A House committee threw a wrench in the Obama administration’s plans to end Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-22 Raptor fighter program, voting instead to add $369 million in extra funding to keep production of the Air Force’s most advanced jet alive.
And Mike gets this absolutely right:
Whether the service actually buys 12 planes is almost irrelevant at this point, as the real struggle is just to keep the production line going so that it is possible, if necessary, to buy additional air frames for the Air Force or to design an export model for the Japanese and other close allies.
Congress needs to resolve the legal question of whether we can export the F-22 to trusted allies, or even design an FMS version to sell to them. Japan, Israel, and Australia are trustworthy allies who have expressed interest in the plane.
In terms of America’s military rather thaneconomic interest, keeping the production lines open is an unalloyed good as it preserves the potential for surge capacity if, God forbid, China decided we looked week enough to push out of the Taiwan Straits or something equally bad, and we got into a shooting war with a country with a decent, clever air-force. The Raptor is still going to destroy a billion times more planes, but as the German tank commanders learned on the Eastern Front as T-34 drivers rammed the Wehrmacht’s Tigers head on, with rounds deflecting off the Soviet tanks’ canted armor, technological superiority can’t always bail you out. Stealth only gives you godlike superiority until the moment it doesn’t, at which point all bets are off; moreover, you can’t predict when that moment’s coming. Plus, eventually, the Chinese are going to field the J-XX and the Russians the PAK-FA, and we may have as much trouble finding them as they us.
Or, of course, following the Volgi’s EMP phobia, the Chinese could just nuke out all our electronics and invade L.A. on steam barges full of guys with Kalashnikovs…