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Re: Senate Strips F-22 Funding

5:44 PM, Jul 21, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
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One of the main justifications for killing the F-22 program was that the hyper-advanced fighter was irrelevant in a world of small wars and contingency actions. Secretary Gates is fond of pointing out that the jet has never flown a combat sortie over Iraq or Afghanistan -- an argument that's equally irrelevant. Our warfighting strategy, for decades, has relied on dominance of the skies. The fact that an American soldier hasn't been strafed by enemy aircraft since the 1950s is no accident. Even in Iraq and Afghanistan's counter-insurgency operations, we're dependent on freedom of airspace to fly our UAVs, air-assault troops, and gunships. The F-22 was the world's first air supremacy fighter. It was a guarantee that America would enjoy the luxury of friendly airspace for the next 15-20 years. It was also a tremendous deterrent against potential competitors, the strategic lynchpin for far-thinking Pentagon planners who considered American power critical to global stability.

Such is the real tragedy of the jet's long and controversial existence. The F-22 was perhaps the most misunderstood weapon system in history -- never about winning small wars, but rather ensuring that wars stayed that way.