Sunday, October 28, 2007

Assessment of the F-22

These assessments of the F-22 by Pierre Sprey and James Stevenson are extremely surprising and depressing.

I was motivated to look up this sort of thing after hearing an expert crowing about how the F-22 was not only a great fighter, but that it had been modified so that it could perform in a ground attack role as well.

"Jeez," I thought, "isn't this a giant leap backward?" Weren't the F-15 and F-16 revolutionary because they were dedicated air superiority fighters? Didn't we get our butts (in F-4s and F-105s) kicked by enough MiG-17s in Vietnam (MiG-17s, fer chrissake) to teach us that big, heavy fighters don't, ya know, fare so well against small, agile fighters? Whatever happened to "not a pound for air-to-ground?"

Needless to say I'm not claiming the slightest bit of expertise here...but the air force has made this same mistake in the past. Sprey is a guy I'm inclined to take very seriously (I don't know anything about Stevenson), and his conclusion seems to be that we'd be better off buying a buttload of F-16s. Stevenson agrees, pointing out that we could maintain a sustained force of 2,160 F-16s for the price of 133 F-22s. And, as he points out, numbers matter. A lot. Just ask ME262 pilots...

Because the Powers That Be repeatedly insist on bigger and more high-tech fighters, Stevenson notes that we have produced a mind-bogglingly expensive fighter that can't achieve what Air Force pilots say they want: "first look, first shoot, first kill." Sprey goes so far as to say that it isn't even clear that we've produced any fighters that are clearly superior to the F-86!!!!!!!!!

Holy smokes! If half of this is halfway to being half right, this is a very big deal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The F-22 (back when it was the Y-22) was originally supposed to cost 20M-35M per plane, depending on whether it was configured for the navy, the marines, or the air force.

The writing was on the wall when it came in at a x10 cost overrun. You can trade just about anything to shoot down something at $361M/aircraft. It's clearly a suckers bet from the military-industrial complex.

As for ground-attack, I understand that the preferred airplane has been the A10 since forever, although they are supposed to be retired RSN. They are surely a lot more survivable than all those fragile attack helicopters that keep falling out of the sky.

-p mac

3:33 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, I keep hearing that the A-10 is just too ugly and low-tech to make the generals happy...but I also keep hearing that it does its job beautifully.


8:51 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Also: part of the objections to the F-22 are based on maneuverability predictions based on things like wing loading. But the F-22 has thrust vectoring, so that's got to change things to at least some degree, right?

11:46 AM  
Blogger tehr0x0r said...

The A-10 is one of the best planes ever made, and every pilot I know who has flown one agrees. Granted I am biased as I work on a base that has an A-10 wing stationed there but I must say that if there is a tank or other large object on the ground that needs removal I would put an A-10 against any other plane in the world to do that job.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Although, needless to say, I am saddened by the need for all weapons of war and deplore their gorification...

...I think the A-10 is one awesomely cool aircraft. I cannot believe they are supposed to be retired in favor of the JSF. Of course I don't have any idea what I'm talking about, but it just seems nuts...

10:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't take a military genius to see that no one aircraft should cost more than the annual budget of a small US department, or that the F22 is unlikely to be better than 3 F15s, much less better than 10 or 20 of them.

This is back-of-the-envelope stuff.


5:21 PM  

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