by DAVID AXE
Congress has issued a direct challenge to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, over the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter. Gates wants to end production of the $150-million-a-pop, super-plane, at 187 copies, in favor of more armed drones and intelligence aircraft. But Congress wants at least 12 more Raptors, and is willing to pony up the cash.
Gates says the F-22 represents too much capability, at an unaffordable price. Congress says we need more F-22s, to hedge against China, Russia and other rising powers. After all, only the F-22 can penetrate sophisticated air defenses, to prosecute major air campaigns, no?
Lost in all this is the litany of things many F-22s can’t do. Turns out, there are some surprising gaps in the Raptor’s skills. Dave Majumdar’s important, but confusing, piece in The Examiner is worth reading, in full, but here are the key points, as best as I can suss out:
* Of the 187 aircraft ordered so far, only the last 87 or so will feature the full range of planned missile and bomb armament, and data-link capability. That means AIM-9X, AIM-120D, Small Diameter Bomb, Electronic Attack and the new Multi-function Advanced Data-link. Thirty-four aircraft — training and test machines, mostly — cannot be economically upgraded with new systems. The balance of around 65 jets will receive some, but not all, upgrades.
* No F-22s will have Helmet-Mounted Cueing Systems, or the ability to fire air-to-air missiles in off-boresight situations. That seriously degrades the Raptor’s dogfighting capability.
(Photo: Air Force)
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