Procurement: March 18, 2004


The high cost, and low need, for the U.S. Air Force's new F-22 fighter is causing an interesting duel between the air force and the navy. The radically new LCS (Littoral Combat Ship), that the navy will begin building next year, will cost $250 million each, have a crew of less than a hundred sailors, be extremely flexible and, in the times of many hostile coasts the navy has to keep an eye on, much needed. The air force is expecting to build it's first squadron of F-22s next year, 24 aircraft at a cost of $4.7 billion (nearly $200 million each.) There is no air force that can challenge American air superiority at the moment. While the defense budget is currently at $400 billion, that's still lower than it was during the Vietnam war ($425 billion in 1968), or the height of the Cold War ($461 billion in 1985),  there is Congressional resistance to giving the Department of Defense any more money, especially for weapons that have no obvious use. Air force generals standing up and saying, "the F-22 is essential for winning the war on terror", do not help. If it comes down to a choice between twenty LCSs or 24 F-22s, the aircraft is probably going to lose. Congress has been hearing about "another F-22 cost overrun" for nearly two decades now, and is getting tired of it. Now the air force is asking for another eight billion dollars to design a bomber version of the F-22, no doubt to attack terrorists. At the moment, it looks like the air force won't be able to buy more than 218 of the F-22 in the best of circumstances. And if UCAVs (UAV's designed as fighter aircraft) continue to perform well in tests, Congress is going to get even more gloomy about the F-22. 


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