would assure us unquestioned air supremacy why would we shut down production prematurely? Especially, when air superiority is such an integral part of the modern American way of war?
It makes no sense!
A couple other thoughts:
1. Yes, the F-22 is expensive, but so are hundreds of other government programs that are being funded.
2. Having some experience in the shipbuilding area from my time in the Navy, I must say that complex weapons systems as the F-22 cannot be developed and built over night. Nor can the industrial base of 1000's of high skill workers that build these weapons systems be easily reconstituted. We cannot quickly build more more advanced fighters in the future if we need them. You either have them when you need them or you do not.
Donald Rumsfeld was castigated when he said, "You fight with the army you have, not the army you might want." He was right though. If we do not have the F-22 Raptors we need, when we need them, we will have to fight with what we have.