Can’t Fly, Won’t Die


by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

With a price tag above $350 million per plane, the F-22 fighter requires at least 30 hours of maintenance for every hour it flies. (Insider scuttlebutt insists it actually needs 60 hours of repairs for every hour it operates.)

That’s worse than the MG I had back in college.

Pilots call high-maintenance aircraft “hangar queens.” Well, the F-22’s a hangar empress. After three expensive decades in development, the plane meets fewer than one-third of its specified requirements.

But defense giant Lockheed Martin’s immense clout on the Hill threatens to force you, the taxpayer, to buy still more of these pieces of junk.

And wait — the details get worse. The fighter’s weapons don’t work as promised. The stealth coating can’t withstand rain or blowing sand. Even the cockpit canopy has failed repeatedly. On any given day, barely half of the planes already deployed are in shape to fly.

And that’s in peacetime, under ideal maintenance conditions. Imagine if this dodo bird had to go to war. An enemy could flood the skies with less-capable-but-cheaper aircraft while the F-22 was in therapy. And what would readiness rates be like after months of combat?

Anyway, an enemy wouldn’t have to down a single F-22 to defeat it. Just strike the hi-tech maintenance sites, and it’s game over. (In WWII, we didn’t shoot down every Japanese Zero; we just sank their carriers.) The F-22 isn’t going to operate off a dirt strip with a repair tent.

But this is all about lobbying, not about lobbing bombs. Cynically, Lockheed Martin distributed the F-22 workload to nearly every state, employing under-qualified sub-contractors to create local financial stakes in the program. Great politics — but the result has been a quality collapse.

So you, the taxpayer, get a $350 million aircraft that doesn’t work.

Lockheed’s sales pitch evolved over the years: First, it was “air dominance.” Then the F-22 was going to win the War on Terror with a magical ground-attack capability. Well, the plane hasn’t flown a single combat mission. It can’t do ground-attack runs, its electronics don’t work in “high-emissions environments” (i.e., anyplace our military operates), and that stealth coating gets leprosy if the weather isn’t perfect (the F-22 couldn’t be maintained at a single base in Iraq or Afghanistan).

Last year, Lockheed Martin started pitching the jobs issue. Well, for the price of one F-22, we could pay full unemployment to any displaced workers for eternity.

All those full-page ads in The New York Times and the TV commercials in which Lockheed Martin waves the flag? The costs are deducted as business expenses from the taxes Lockheed pays. Essentially, you give the contractor a huge rebate to persuade you to pay for a gilded piece of junk that doesn’t work. Legal, yes. But scummy.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to kill the F-22 program. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mike Mullen wants to kill it. The Secretary of the Air Force and the Air Force chief of staff both want it dead. Sen. John McCain — who knows something about air combat — is crusading to stop this massive boondoggle.

Even President Obama has threatened to veto any Defense appropriations bill that funds added F-22s above the 187 already programmed.

But guess who’s suddenly discovered the importance of a strong national defense? Congressional Democrats, led by the naval hero of Chappaquiddick, Sen. Ted Kennedy (guess which state enjoys especially lucrative F-22 sub-contracts?).

This is a disgrace beyond measure. Sure, a mere $350 million each for fighters that don’t work doesn’t sound like much these days — hardly enough for a Starbucks tip on Capitol Hill.

And yes, our troops deserve the best. But the F-22 isn’t the best, just the most expensive. The fundamental requirements for weapons should be that they work and fill a need. The F-22 flunks on both counts. This program is sheer theft.

For over a decade, I’ve warned in print that the F-22 was a scam. But whether or not the pen is mightier than the sword, it ain’t mightier than the pork barrel. You, the taxpayer, need to act. Contact your Congress member and tell him or her to support our troops and kill the F-22. ExileStreet

NY Post / copyright 2009 NY Post

Ralph Peters is Fox News’ strategic analyst. His latest book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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