Top Obama Military Backer Breaks With President Over Cuts in Funding for the F-22 Raptor

Posted on July 18, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Another respected military voice is chiming in against the administration’s plan to end production of the F-22 Raptor fighter.

Retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, who was the Air Force chief of staff during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm and who credited air power with winning the war, was one of Obama’s strongest military backers during his run for the White House.

FoxNews.com reports that now McPeak is breaking with Obama on the president’s most contentious defense budget decision: ending production of the Air Force’s top-line fighter at 187 aircraft. Both the House and Senate have signaled support for continuing the program, but Obama has threatened to veto any bill that contains new F-22 funding.

“I think it’s a real mistake,” McPeak told FOXNews.com. “The airplane is a game-changer and people seem to forget that we haven’t had any of our soldiers or Marines killed by enemy air since 1951 or something like that. It’s been half a century or more since any enemy aircraft has killed one of our guys. So we’ve gotten use to this idea that we never have to breathe hostile air.”
“We do not want to field an Armed Forces that can be defeated by someone simply by topping our capability,” he said. “The F-22 is at the top end. We have to procure enough of them for our ability to put a lid on, to dictate the ceiling of any conflict.”
The radar-evading fighter/bomber’s role is needed to control the skies in a future war against a major foe. McPeak and F-22 backers in Congress say 187 planes are simply not enough to do that job given the fact that some will be needed to train pilots and others will be in regular depot maintenance. That may leave only about 100 planes available for a war.

“We certainly need some figure well above 200,” said McPeak. “That worries me because I think it is pennywise and pound foolish to expose us in a way this much smaller number does … That’s taking too much high-end risk.”
Designed as a successor to the F-15A, the F-22 is the world’s most advanced fighter. It is faster, can fly higher, and has better stealth capabilities than any other fighter. The Air Force has stated repeatedly that ending the program at 187 planes would threaten U.S. air dominance.

Defense Secretary William Gates has proposed ending production of the F-22 at 187 planes, though Air Force and Air National Guard brass have said a minimum of 250 are needed. President Obama said again this week he will veto any measures that would continue the F-22 program.

While the Pentagon says jobs are not part of its procurement calculations, ending production of the F-22 would cost 25,000 direct and 75,000 indirect jobs at 1,000 vendors in 44 states.  Unions representing steelworkers, machinists and other workers have urged continued funding for the fighter.

McPeak is at least the third major military voice to speak against the Pentagon plan.

Gen. John D.W. Corley, commander of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, said in a recent letter to Congress that ending production of the F-22 at 187 planes “puts execution of our current national military strategy at high risk in the near to mid-term.”  He added that “a moderate risk force can be obtained with an F-22 fleet of approximately 250 aircraft.”

Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard, also defends the program, saying in a separate letter that “the current and future asymmetric threats to our nation, particularly from seaborne missiles, requires a fighter platform with the requisite speed and detection to address them….The F-22’s unique capability in this arena enables it to handle a full spectrum of threats.”

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