Rebuttal of Mark Thompson’s lies about F-22 fighters

The DOD recently deployed several F-22s to the UAE to put pressure on Iran.

At the Time magazine’s Battleland blog, Mark Thompson was wondering a year ago why F-22s, in which so much capital was invested, did not partake in the Libyan War, which was waged by Coalition countries exclusively from the air and the sea. He implies that the F-22 was simply not capable of attacking Libya; falsely claims that the F-22 has very limited air-to-ground capabilities; and implies that the F-22 was a huge waste of money.

Thompson begins his laughable screed by claiming:

“So the Air Force’s latest and greatest warplane – the $412 million per copy F-22 – has now been MIA in Iraq, Afghanistan and – most surprisingly – in imposing the no-fly zone over Libya. How come? Especially when it was already in the neighborhood on the eve of that conflict? It raises a whole new version of the so-called “plans-reality mismatch” that was the basis of Pentagon analyst Chuck Spinney’s famed 1980s’ briefs that won all sorts of acclaim – and infamy, including the cover of Time.”

Firstly, the F-22 does NOT cost $412 mn, but rather $150 mn, per copy. $412 mn per unit is a false, deliberately inflated price produced by the F-22’s opponents, deliberately designed to malign it (as is Thompson’s entire screed). It consists of the flyaway cost ($150 mn, the ACTUAL price the government paid for each F-22) plus all research, development, testing, and evaluation costs divided by the number of aircraft bought (187) – costs the government paid only once and did not pay while buying the aircraft themselves – added in order to smear the F-22. Secondly, Spinney is an utterly discredited liberal propagandist who has been continually lying about defense spending and other defense issues since the 1980s, and has been repeatedly disproven and discredited as a dishonest propagandist. Not one word he says or writes is credible.

Thompson continues:

“But Spinney was pointing out the difference between what the Pentagon wanted, and what the Pentagon could afford. The 21st Century version of the plans-reality mismatch is more fundamental: why are we paying through the nose to buy weapons we’re not using?”

Firstly, the DOD is NOT paying “through the nose” for these weapons, and secondly, the F-22 would’ve been used extensively in Libya (but for the reason stated below) if politicians had allowed the USAF to use it. And even though it wasn’t allowed to prove itself in Libya, it is still ably protecting the skies over the US, has partaken in exercises in Korea, and will be very useful for combatting the Chinese and the Russians, who are still very much America’s enemies.

“The F-22 – a fast-flying aircraft that is purportedly the world’s best at eluding enemy radars, didn’t become operational until 2005.”

It IS the world’s best at avoiding enemy radars, and it entered service late because POLITICIANS from both the Clinton and the Bush Administrations delayed the program.

“But its stealthiness would have been key in enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. Since it’s supposedly immune to being shot down by Libya’s air defenses, there would have been no need for that initial, largely U.S., bombing campaign to wipe them out.

In fact, it appears the U.S. military went out of its way to use every warplane in its inventory except the F-22 in the Libyan fight: A-10s, AC-130s, AV-8Bs, B-1s, B-2s, F-15s, F-16s and F-18s all saw action. Why the F-22 didn’t see action depends on whom you ask.”

And the answer is below. But first, before it is given, let’s quote the USAF’s Chief of Staff and other experts on how capable the F-22 is:

“Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, told senators on March 17 – two days before the first bombs fell on Libya – that the F-22 would play a key role in any such action. “It will be — would be — useful, and I would have the expectation that at least in the early days it certainly would be used.” He offered up that answer in response to a convenient question from Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., whose state plays a major role in building the F-22.

Air Force boosters were salivating at the prospect of the F-22′s combat debut. One veteran fighter pilot privately told Aviation Week magazine Libya would be a “perfect scenario” for the F-22′s baptism by fire.

Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute, a think tank funded, in part, by major defense contractors, said Gates earlier had “effectively shut down discussion of the no-fly option” by warning how difficult it would be to impose. “Apparently, the secretary forgot that he has an airplane specifically designed to operate in contested airspace, full of hostile SAMs and aircraft,” Goure wrote March 7. “It is the world’s first fifth-generation fighter, the F-22. With its stealth features, supercruise power and advanced sensors, the F-22 is designed to operate against air defenses operating so-called triple-digit SAMs and lots of fighters.””

Yet, the F-22, despite its awesome capabilities, was not allowed to prove itself in Libya. Why?

The answer, as usual, is politics. Had the F-22 been used there, it would’ve performed so ably that it would’ve embarrassed those politicians (wearing suits and uniforms alike), including Bob Gates, Michael Donley, and Barack Obama, who maligned and terminated it, and would’ve proven them flat wrong about the program (which they were). It would’ve possibly even sparked Congress to resume it. It would’ve also given the F-22 its needed baptism by fire and ended the “the F-22 has never been used” song.

But of course, Gates would never allow that, and he was still the SECDEF during the Libyan War and would not leave office until June 2011. So he deliberately barred the F-22 from being used in Libya, solely for political reasons, solely to prevent the F-22 from proving its worth, and thus forced the US military to use old, obsolete, nonstealthy aircraft such as F-15s, F-16s, and F-18s.

Retired USAF LTG David Deptula agrees, saying that

“Retired Air Force lieutenant general Dave Deptula, a former fighter pilot, air war boss and Air Force intel chief, says politics kept the F-22 on the sidelines. “The F-22 could have established a no-fly zone over Libya without any other airplanes being required to overfly Libya,” he says. “That would have obviated the need for any other coalition partner from participating, and therefore was not a desirable option politically.”

But there’s also a bigger lesson here than alliances, and the glue needed — or not needed — to hold them together. The F-22 has been the wedge issue between Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Air Force since Gates took the Pentagon helm four years ago. The Air Force was hell-bent on buying more F-22s, and Gates was just as determined to stop the program at 188 jets.

(…) Deptula acknowledges the precise reason the F-22 was a no-show in the no-fly may never be known. “For a variety of reasons it is doubtful that the actual reason will be made public,” he says. “Unfortunately, some reasons why may be to mask the decision that was made by the [Pentagon] leadership [i.e., Gates] to terminate the total buy of F-22s at significantly less than the actual military requirement, and/or to avoid any use of the F-22 that highlights its capability that might call for its continued production.””

Which only proves me right.

Yet, Thompson makes up lies about why the F-22 wasn’t used in Libya, lies designed to malign it:

“One reason for leaving the F-22 out of the action was the fact that the U.S. and its allies were determined to impose more than a no-fly zone over Libya. They wanted to protect civilians, and a no-fly zone can only do so much to halt slaughter on the ground. The F-22, while pre-eminent against aerial threats, remains poor at detecting ground targets six years after going operational. Its APG-77 radar’s ground-hunting capability is still in development. Even once it works, the F-22 can carry no more than eight 250-pound bombs.”

Those are blatant lies. The F-22’s ground attack capabilities are just as good as its air combat mettle; its current radars work well, and the F-22 can carry more than just bombs: it can carry A2G missiles as well. Eight 250-pound bombs is a significant payload, BTW: larger than what the F-35 can carry and smaller only than that carried by bombers (B-1s, B-2s and B-52s). The APG-77 radar is fully ready, 100 units have been built to date, and much of its technology has been used to develop the APG-81 radar for F-35s.

Thompson further claimed that:

“Two weeks after telling Congress the F-22 “certainly” would be used, Air Force chief Schwartz pulled what pilots call a chandelle – a 180-degree turn. “Had the F-22s been in Europe, stationed in Europe both closer in proximity and therefore more available, they undoubtedly would have been used,” Schwartz told a Senate panel March 30. “It really was an expedient judgment with respect to putting the plan together to executing on a very rapid timeline.” (This is airpower the general is discussing — airpower as in break-the-sound-barrier — airpower like the B-1s and B-2 that flew missions over Libya…from their bases inside the United States.)”

