back to article Obama weighs into Raptor stealth superfighter fracas

The White House has signalled that President Obama may veto plans by Washington politicians to maintain production of the F-22 Raptor stealth superfighter. The move has important implications for the British arms industry, and even for the future of the Royal Navy. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, backed by the president, …


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  1. breakfast

    Someone remind me...

    Why is it that we have three armed forces again? Given that they all seem to have boats, planes, ground crews and so on wouldn't it be logical to just have one?

  2. Desk Jockey

    Not so fast...

    That statement is not fully good news for the navy because although the Pres wants to stop F-22 production, he also wants to stop funding for the F-35 engine which funny enough will be the more powerful one which the navy is relying upon for its version of the F-35. Let's hope he does not get his way on that one.

    If Japan cannot buy the F-22 they are likely to be setting up a competition between the Eurofighter and the F-35, but shhhh I did not tell you that! ;)

  3. Ian 11

    Other options

    Is there any reason we couldn't forego the US aerospace industry altogether and buy something like the Rafale for our carriers?

    I wonder if stealth is overrated, certainly it didn't seem to stop the Israeli's getting past Syria's state of the art air defence systems and taking out their ultra-secret nuclear weapons program without need for stealth.

  4. Henry Cobb

    Only 87 Raptors

    Note that first 100 F-22s don't have the CPUs to use the latest weapons so the final force is only 87 Raptors.

    The last 87 Raptors to be built for the USAF, starting with the Lot 6 aircraft stationed at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, have added processing power and are “hardware enabled” to receive the full Block 35, Increment 3.2 configuration, Ebersole said. He emphasized that these aircraft are still Block 30 machines in terms of their current hardware configuration. “There are no Block 35 aircraft yet”, Ebersole stated bluntly.

  5. Mahesh Patil

    3 for 1 Offer

    Why buy a one F22 when you can buy three F35's for the same money?

    It appears crooked senators on House Armed Services Committee have sold out to lobbyists again.

    President Obama is right - spend your budget wisely kids!

  6. Bounty


    Wouldn't you want to have a few F22's to enable air space for your F35's to work or something like that. I wonder if we'll ever end up with just kickass radar and surface to air and surface to ground missiles. We already have 'Xbox flyers' + autopilots... skip the flying plane part, and just have them play missile command all day.

  7. Andy Barber


    What was so wrong with the supersonic Harrier? Come on UK.plc, go back to the drawing-board & develop the aircraft that will work off our future carriers, rather than the F35 that <might> work!

    Mine's the one with an Airfix kit if the P1127 (Kestrel) in the pocket!

  8. Reaction to Closed Minds

    Reaction to Closed Minds

    With all due respect to the US Marine Corps (have relatives who served) & US Army (and Navy but the Navy is tied to this point at the hip .... the Navy is even more susceptible to 'bad' things happening, like being unablle to operate at all ala carrier groups, versus the other services)) .... without air superiority the US becomes defeatable. Everything bad goes up like a multiplier effect with out this or the degradation of air superiority. That is why I am shocked at how cavalier Gates has been about the F-22.

    The F-35 is not the same aircraft - it is multiple function versus the pure air supriority function of the F-22.

    So many smart people doing so many stupid things. This is a very important national security facet that a new Administration is squelching dissent over (very unusually - in fact I am not sure anyone has ever done this - this Admin has forced all senior military to sign very severe non-disclosure agreements about the defense budgett - yet not one word about this 'incredible act) & ramming down everyone's throat while they think they are still 'popular' with the media fawning over every act & word of theirs. This borders on the criminal. We are turning in a hard won ace card for a 'bogus' deficit reduction reason (go analyze the blatant political pork for the US Democratic Party constituents spread over the next 4 years - it is pathetic)

    To any & all, go read "Boyd" by Roger Coram for just a slight understanding of some of the essentail nat'l security themes just touched on here. I have no connection to the military or any defense contractors except for a relative who served in Marine fighter wings in the 1970s; this is part where I came to undertstand the vitality of some of these issues as an amateur.

    This stoppage of the F-22 & the missile defense cutbacks (major) I think will sadly come back to haunt the USA dearly. All so some corrupt pork can be thrown super liberal Dem contsituents way like Cong Barney Frank et al.

    Any 'ally' better wake up very fast & realize you are on your own with this Admin especially with ChiefofStaff RahmE.

    What has happened? What is happening? So much madness such as sending a 'scope of negotiation' letter to the Iranian Mullahs just before the Iranian election (see earlier in the week exclusive report by Washington Times on this) in essence conceding everything for the 'hope' of false dilpomatic progess with a thugrocracy. This just is not naive but basically is throwing over the side any 'freedom movement' in Iran for a photo-op moment with Iran Mullahs- a Neville Chamberlain moment to wave a piece of paper over the roaring crowd for 'peace in our time'.

