Tuesday, January 29, 2008


If the spending of untold billions of dollars by our government on military weapons programs that provide no measurable benefit (and in fact may be a detriment) to our national security, than this op-ed by Pierre Spray, James Stevenson and Winslow Wheeler in Sunday's Ft. Worth Star-Telegram is a must read. In short, Congress will spend $63.5 billion to purchase 184 F-22s "Raptors" (that's $345 million per plane) that we will be unable to use in air-to-ground operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, that our pilots will be inadequately trained to fly, and that can be deployed in numbers so small as to make their contribution to the battlefield irrelevant when compared to other older, less expensive but more numerous and effective aircraft. It does however provide a significant benefit to the thousands of Lockheed-Martin workers who will be building the fighters over the next several years, so in that sense it's sort of a mini-economic stimulus plan, which I suppose is a plus.

1 comment:

Nat-Wu said...

You know, our air force has shrunken in size and quality, and for those who have to plan for a future war against a modern nation-state (or federation such as the European Union), the fact that we will almost certainly end up in conflict against one must send chills down their spines. They see alarming visions of a return to Cold War status where we are vastly outnumbered by the enemy. China or India are, at this point, credible threats (not that they're enemies or threatening us, but as in strength). Truly this would be a scary scenario if we attempted to fight them with 30 and 40 year old aircraft when they have aircraft of the same technology levels and 10 times as many.

However, bankrolling expensive fighter plains that we can't afford enough of to make a difference certainly isn't the answer. While our F-22s and F-35s could certainly (well, probably) take out a number of F-15s, 16s, and 18s, if we can only fly 60 of them a day we're in no shape to fight anyone anyway, so we might as well spend our billions on building new copies of the same old models and upgrading them as we can. This has worked and will continue to work, and the proof is that the F-15 Eagle has never been shot down.

Now I could criticize this editorial for making it sound as if the era of conventional war is over. I'd caution anyone strongly against saying that. That was what we thought when the Soviets got the bomb, but we were obviously wrong. American fighters had plenty of dogfights to enjoy during Vietnam, and there is the occasional dictator to put in his place. There is a place for air-superiority fighters, and there certainly will be as more third-world nations grow, develop, and become second, if not first-world nations.

Of course, that doesn't mean we shouldn't place emphasis on our low-level conflicts anyway. If you think about it, we've always fought more insurgencies and small-scale wars than theater conflicts. It's a balancing act, and the F-22 is throwing off the scales.