The Future of Air Defense
I just can’t imagine we will always get away with sending our few and pricey stealth fighters into high risk areas when there seems to be so many other alternatives, such as UAVs, cruise missiles, and legacy fighters equipped with HARM and jamming devises. Via Danger Room, David Axe provides another excuse to dump the F-22 Raptor:
In a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of Joints Chief of Staff, defended Gates’ position — and whipped out a new argument for why Raptor-making should end. Faced with shutting down either Lockheed Martin’s F-22 production line, or Boeing’s competing F/A-18E/F fighter, for cost reasons, Cartwright said he asked the military’s regional commanders what air capabilities they needed most. They chose “electronic warfare,” a.k.a. “radar jamming,” Cartwright said. That meant keeping the Boeing jet, for only it has a dedicated jammer version, the EA-18G Growler…
But the F-22’s electronic-attack skills have remained dormant, while the Air Force focuses on honing the jet’s air-to-air prowess, and improving vexing maintenance problems. The Raptor won’t be able to jam enemy radars, until 2011 — and then, only half the fleet will have that capability. The Raptor suffers other, serious limitations, that haven’t been widely reported. As many as half of the jets already paid for, lack modern dogfighting systems, such as helmet-mounted sights.
So apparently then, the F-22 isn’t even “all that” in its primary role of dogfighting. But much is touted about how stealthy the plane is, and how such technology is required to penetrate modern air defenses, even if enemy fighter encounters with Western planes are few and far between. The problem is, no nation has really faced a modern air defense system, as detailed in this related article from David A. Fulghum at the Ares Blog:
Early analysis of the air war between Georgia and Russia made it obvious that Russian forces had not planned or training for a coordinated attack against Georgia’s relatively modern air defenses.
It signaled a new era in that it was the first time that the Russian Air Force, or for that matter anyone else, has battled a modern air-defense system illustrated by use of the Buk M1, a product of the 1980s. Through the invasion of Iraq in 2003, forces around the world have been pitted against weapons designed in the 1950-60s, although often upgraded with digital components. The exception may be new-generation Manpads like the SA-16 which has been used against U.S. helicopters in Iraq and the SA-18. The latter is supposed to be confined to use by Russian Forces, but a number of them have already found their way into U.S. test laboratories via the black market.
In retrospect, we see the US justifying some very costly aircraft which are taking precious funds from essential warfighting equipment like helicopters, transport planes, close support planes, new UAVs, and even tanker aircraft, over some one-sided victories against an extremely low tech enemy. Without any real evidence, there is no proof that the few stealth fighters and bombers we can afford are any more survivable than older legacy fighters using the tactics and stand-off weapons mentioned above. It’s no way to run an Air Force.
More-If the Raptor didn’t have enough troubles with doubts about its mission and effectiveness, the Washington Post reveals “Premier U.S. Fighter Jet Has Major Shortcomings”
While most aircraft fleets become easier and less costly to repair as they mature, key maintenance trends for the F-22 have been negative in recent years, and on average from October last year to this May, just 55 percent of the deployed F-22 fleet has been available to fulfill missions guarding U.S. airspace, the Defense Department acknowledged this week. The F-22 has never been flown over Iraq or Afghanistan…
“It is a disgrace that you can fly a plane [an average of] only 1.7 hours before it gets a critical failure” that jeopardizes success of the aircraft’s mission, said a Defense Department critic of the plane who is not authorized to speak on the record. Other skeptics inside the Pentagon note that the planes, designed 30 years ago to combat a Cold War adversary, have cost an average of $350 million apiece and say they are not a priority in the age of small wars and terrorist threats.