  9. Johan Bastiaansen

    Why is it ? ? ?

    Why is it that a soldier who loses his cool under fire risks being court martialed and can even end up in front of a firing squad, while some fat cat politician who decides to blunt his countries military from the comfort of his padded office chair is treated with regards and gets a pension for life?

  10. Mike S

    re: Why is it ???

    Why is it we're even putting pilots in these planes? Surely the performance would be much, much greater, if they were remote controlled. And cheaper too.

  11. Johan Bastiaansen

    From closed minds

    You can only spend your dollar once. Well, Bush was able to spend it twice, but that's a different story.

    So you can spend it on gaining air superiority in an unlikely war against a formidable opponent , even the Ruskies can't field anything against the F-35 at the moment so we're probably talking alien invasion here. Makes for fun movies, but at the moment this shouldn't be considered an imminent threat.

    Or you can spend it on armoured vehicles, transport helicopters, drones to be used in wars that you are already fighting and it's highly likely that the next wars will be very similar.

    So you'll have to choose: do you want to donate your tax dollar to big business.

    Or do you want to save the lives of GI Joes and Janes.

    The first option would make you a patriot, the second a pink commie liberal.

  12. Greg Trocchia

    @Johan Bastiaansen

    To answer your question: The soldier who "loses his cool" violates his enlistment oath: "...and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice" by failing to carry out lawful orders. The President's Oath of Office, OTOH, says nothing about a duty to maintain a "sharp" military. While a strong military posture may be wise, I personally believe it is, military posture is left to the judgment of the person elected President, and to those elected to Congress.

    I would point out that government for the first 150 years of the US could be characterized as having an aversion to large standing armies (the Navy fared better, but support for it was hardly constant either) left over from the founders. Their thinking was that large standing armies are the tools of would-be tyrants and a danger to a free people and that having a large military force might tempt government into potentially disastrous foreign adventures (sound familiar?). The downside of such policy is that in each major war that the US has fought well into the 20th Century, it has initially arrived unprepared and ill-equipped, with the on-the-job training exacting a high toll in blood.

    The point is that the proportion of guns to butter in the budget (and the absolute level of expenditure on guns) is a decision that we elect politicians to make, as is the decision of which particular "guns" to buy. To those who are hyperventilating over this question, I would suggest chilling out. Even if the US ends up building "only" 187 F-22's, that is still a considerable number (note to Henry Cobb- it is 187, do you _really_ think the first 100 won't end up back fitted to Block 35, or higher, configurations during their combat lifetime? IME doing things like that is SOP for the US Military). To provide a point of reference, the pre-Desert Storm Iraqi Air Force had a TOTAL of 550 combat aircraft (many of which were obsolescent Mig 21 or 23s or knock-offs of the same) they had fewer than 187 Mirage F1s and Mig 29s (their most modern fighters) combined.

    Then too, the F-35 may not be as good a pure fighter as the F-22, but it can certainly hold its own, and perhaps more, against any other fighter in the world (if for no other reason than stealth, most air to air combats have historically been won by a fighter that is unseen by the loser until the attack is under way). This whole debate is really a repetition of the "High/Low mix" concept that we had in the previous generation of fighters, and that turned out pretty well, didn't it?

  13. Reaction to Closed Minds

    Reaction to Closed Minds

    Very clever & entertaining but you miss the point. When air supiority goes - it is not easily retrievable, if at all except through long term actions. It is one of the key insurance policies that we have. There really can be little honest debate about that

    In fact, everything the US does hinges around this asssumption. You take that away and almost everything we do well & or assume for our strategies, starts to fall apart.

    Do you really want to take that chance just so you can feel intellectually superior to the Bush neanderthals & at your coffee klatches/cocktail parties?

    That is my point. I am not even arguing for the original F-22 request, I am calling for great care with the thought process & rhetoric around this. When framed adequately not to many want to end the F-22 as suddenly as Gates mandates. Remember, only 1 of 3 are effectively operational at any one time normally. This becomes such a precious resource at present levels you almost have to use it for feints only & ruses at this level. You can extend it in coordination with combined F-22/F-35 use but this has 'paper' analysis seduction about it (not really as effective I think as some want to argue) that practically will make little difference

    Do not mix up adversaries & strategies either:

    The PRC in a regional way is framing a solution to this for Taiwan & their close blue water. It is submarine & communications based . Likely the F-22 could only withstand this (not sure the F-35 can do this mission to protect carriers there the way the F-22 can oversee) in the near future; that , the F-22 would be the sole truly effective deterrent.

