View Full Version : Air Force agrees to Obama cutback

04-14-2009, 02:07 PM
Looks like it's time for more f-35 over f-22, anyone know the cost differences?

April 14, 2009
Air Force Officials Agree on an Obama Cutback

By CHRISTOPHER DREW (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/d/christopher_drew/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Top Air Force (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/a/us_air_force/index.html?inline=nyt-org) officials said Monday that they supported the Obama administration’s decision to buy only four more of the advanced F-22 fighter jets (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/m/military_aircraft/f22_airplane/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier), making it less likely that Congress will insist on extending its production.
The Air Force had previously said it needed 60 more of the planes, a position that had built expectations for a fierce battle in Congress over the program’s future.
Legislators from Georgia, Connecticut and other states with major suppliers are still likely to push for more planes. But it will be much harder for them to succeed if the Air Force is not quietly supporting their efforts, military analysts said.
Several industry officials and former Air Force officers said they would not be surprised to see Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor on the plane, pull back from a lobbying campaign emphasizing how many jobs would be lost if production was halted.
Under the administration’s plan, the Pentagon would speed up the testing of another Lockheed Martin fighter, the F-35, which it plans to buy in much greater quantities. Industry officials said the company might not want to risk angering the new administration as it already had many other lucrative defense contracts.
“This is the first time in the entire history of the F-22 program that Lockheed could not count on its Air Force customer wanting more F-22s,” said Loren Thompson, a consultant who advises Lockheed Martin and other military contractors. “And the company clearly cannot be pushing as hard with Congress as it did in the past because it won’t have the customer on its side,” he said.
Douglas A. Birkey, the director of government relations for the Air Force Association, a group that often lobbies for the service, said he also expected to see Lockheed Martin shift its focus from the F-22 to the F-35, which is also called the Joint Strike Fighter.
The F-22 was designed for aerial combat while the F-35 would focus more on ground targets and is meant to be cheaper.
Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest defense contractor, has said it is reviewing the changes proposed last week by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/g/robert_m_gates/index.html?inline=nyt-per).
Shortly after the announcement by Mr. Gates, Lockheed’s chief executive, Robert J. Stevens (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/s/robert_j_stevens/index.html?inline=nyt-per), said in a memorandum to employees that while some of the recommendations were disappointing, “I embrace Secretary Gates’s call to put the interests of the United States first — above the interests of agencies, services and contractors — and I will support him in every way.”
The shift in thinking about the F-22 was detailed in an op-ed article on Monday in The Washington Post by Michael Donley, the Air Force secretary, and Gen. Norton Schwartz, the service’s chief of staff.
Before the announcement by Mr. Gates, both had fought hard for the F-22, saying the Air Force needed it as a hedge against Russia and China and even a possible war with Iran. They had advocated buying 60 more of the planes, which would have brought the Air Force’s fleet to 243. But in their essay, Mr. Donley and General Schwartz wrote that “the time has come to move on.”
The two said that as defense spending becomes constrained, and Mr. Gates shifts money to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, budgeting “has increasingly become a zero-sum game.”
They said it would cost $13 billion for 60 more F-22’s. Yet, they added: “Much rides on the F-35’s success, and it is critical to keep the Joint Strike Fighter on schedule and on cost. This is the time to make the transition from F-22 to F-35 production.”
Mr. Gates had said last week that he supported plans to build more than 2,400 F-35s. Industry officials said the essay laid to rest any doubts about where Mr. Donley and General Schwartz stood.
Mr. Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/donald_h_rumsfeld/index.html?inline=nyt-per), had tried to halt production of the F-22 during the Bush administration, only to find that previous Air Force leaders continued to support it.
In fact, the former Air Force secretary, Michael Wynne, who was fired by Mr. Gates in June 2008 amid battles over Air Force programs, said Monday that he still believed that Mr. Gates was taking too many risks in canceling the F-22 and other high-tech weapons programs. He said it would make sense to buy more F-22s in case the F-35 is delayed.
Still, he said, if the current service leaders say they no longer want the plane, it will be harder than before for supporters in Congress to “overcome that military judgment.”