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Murphy's Law: Why F-22s Are Losers
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July 21, 2009: The current battle in Congress and the Pentagon, over whether to build more F-22s, has depicted the F-22 as a too expensive and too difficult to maintain. Among the allegations were the fact that it currently costs (for maintenance and operating expenses) $44,000 an hour to operate the F-22, versus $30,000 an hour for the F-15 (which the F-22 was originally designed to replace). Two facts that got left out of the debate were that many of the operating expenses for the F-22 are start up costs (buying maintenance equipment and base facilities). Take out those costs, and it's $19,000 per flight hour for the F-22, and $17,000 an hour for the F-15 (which has been around for over a decade, and long since paid for much of the maintenance equipment and basing costs). The other factor is also related to time. As aircraft become more mature, they require fewer hours to maintain. When an aircraft gets very old, the maintenance hours increase again. This also happens if you add more complex equipment to the aircraft.

F-22 advocates also point out that, between 2008 and 2009, direct maintenance man hours per flight hour for the F-22 went from 18.1 to 10.5. The design goal for the F-22 was 12 man hours. Although much is said of the hassles encountered maintaining the radar absorbent skin of the F-22, only a third of the maintenance hours are devoted to stealth features, which includes the skin. The F-22 was accused of having a sub-system failure every 1.7 hours. But the ultimate goal here is 3 hours, and the F-22 is on track to meet that goal once the F-22 fleet has accumulated 100,000 flight hours.

The F-22 is still moving down the maturity cost curve (getting more reliable and cheaper to maintain as it accumulates more flight hours), and doing so on schedule. Comparing the F-22 in this phase of its life, to the fully mature F-15, is inaccurate. In fact, the history of fighter development over the last sixty years shows aircraft getting more expensive, but more capable and reliable. The problem with the F-22 is that it is way ahead in performance, and cost. The argument against the F-22 is that it provides more performance than the air force can afford. Now, when it comes to performance, fighter pilots feel "too much ain't enough." But to the air force commanders who must plan and conduct the battles and campaigns, too much performance in too few aircraft can be a losing proposition.


Next Article → WEAPONS: Radical New Machine-Gun Design

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SAE       7/21/2009 10:46:51 AM
The solution is to buy more of them. The more you buy the cheaper they are.  The F-35 will be just as expensive when it is finally produced as the F-22. Do they not they remember what happened with the F-18E and B-2? How many times have we been on this merry-go-round?
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rjoe    Where does Strategy Page Get Its Info?   7/21/2009 12:28:32 PM
I enjoy and will continue reading SP but take articles with skepticism and sometimes trust but more often verify.
This article defends the F-22 contradicting this Washington Post article, but gives no sources or attributions.
"...Over the four-year period, the F-22's average maintenance time per hour of flight grew from 20 hours to 34, with skin repairs accounting for more than half of that time -- and more than half the hourly flying costs -- last year, according to the test and evaluation office.
The Air Force says the F-22 cost $44,259 per flying hour in 2008; the Office of the Secretary of Defense said the figure was $49,808. The F-15, the F-22's predecessor, has a fleet average cost of $30,818..."
"...Thomas Christie, the top weapons testing expert from 2001 to 2005. Christie says that because of the plane's huge costs, the Air Force lacks money to modernize its other forces..."It flunked on suitability measures -- availability, reliability, and maintenance,"... "I don't accept that this is still early in the program," Christie said, explaining that he does not recall a plane with such a low capability to fulfill its mission due to maintenance problems at this point in its tenure as the F-22...."
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warpig       7/21/2009 12:41:16 PM
rjoe, you clearly have taken some steps on the path to enlightenment, since you show some familiarity with the wisdom of St. Reagan, and you do not believe *everything* you read until verified, regardless of source.  I suggest the next couple steps for you should include:
1)  Do not believe *anything* you read in the Washington Post, until what *it* says is verified.
2)  Read some of the recent threads in the "Fighters, Bombers, and Recon" board that deal with the F-22, and you will find some of the sources and answers that debunk that Washington Post hit-piece.
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SpudmanWP       7/21/2009 12:49:16 PM
The F-35 costs as much as a F-22 now...  But those are LRIP purchases.
What will happen when they build 230+ a year?  The cost will plummet." height="289" width="1022" /> 
The F-22 will never be purchased in greater numbers than what they are being purchased for now.  If anything, it will get more expensive due to inflation and smaller purchase lots.
The F-22 WILL NEVER be less than it is now.
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WarNerd       7/22/2009 3:29:32 AM

The F-35 costs as much as a F-22 now...  But those are LRIP purchases.

What will happen when they build 230+ a year?  The cost will plummet.

What are the odds that Congress will actually allow the US military to purchase enough of them to reach 230+ per year?
Congress will reduce the order and stretch the time line in order to divert funds to other programs, then bitch, moan, and call hearings to rake others over the coals because the unit price keeps going up and the F-35 program is over budget, just like every other major purchase.  Then all the pundits will be saying that we should have avoided the expensive F-35 and just bought more of the "cheap F-22's" instead.
Just wait a few years and see.
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cwDeici       7/22/2009 4:29:23 AM
The solution obviously is two-pronged:
A) Design a new fighter without the flaws of the F-22 to make it cheaper and better, but most of all more maintainable.
B) Move on with unmanned fighter aircraft development.
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