    The Russians have some very novel tactics ( they still fly more like WWII hellraisers versus the US more corporate politically correct scripted tactics with rules of engagement reading like federal civil procedure) . I can go on and on - go read the recommended book "Boyd" before getting to caught up in your own cleverness & posting here for the applause of the 'smarter defense ' budget crowds. By the way, Boyd was no fan of budget busting weapons programs but he clearly saw the fatal mistake of not ensuring US air superiority. Boyd conceived the F-16 with others as a more affordable variant of the F-15 - but that was to help ensure air dominance. But it all starts with air superiority.

    As for 'adversaries' on the horizon, methinks you are falling into a trap that Iraq (a brilliant campaign executed with a fraction of forces any one thought possible but which showed the brittleness & weakness of the demoralized Iraq forces which went guerrilla pretty quickly - not really a good competitive comparison for the US military) & Afghanistan (war lord skirmishes & terror attacks with insurgent strategies laced with expansive border sanctuary issues) while what we face now, is the determinitive threat of US national security and, more relevantly, our operational military execution.

    Russia has some top flight aircraft that the Indian Air Force recently (last few years) demonstrated in innovative tactics 'neutralized' the F-15s way more effectively than 'conventional' complacent thinking ever thought possible - by all analysts not just the USA's. This gets a little too deep for a post-response but I encourgae you to read up on this.

    I woud not be surprised if in the next 2-4 years you will see some serious leap-frogging by the Russians & Chinese on this front.. They understand that you cannot just 'give' air space dominance to the USA - in fact that is the fatal flaw in your thinking and many others. Air superiority is so crucial with so many attendant consequences that adversaries must have strategies to diminish this key advantage of the US. You can sit & rationalize ( as you probably say they same to me) that we can react at that point (future). But just as with missile defense, which is getting cut which you did not address in your comments, now that the world is starting to catch up, it is was prudent to have made the continued investments all these years in missile defense systems - not just to make defense contractors rich.

    That is what I am almost pleading with anyone interested in this, one makes assumptions that cannot be allowed to fail. Air superiority is one of those - as the Chinese, Russians, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese all know well. This is not a game for clever word speak or data tossing. If you examine US military strategy in all theaters since WWII, it factors in the valuable key of modern warfare experience, that all we do regarding manuveur warfare (we will never have the size/presence advantage so we, the USofA must do more with less manpower- always- apart from casualty aversion - Iraq had the lowest casualty rate in history yet that was all anyone wanted to focus on) ) with its demands on logistical support, hinges very simply on air superiority. So all 'your' GI Joes & Janes are at risk to varying degress based upon the breach level.

    With air superiority breached or compromised, the US military becomes ordinary , more typical, especially with all our tactical assumptions built around air dominance givens. So more casualties, etc. The F-35 is not the same and you can have all the enhanced troop carriers you want (and do you really think this Adminis is going to do that? really? when even Gates is gone in a year?).. There are many strategems to accomplish this singly or together (e.g., communications jamming). The F-22 is such a platform that it makes adversaries very careful what they will do versus the F-35. It is its own deterrent

    And last, I would not rather have my 'hard' earned (I work very hard and do not get a teachers or or government job pension) tax dollars go for fake stimulus packages that nearly triples the national debt in less than 6 months that is not shovel ready and only feeds Dem Party constituent interests (it is pretty apprarent to everyone non-partisian what this pork mess really is), not the broader needs of the US populace.

    And you cannot get clever witht the fact that a temporary tax cut (e.g., temporary suspension of Social Security/payroll taxes) would have been a more direct immediate infusion than 3-4 year off programs that go throught the corrupt (contribute to me) grasp of House & Senate leaders (who all just happen to be Dems now) . But then maybe you are a fan of Countrywide's Angelo (and don't forget Henry Cisneros, its godfather) & will financially contribute to the re-election of Senator Chris Dodd of CT among others.

    Hope this helps on an important dangerous issue - I have get back to my deadline which is slipping from all this wasteful blogging.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    You plan to win the *next* war, not the last one.

    "Unsurprisingly the RAF is trying to kill off the present force of Harrier jumpjets at the moment, imperilling the UK's F-35 purchase and so menacing the survival of the carrier programme"

    Actually, Lewis, I think you'll find they are intent on getting rid of Harrier to JUSTIFY wasting money on the F35.

