Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made an impassioned case Thursday for terminating the F-22 program after production of 187 planes, as the Obama administration sought to blunt a bipartisan push to add money to the defense budget for the fighter jet.
"If we can't bring ourselves to make this tough but straightforward decision -- reflecting the judgment of two very different presidents, two different secretaries of defense, two chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the current Air Force secretary and chief of staff -- where do we draw the line?" he said in a speech at the Economic Club of Chicago. "If we can't get this right, what on earth can we get right?"
In recent days, House and Senate lawmakers from both parties have defied the White House and put money back into the $680 billion defense spending bill to keep the F-22 production line open, prompting President Obama to threaten a veto. It is not clear whether F-22 backers have enough votes to keep the program going. "It looks pretty close," Gates told reporters...
More at The Washington Post.
Text of Secreatry Gates' Address - DefenseLink
... Air superiority and missile defense -- two areas where the budget has attracted the most criticism -- provide case studies. Let me start with the controversy over the F-22 fighter jet. We had to consider, when preparing for a future potential conventional state-on-state conflict, what is the right mix of the most advanced fighter aircraft and other weapons to deal with the known and projected threats to US air supremacy? For example, we now have unmanned aerial vehicles that can simultaneously perform intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance missions as well as deliver precision-guided bombs and missiles. The president's budget request would buy 48 of the most advanced UAVs -- aircraft that have a greater range than some of our manned fighters, in addition to the ability to loiter for hours over a target. And we will buy many more in the future.
We also took into consideration the capabilities of the newest manned combat aircraft program, the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The F-35 is 10 to 15 years newer than the F-22, carries a much larger suite of weapons, and is superior in a number of areas -- most importantly, air-to-ground missions such as destroying sophisticated enemy air defenses. 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, more than 2,400 over the life of the program. And we already have eight foreign development partners. It has had development problems to be sure, as has every advanced military aircraft ever fielded. But if properly supported, the F-35 will be the backbone of America's tactical aviation fleet for decades to come if -- and it is a big if -- money is not drained away to spend on other aircraft that our military leadership considers of lower priority or excess to our needs.
Having said that, the F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet. The F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict. Nonetheless, supporters of the F-22 lately have promoted its use for an ever expanding list of potential missions. These range from protecting the homeland from seaborne cruise missiles to, as one retired general recommended on TV, using F-22s to go after Somali pirates who in many cases are teenagers with AK-47s -- a job we already know is better done at much less cost by three Navy SEALs. These are examples of how far-fetched some of the arguments have become for a program that has cost $65 billion -- and counting -- to produce 187 aircraft, not to mention the thousands of uniformed Air Force positions that were sacrificed to help pay for it...
Gates Warns Against Excess with F-22s - Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times
Gates and Congress Duel - August Cole, Wall Street Journal.
Defense Chief Criticizes Bid to Add F-22s - Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times
Gates Challenges Congress - Gordon Lubold, Christian Science Monitor
More F-22 Fighters 'Far-Fetched' - Tony Capaccio and Allison Bennett, Bloomberg
Gates: Future Jet Supporters Risking Today's Troops - Noah Shachtman, Wired
Gates: DoD Must End Business as Usual - Samantha L. Quigley, AFPS
No More F-22s - Washington Post
Wasteful Defense Spending a Clear and Present Danger - Wall Street Journal