Here he has proven his total ignorance about military affairs. It’s completely ridiculous, and an error of the worst magnitude, to compare fighters to bombers. That’s worse than comparing apples to oranges. F-22s cannot fly over intercontinental distances (e.g. from bases in the US to Libya)… but neither can other tactical aircraft, including F-18s, F-16s, AV-8s, A-10s, or F-15s (the fighters than F-22s partially replaced). Bombers can, because they are bombers: aircraft with large fuel tanks, powerful engines, and large bomb bays, designed exclusively to attack ground targets (en masse if need be). BTW, those B-1s and B-2s that Thompson praises were targeted by defense-cutters from their first day of development, and production of both types was cut and prematurely terminated. F-22s would’ve fought in Libya nonetheless – if only Gates had allowed them to and had deployed them to NAS Sigonella or Moron AFB.

While still lying about the F-22s price, Thompson admits that:

“Yet, in the final analysis, the program met its budget target. “The F-22 spent about the same amount that they originally estimated,” Moshe Schwartz, a weapons-buying expert at the Congressional Research Service, told a Senate panel last month. There was only one problem: “They got a third of the aircraft” originally projected for that sum.”

As Schwartz proved, the F-22 met its budget target, i.e. did not experience a serious cost overrun. But thanks to short-sighted, foolish Pentagon budget cutters, for the money invested, the USAF got only 1/3 of the aircraft originally planned. Had the DOD kept the order level the same, it would’ve spent – in the worst case – the same amount of money, but would’ve received THREE TIMES AS MANY F-22 aircraft, and a massive order would’ve reduced their unit cost dramatically. That way, it would’ve never been as high as $150 mn, let alone $412 mn, and program critics would’ve had one argument less.

Thus, when Thompson complains “Poof! More than $50 billion — gone! — just like that. Breathtaking, heart-breaking, infuriating, whether you’re a pilot, a patriot, or a taxpayer – or some combination thereof.”, he should blame the people who cut F-22 orders to just 187 aircraft, not the plane itself or the program. That $50 bn would not have been lost if it the rest of the planned 650 aircraft had been ordered.

“So the nation has paid triple its estimated cost for an airplane apparently unsuited for any of the three wars the nation is now waging.”

That’s utter garbage. The total cost of the entire program remained essentially the same. What skyrocketed was the unit cost, and that was because of the deep order cuts, which eliminated economies of scale. As the old adage goes, “they’re cheaper to buy by the dozen.” And the F-22 was IDEALLY suited for the Libyan War, in which it wasn’t allowed to participate SOLELY for political reasons. Moreover, the Libyan War should’ve never been waged, and the Afghan War should’ve been ended 10 years ago. The F-22 was not suited for Afghanistan or Iraq, but it is ideally suited for the wars that America will be fighting in the future, against the most likely adversaries of the future: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela.

Thompson’s claims are blatant lies. No, the F-22 wasn’t AWOL in Libya. It was not allowed to show up there.


2 thoughts on “Rebuttal of Mark Thompson’s lies about F-22 fighters”

  1. The F-22 has been my favorite plane since I read about it and the YF-23 going after that big defense contract way back when. Out of curiousity I clicked on a new Youtube link. As to my surprise there is Rachel Maddow scoffing at these same lies and then some. When MSNBC picks up on it you know it suits a Progressive cause somehow. If you just listen to a few of the many pilots who’ve been certified on the F-22, anyone would get just how amazing this thing is. Thank you for explaining the cost issue. That I really didnt understand before.
    What a Progressive webb they weave.

    1. Yeah, the media often inflate the cost of weapon systems in order to (treasonously) undermine public support for them. Just like they’re doing with the nuclear modernization program right now – they endlessly trumpet that false $1 trillion figure that is unsupported by any source other than the MIIS (which invented it) and a few other pacifist organizations (e.g. Ploughshares), all of whom want the US to disarm itself unilaterally.

      And intellectual disarmament always, invariably, precedes material (military) disarmament.

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