    So what if the F22 is supposed to be well in advance of anything anyone else has at the moment? How soon "we" forget the slap in the face that NATO and the West received when we got hold of a few modern Russian fighters - the MiG 25 and 29 and Su-27 for starters. Instead of the obsolete bits of flying scrap that were supposed to constiute the "numerically superior but far, far technically inferior" WarPac air forces, English and American test pilots who got to check the things out suddenly discovered - to their shock - that the Russian-designed and built kit was far better than they had thought.

    Or feared.

    You can always rely on well-trained pilots and decent kit to deliver weapons on-target when required, one way or another - how many times have governments added just a little bit more to the original purpose of an aircraft? (Of course, it does help if the capability is built in from the beginning - it was called EuroFIGHTER for a reason.)

    But if you deliberately decide to field inferior kit because "it's so much cheaper, and nobody can beat us **at this time**", by the time the Bad Guys are looming on the horizon it will be too late to suddenly decide maybe you do need a couple more WhizzJets after all...

    I suggest we put the Politicians and Armchair Warriors on the front line for a week or two - that would lessen their desire to "cut all costs, at all costs" and hopefully make them realise that "we won, therefore we don't need so much warfighting capability, so we can cut the defence budget again" is a Bad Idea.

  15. Jan 7 Silver badge

    I actually quite like the F22...

    I actually quite like the F22 and it probably is the best air superiority fighter available.



    ~200 of them should be enough for anything short of Russia.

    Add in some 600 F15E as multirole craft and then add A10s until the grunts are happy.

    F35s for anything the F15/A10 cant do and complement the F/A18 -> tadaa: just a few bombers and many transports and you´re all set.

    Though you most probably have to upgrade the A10 quite a bit... is there anything else around which provides comparable loitering capability while still being able to cause proper mayhem?

    Nope, the Predator/Reaper doesn´t count, it lacks a dozen hardpoints and four tons payload.

  16. goggyturk

    Closed minds?

    "Or you can spend it on armoured vehicles, transport helicopters, drones to be used in wars that you are already fighting and it's highly likely that the next wars will be very similar.

    So you'll have to choose: do you want to donate your tax dollar to big business.

    Or do you want to save the lives of GI Joes and Janes."

    I think you'll find that the money will go to big business regardless of what it gets spent on. One of the other programs cut by Gates' DoD is the Army Future Combat System, which was supposed to provide next-gen combat vehicles for the GI Joes in the US Army. The projected program cost was $160 billion according to the reports I've seen, which would have been a good deal for Boeing's shareholders. You know - the same Boeing that makes F-15s, F-18s, etc, etc.

    Everything is expensive in defence these days regardless of whether it goes on land, sea or in the air, and anything new always takes decades to develop. Then, by the time it's developed, the thereat it was designed for has changed or disappeared to be replaced by something utterly different. C'est la vie...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spot the republicans above.

    Its not like there is a force that can defend against the current aircraft, let alone teh f35, the f22, and the typhoon.

  18. James Micallef Silver badge

    so much pork it requires a flame = bacon

    @Reactiontoclosedminds "without air superiority the US becomes defeatable. Everything bad goes up like a multiplier effect with out this or the degradation of air superiority. That is why I am shocked at how cavalier Gates has been about the F-22.

    The F-35 is not the same aircraft - it is multiple function versus the pure air supriority function of the F-22."

    So remind me, if the US isn't selling the F-22 to anyone else, and its the best there is, who exactly is going to have air superiority over them?? Korea?? Iran?? Somalia??? 187 F-22s + a bunch of F-35s is considerably more than will ever be needed even if the US starts a couple more phony wars. Or are you yanks preparing for a war with China because they own half of the US and you can't repay your debts??

  19. Desk Jockey

    F22s are silly

    Yes they are the most superior aircraft in the world, they are also horribly expensive and would actually be quite inneffective. No one is going to challenge the US in the air on a one to one basis, no one can. So instead they will jam or destroy the satellites and communications that the F22 rely on, use heat seakers rather than radar guided weaponry and use mass waves of aircraft to get the attack in. The F35 would actually be better in the latter case because it can probably carry a lot more weaponry thus fire its entire payload at the mass attack and scuttle back to base to rearm. The F22 would probably only be able to take out 4 planes at most.

    Stopping aircraft and air superiority is about taking out their support infrastructure (ie airfields and carriers) not about shooting them out of the sky. No runways, fuel or weapons would make the F22 the most expensive decoration there is and since the F22 cannot take out ground targets... The fighter jocks will blather on about supriority and all that crap, the reality is that their dogfighting services are very rarely called upon which makes the mission of the F22 a very narrow and rarely used one.

