F-22 Program Cancellation
LETTERS RECEIVED ABOUT MICHAEL W. WYNNE’S OPED : “The Industrial Impact of the Decision to Terminate the F-22 Program” (posted October 14th, 2009)
October 20, 2009
By Ed Timperlake, a former USMC former fighter pilot in Southeast Asia in 1973 and a former senior DOD official with many years of experience on air combat and related issues:
Secretary Wynne is 100% correct and he nails the issue with what called on the bombing range “shack” or perfect bulls eye. There is also real human element in this F-22 Debate. An intangible that is at the core of all US Fighter Pilots, Air Force, Navy and Marines is the Right Stuff.
“The Right Stuff” is arguably the best book ever written about American military pilots. Tom Wolfe’s magnificent work pays homage to the personal courage of military pilots.
Published in 1979 and for those of us flying high performance jets the book struck a very responsive note. Finally someone got it just right. A gifted writer understood and could capture with words the great fun of hanging it all out by putting ones life on the line for the pure joy of flying high performance fighters.
His brilliant opening focuses on the courage of military families who live with the risk that at any moment their loved one may have suffered a brutal and violent death. Having ejected and been presumed killed in a fire ball from my exploding jet and my wife pregnant with our first daughter the opening page nailed it for the unrelenting stress put on all military families if they hear “something happened.”
Of the fifteen Navy/Marine Officers receiving their wings with me in June of 1971 I believe five were killed in our first two years of fleet flying (not combat), this was accepted as “the breaks of Naval Air”. But over time aircraft became more reliable and safety programs vigorously enforced. Tragically military planes will continue to crash in non-combat situations and aviators will die doing what they love.
In combat the losses really can mount up. During the Vietnam War as Secretary Wynne points out the Air Force lost approximately 2,251 aircraft shot down with an additional 514 lost in operational accidents.
The Navy flyers in “the Tokin Gulf Yacht Club” lost 530 planes and an additional 329 in accidents and the Marines operating mostly from land bases lost 193 fixed wing and 270 helos.
The Army pilots flying rotary wing really put it on the line and it has been reported they lost 5.086 helicopters if over 1000 Air America CIA helos are included.
It is a brutally harsh fact of life to this day that high intensity modern combat against even what Secretary Gates has called “non-peer competitors” can chew up and destroy the most advanced aircraft.
In October 1973 I checked in to NAS South Weymouth MA. I was recovering from illness I got from dirty water while living in a jungle and flying the F-4J Phantom II at Nam Phong Thailand.
The Marine Squadron at South Weymouth had the A-4E Skyhawk and it was an easy and fun aircraft to fly while I waited to return to the F-4, Phantom II.Unfortunately, while I was checking in our XO a highly decorated Vietnam pilot turned on the TV–there on a cargo ship in the Atlantic was MY green tailed A-4E. Our entire squadron of jets were immediately going to the Israeli Air Force.
We were told the Soviet SA-7; a shoulder launched infrared heat-seeking missile had shot down 52 IAF Skyhawks in the first three days of the Yum Kippur war. To this day I do not know if this is the real number but I suspect close.
The point is the IAF the best combat Air Force in the Middle East was taking rapid and significant losses. High intensity combat at any moment can have violent spasms of destruction and all military assets can be quickly chewed up and destroyed.
It is never good enough to try and have just enough fighters and other types of combat aircraft.
Congress stopping the production of the acknowledged best fighter in the world the F-22 Raptor at 186 was one of the most short sighted decisions in the history of equipping America with enough of the best to always fight and win. However what is doubly insulting is President Obama’s reason. In a brief statement after the Senate vote the President of the United States said the F-22 was “outdated.”
The President could have used many words to declare victory. However, to state the best Fighter in the history of aviation is seen by the Commander-in -Chief as being “outdated” is really “the wrong stuff.”
Reflecting on the essence of “The Right Stuff” at a very human level one of the most senior fighter pilots to ever wear Air Force blue expressed his dismay at what the President and Secretary Gates have done.
“They have no idea what they’ve done and the immediate impact on the fighter community. There is a growing notion of abandonment and betrayal in the squadrons. And, these are the folks that graduated at the top of their pilot training classes and commissioning sources. They are exactly the people you want to keep and lead the war fighting force into the future.
They have no idea.”
October 20, 2009
By Johan Boeder, from the Netherlands, an independent aviation analyst and author of a report on JSF for the Dutch Parliament:
Having read “MICHAEL WYNNE’S EDITORIAL: The Industrial Impact of the Decision to Terminate the F-22 Program” today, I fully agree with his opinion about the risk of lower numbers of the F-35 and as a consequence a higher price per unit. The F-35 will burn NATO defence budgets. And Russian and Chinese competition and fast rising other Asian aviation industry will turn into challengers of US aviation industry. The era of the F-4 Phantom and F-16 will not come back. It may be interesting for you to know my opinion about the long term estimates for the important JSF program.
As an independent Dutch JSF expert, this week I have offered a report titled “JSF market analysis: how many JSF’s will be produced” to Members of Parliament of the Standing Committee of Defence, SC of Economical Affairs, SC of Finance and SC of Government Budget.
This 136 page report examines in detail the various figures provided by Lockheed Martin and the JSF Program Office to prospective JSF partners, including the Netherlands, to support the JSF’s business case in these countries. It demonstrates that, while Lockheed and JSF Program Office are still using figures based on the state of the fighter market in the late 1990s, these are no longer credible.
The report describes what will potentially cause lower numbers in the US Forces and several other Air Forces and what clear indications we have already about the increasing F-35 number to be procured…. Any comments about wrong details in my report or critical comments are most welcome and may be used to have the right opinion.
Value of contracts and industrial orders smaller
The detailed quantitative analysis in this report shows that a “likely estimate” of about 2.500 aircraft, including 450 foreign sales aircraft (outside the JSF partner countries) is a more realistic one, compared to the over-optimistic 4,500-6,000 aircraft still claimed by Lockheed and the JPO.
This means that the value of subcontracts and coproduction offered to potential buyers is also smaller, and this undermines the business case on which individual countries will base their decision on JSF.
Less economy of scale
Lower production quantities will cause less economy of scale with a deadly embracing price-quantity spiral with much higher procurement prices and further decreasing market opportunities. It will effect the possibilties within the defense budget of the involved countries.
Higher life cycle cost
Lower production quantities will not only cause higher procurement prices, but also more expensive later upgrades and higher exploitation cost with important effect on long term defense budgets.
A separate report about the decreasing affordability of the F-35, “Exploitation cost JSF, more than doubled since 2002”, April 2009, 44 pages, for the Dutch Parliament, Standing Committee of Defence is also available on request.
October 22nd, 2009
Michael Wynne’s response to Johan Boeder’s letter:
My initial take is that there will be many factors (shaping costs), but partner countries will be watching the United States to see if they follow through with forecast ramp up and top rate volume. These two factors can offset some of the cost impact resulting from the F-22 cancellation. I think Johan Boeder may be advanced in his thinking, but confirming evidence could be near at hand.