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Air Force separates F-22 facts from myths

Released: 4 Aug 1999


WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- As the fate of the F-22 Raptor continues to be debated on Capitol Hill and in the press, it's increasingly important to separate fact from myth.

The following facts clarify Ameri ca's need for the F-22 as the premier fighter of the 21st century Air Force:

Myth: Delaying initial F-22 procurement will not really impact the overall program.

Fact: The House vote withdrawing $1.8 billion in procurement funds for the F-22 in fiscal 2000 potentially sounds a death knell for the Raptor, the cornerstone of the nation's global air dominance in the 21st century. Even if the program survives this setback (which will be determined in a House-Senate conference committee in September), terminating current production will ultimately increase overall costs by $6.5 billion, causing the program to exceed congressionally mandated cost caps.

Myth: The Air Force doesn't really need the F-22 to maintain air superiority in the 21st century.

Fact: The F-22 is integral to the Air Force's tactical aircraft modernization program and the key to dominating the skies in 2010 and beyond. By the time the F-22 comes online, the F-15 (today's premier fighter) will be more than 25 years old. Without the F-22, the Air Force will steadily lose its edge in air superiority in the 21st century. By 2005, flying the F-15 into combat will be the equivalent of driving a 20-year-old car in the Indianapolis 500.

Myth: Other countries don't have the technology to compete with the F-15's defense and strike capability, so there is no reason to improve on it.

Fact: America's best fighter, the F-15, is on par with current Russian fighters, and behind Europe's and Russia's newest class of fighters set to roll off production lines by 2005. These include the French Rafale, Europe's Eurofighter and the Russian SU-35. The F-22's capabilities are critical to maintaining air superiority.

Myth: The F-22 doesn't bring anything to the fight the F-15 isn't already providing.

Fact: To maintain the levels of air superiority and dominance provided by the F-15 today, we will need the F-22's capabilities of speed, supercruise, maneuverability at supersonic speeds, stealth and integrated avionics to allow our pilots to identify and defeat threats. It also will give our air warriors a capability they've never before had: First look, first shot, first kill. Additionally, the F-15 does not provide any air-to-ground capability; the F-22 will provide first-day, near-precision, air-to-ground capability with the Joint Direct Attack Munition.

Myth: The F-15 will still be able to provide an adequate defense and effective strike force 15 years from now.

Fact: The F-15 is expected to provide an adequate defense and effective strike force for the next five to 10 years (when the F-22 is scheduled to become operational); but not 15. Without the F-22, we won't have the capability to counter the threat because we won't have the speed or stealth -- dramatically decreasing our chances of survival.

Myth: The Air Force's insistence on the F-22 is part of an obsolete, Cold War mentality because future conflicts will be low intensity and not require the same high-tech equipment we needed for the Cold War.

Fact: Low-intensity conflicts are not necessarily low technology. The threat includes not only advanced fighter aircraft, but also increasingly lethal surface-to-air missiles. The number of countries possessing the most advanced SAMs is expected to increase from 14 to 21 by 2005 -- an increase that will overwhelm our current fighter force's ability to gain air superiority.

Myth: The F-22 is cost-prohibitive and not worth the return on investment.

Fact: With an average aircraft "sticker price" (fly-away cost) of less that $85 million, the F-22 will cost less than 1 percent of the Department of Defense budget during its production period. In its most costly year, 2003, the F-22 will consume less than 5.6 percent of the Air Force budget; 1.7 percent of the defense budget and 0.25 percent of the total federal budget.

Myth: Air superiority is a "nice to have" that has to be weighed against budget constraints.

Fact: Owning the sky is worth the cost. For less than 1 percent of the DOD budget, the F-22 will enable all of America's air, land and sea forces to operate effectively and free from enemy air attack. Thanks to air superiority, no airman, soldier, sailor or Marine has lost his or her life to enemy aircraft in the last 40 years.

Myth: As a cost measure, rather than continue with development of the F-22, the Air Force can simply upgrade its current fighters.

Fact: The average F-15 will be 26 years old in 2005. Even with major upgrades, it will not match the capabilities of the newest foreign fighters. An improved F-15 would only provide one-third the effectiveness of the F-22 at nine-tenths the cost.

Myth: The Joint Strike Fighter is a respectable substitute for the F-22 at a much lower cost.

Fact: The Air Force's modernization strategy is to develop a mix of high-capability F-22s and lower-cost JSFs to achieve dominant capability and force readiness. The JSF is very effective as a low-cost, multi-mission aircraft optimized for attacking ground targets. It is not a substitute for the F-22. The JSF is primarily designed as an affordable replacement for the Air Force's aging F-16s and A-10s, and will depend on the F-22 for air superiority. Just as the F-15 and F-16 are a highly successful, synergistic team today, the F-22 and JSF will be the winning team of the future; however, neither can succeed on its own.

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