    The F22 programme is about pork barrel politics, penis enhancement and propaganda. With all the other problems and capabilities the US has, the money really should be spent elsewhere

  20. Francis Offord

    The same tired old argument

    We are told that the RAF wishes to stop the Navy from doing their best in defence of the British isles. Right, prove that if you can. I recognise that it would be vastly unpopular with the Chiefs of defence but it lends itself to masking the move towards a Combined defence force rather than the present mish/mash. It would prevent the duplication of personal weapons programmes and reduce the provision of uniforms, possibly showing the true meaning of "Uniformity" in dress. For too long we have gone along with the difference of tasks performed

    but the overall aim is, or should be, defence of the realm. It would be in some ways a regrettable step but in order to save money for the benefit of the members of the armed forces it would be a winner. Difference of tasks could be denoted by the type and colour of headgear, there would be TRUE uniformity for our servicemen and, more inportantly, a sense of belonging to what should be,(quote) Our Boys. I asserted this back in the 50s, when I was a member of the RAF, and it could have been implimented then. We see the forces billeted together continually for security reasons in overseas parts, as in Iraq,

    and it is to their advantage. Yes, it leads to a certain friction between the differing services but how much more does it lead to the unification into a truly united effort when lads and lassies are living working and fighting alongside one another?

  21. Johan Bastiaansen

    @ Greg Trocchia

    Are you saying the swearing in of congressmen, presidents, other politicians taking office doesn't include a line "to uphold the independence of the country" or something similar. That would surprise me.


  22. Johan Bastiaansen

    @ Closed minds

    Ok, you've answered my question. You would rather gain air superiority over an imaginary enemy that will probably never materialise while soldiers are getting killed and maimed in a conflict with an enemy who flies kites.

    One more question though: what would be the F22's role in these conflicts? Suppose you had the F22 now. How would it be used in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: Air superiority

    Although both arguments presented are valid, on one hand there is no-one to fight against whom something as impressive as the F22 is necessary, also there is a need to be ready to ensure that should said need arise then the US will be ready and capable.

    So, it looks to me that 187 F22s is a good number should someone with a top-class airforce suddenly turn rogue and need spanking whilst actually building more F22s does not address the possibility that someone hostile might develop a superior (to the F22) air superiority fighter.

    US arms manufacturers will already be working on the F36 or whatever will be the successor to the F22 and are likely to be ready to provide next-gen dogfighters as and when they are needed.

    The obvious course of action seems to be to buy and retro-fit as necessary the 187 F22s, develop the F22's successor, buy body armour for the soldiers and then buy F36s (or whatever) when they are available to replace the F22s.

    Win-win-win. US gets a top-class dogfighter, the manufacturer's already made profit on F22s and can move on with research money and troops are killed less frequently.

  24. Greg Trocchia

    @Johan Bastiaansen

    >>Are you saying the swearing in of congressmen, presidents, other politicians taking office doesn't include a line "to uphold the independence of the country" or something similar. That would surprise me.

    Here is the Oath of Office the new President swears on Jan 20 (with allowances for flubs by the Chief Justice) in full:

    "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

    Now one could assert that the "defend" bit gets you where you want to go, but there are some problems with this. First the President has sworn to defend the Constitution, as opposed to the physical territory of the US and most folks tend to think of defending the Constitution in other than military terms, for instance by enforcing the civil rights written into the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. Then there is the bit I mentioned previously about the US having had a vestigial Army when not actually fighting Wars throughout its first century and a half. Nobody I know of thought that a violation of the Oath of Office, quite the contrary.

    As far as the F-22 controversy itself, my suspicion is that either decision will probably turn out all right. Low rate production has the advantage of increased flexibility. Expanding production, provided you have enough time, should be doable if needed, whereas good luck trying to restart production for such a complex craft once it has been shut down.

    On the other hand, as I pointed out, 187 aircraft (especially ones as capable as the F-22) is not exactly a militarily insignificant number nor is the F-35, which is to be built in its stead, exactly chopped liver. Another factor is that the scenarios where the US will need the capabilities of the F-22, and nothing else will do, can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand with change left over. By way of contrast, having a whole bunch of stealthy aircraft that are good at ground attack provides a capability that can be used across a broad swath of scenarios: everything from North Korea decides to restart the Korean War to fights like the current one against the Taliban and Bin Laden in "Af-Pak".

    Look at it this way, whatever the decision the US will end up fielding both F-22s and F-35s, all the argument really comes down to is what is the optimal precise proportion of each. Either way, I believe, the results are likely to be acceptable.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Disarming America

    Well, anything we can get to disarm America. Obama's main plan is to weaken America to the point of suicide. Way to go bammie.

  26. kain preacher

    Disarming America

    and what proof do you have ??

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