1:14 PM, Sep 1, 2015 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
For the last several weeks, Air Force Secretary Deborah James has been touting the deployment of F-22 Raptor fighters – the best plane America owns – to Germany as “the strong side of the coin” in an effort to reassure Eastern Europeans who have seen their air space increasingly violated by Russian jets. “Russia’s military activity in the Ukraine continues to be of great concern to us and our European allies,” she said.
Turns out that the strong side of the coin was just four aircraft, two of which yesterday took a day trip to Last Air Force Base in central Poland. That’ll show them Rooskies!
To his credit, Defense Secretary Ash Carter seems to remember that the United States is a global power and that “pivoting to the Pacific” does little to reassure the rest of the world. But his argument for a “strong and balanced” approach to Europe is severely undercut by the size of the force at his disposal and its declining state of readiness. Looked at realistically, the F-22 ballyhoo is a measure of weakness, not strength.
Now, the F-22 is a superb fighter, the best in the world. But four Raptors – whose home base is Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, a very long way from eastern Ukraine – is a very small number, a fraction of what would be needed to sustain combat air patrols over Europe’s contested skies. The total Raptor fleet is just 185 planes, and the demand for air superiority is global. No wonder the Air Force is thrilling to the Germany deployment; they don’t get to do stuff like this much any more. Service leaders have been cooking up a “Rapid Raptor” package, including airlift, flight crews and spare parts, that would enable these kinds of four-ship formations to move from their home bases in the U.S. to trouble spots on short notice.
Indeed, this two-week exercise is the first operational deployment of the F-22 to Europe, even though the Raptor has been in service for a decade; the Bush Administration pointedly refused to deploy F-22s during the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, lest it seem too provocative. So this exercise is also a measure of how Vladimir Putin’s belligerence has caught the Obama administration and the Pentagon off guard. The decision to terminate F-22 procurement was taken in 2009, in part because of defense budget cuts but also in because there seemed to be little need for such a super-fighter.
The Air Force needs anywhere from 375 to 450 F-22s to sustain the kinds of global patrolling required for a serious deterrent posture, with a permanent presence in the Pacific (including the South Pacific) and the Middle East as well as Europe. Raptors based at home should be reinforcements, not the front line of defense. It would cost a lot of money – maybe as much as $1 billion – to restart F-22 production, but it is one of the few things the next president could do to jump-start the rebuilding of America’s military.
1:33 PM, Dec 13, 2011 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper is reporting that the Japanese government is close to settling on the F-35 Lightning as the much-needed replacement for its F-15 fighter. That’s exceptionally good news for a program that’s both key to preserving American military preeminence and at a lot of risk due to prospective deep defense budget cuts. Indeed, Japan’s decision may actually complicate the Pentagon’s challenges in meeting the targets laid out by the Budget Control Act, Obama administration po
Jan 17, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 17 • By MAX BOOT
In 1991, at the end of the Cold War, there were 710,821 active-duty soldiers in the U.S. Army. By 2001, that figure was down to 478,918. That 32 percent decline in active-duty strength severely limited our options for a military response to 9/11, practically dictating that the forces sent to Afghanistan and Iraq would be too small to pacify two countries with a combined population of nearly 60 million. The result was years of protracted conflict that put a severe strain on an undersized force.
Robert Gates was wrong on the F-22, and much more. 12:25 PM, Jan 6, 2011 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
As Politico reports, today Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will step forward to offer a list of procurement programs the administration is putting on the chopping block in the coming year. It won’t be the first time that Secretary Gates has moved to cut high profile programs that, in his estimation, the United States military can do without. And, as he makes his case today for doing away with systems like the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, it’s worth keeping in mind that Gates’s track record leaves open the question of whether these recommendations are based on anything other than his own estimation.
9:00 AM, Dec 9, 2010 • By MICHAEL AUSLIN
After years of ignoring North Korean aggression and provocations, the South Korean government has stated that any future attacks will result in war on the peninsula. In such a crisis as happening now on the Korean peninsula, one assumes the political and military leadership of the United States would deploy its most sophisticated weapons to the Korean peninsula, both as a warning to Pyongyang and as a capable force to defend against any further aggression in support of our South Korean allies. Yet what was missing from the joint military exercises last week between the U.S. and South Korean navies, in which the U.S.S. George Washington aircraft carrier and several American guided missile destroyers and cruisers joined several Korean ships? The answer: America’s most capable attack fighter, the 5th generation stealthy F-22 Raptor.
Aerospace business in the 21st century.12:00 AM, Jul 23, 2010 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
Cooperation, international collaboration, work sharing, technology transfer – these are all buzzwords that have been used for years by the aerospace community.
Gates sings another tune.3:38 PM, May 11, 2010 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates went to Chicago last summer to make the case for killing the F-22 -- the world's premier air supremacy fighter and the only "fifth generation fighter" currently in production anywhere -- he argued that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would be a more cost-effectve alternative. Though the JSF "has had development problems to be sure," Gates said, "It is a versatile aircraft, less than half the total cost of the F-22, and can be produced in quantity with all the advantages produced by economies of scale – some 500 will be bought over the next five years."
Administration claims jet procurement "on track."12:41 PM, Mar 1, 2010 • By JOHN NOONAN
Bill Sweetman, the veritable godfather of aviation reporting, has an interesting story up on efforts to push the Joint Strike Fighter out the door on time.
If February was a bad news month for the Joint Strike Fighter, with the program boss fired, a 13-month delay in test and a two-year slip in Air Force initial operational capability, look out for March. A Government Accountability Office report is rolling down the tracks, along with a Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) which, as we told you in Defense Technology International a month ago, is almost certainly going to record a critical Nunn-McCurdy breach...
The end of air supremacy?9:32 AM, Feb 17, 2010 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
In an open-source assessment of Russia's Sukhoi PAK-FA, aka the Raptor Killer, Air Power Australia concludes, "once the PAK-FA is deployed within a theatre of operations, especially if it is supported robustly by counter-VLO capable ISR systems, the United States will no longer have the capability to rapidly impose air superiority, or possibly even achieve air superiority." Moreover, the Obama administration's decision to kill the F-22 air superiority fighter in favor of the multi-role F-35 Joint Strike Fighter may prove disastrous, as "the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter struggles to survive against the conventional Su-35BM Flanker… Against [a basic-model] PAK-FA, the F-35 falls within the survivability black hole, into which US legacy fighters such as the F-16C/E, F-15C/E and F/A-18A-F have already fallen.”
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