What is Lost with the Raptor

The Atlantic is a monthly magazine in which I have found 3 excellent articles in the last week.  My favorite was an article about the Conficker worm called The Enemy Within by Mark Bowden.  It was an excellent piece about the most sophisticated piece of malicious software to ever take to the wilds of the internet.

One thing I have come to enjoy in the last few days is the quality of the writing the Atlantic contains.  Just reading blog after blog and article after article on the internet can be laborious and I find myself wanting an author with some skill.  I have found that here.  I started this blog on May 13 and have not had a chance to finish it.  Hopefully I still have the train of thought I started with.

We are now several weeks removed from the peak of the hype surrounding the decision by the Pentagon to not order as many F-22A Raptor’s as was originally planned.  Since that time the Transoceanic oil rig operated by BP exploded and started what may end up being the largest oil disaster in United States history taking much of the 24/7 media cycle up along with GOP cries of foul over President Obama’s job offers to Democratic incumbent primary opponents.

But back to the F-22A Raptor.  The current to-be-allocated figure is 183 fighters.  The actual number built will be something closer to 203 but the number of planes built above 183 will be built for replacement parts, not as fully productive aircraft.  What are these 183 adding to the US arsenal?

Simply put, nothing.  The F-22A is the most advanced aircraft ever designed, period.  The reason the F-22A adds nothing is this:  it is a replacement craft.  The F-22A is not being built so to further our complement of aircraft.  The F-22A was designed to replace the venerable and aging F-15 Eagle, which first flew in 1972 and entered service in 1976.  Since that time numerous fighter designs of other countries have caught up with the capabilities of the F-15 Eagle.  In order to maintain the air superiority that the US has enjoyed for so long the F-15 needs to be replaced by something more deadly.  Something capable to striking fear once again into enemies the same way the F-15 Eagles did when they debuted.

What we are losing with the Raptor may be a little of our edge.  There are currently 700 Eagles in the US Air Force.  We aim to replace them with only 183 craft.  The most advanced fifth-generation (or sixth-generation according to some) aircraft ever assembled, yes, but there are still only 183.  I fear, along with the air force, that American air superiority has been so long assured that we forget what must be done to assume it.  The last American soldier to be killed by an enemy air attack died on April 15, 1953 in Korea.

With countries like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, among others, now flying fourth-generation aircraft capable of matching the F-15 Eagles, the pursuit of F-22A Raptors is ever more essential.  To handicap our the USAF by not supplying the number of craft necessary to guarantee our soldiers do not have to look up in fear when they hear aircraft overhead is a mistake of immense proportions.  The original plan of 600 craft should be carried out.

In the wake of September 11, 2001 the focus of politicians and concerned citizens is not the “rogue” or semi-rogue states of Iran, North Korea, or Venezuela, but the low-tech terrorists of Al-Qaeda.  Unfortunately the threats posed by Iran and North Korea have not disappeared as the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan on March 26, 2010 reveals.  Political convenience dictates we pay considerable attention to terrorists and fund our special operations forces at higher levels for now.  Common sense reminds us nation states do not sit idle either.  To indirectly combat the threat from such a force we must continue to stay far ahead of other nations in technology and the training of our forces.

The cry for the F-22A Raptor is not the cry of a fighter jock throwing a temper tantrum because the best is denied him as some would claim.  The claims by the Air Force that the Raptor is a key ingredient to continued US air dominance is not the desperate pleas of Air Force generals who want more money at their command.  The threat to American air superiority anywhere in the world is very real.  The rumblings in favor of the F-22A are the thoughts and words of those who know if we do not maintain our edge that one day our airmen may go into battle not guaranteed the best equipment and training available and on that day our soldiers, marines, and citizens will have to look up in fear when the screams of fighter jets are heard.

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