F/A-22 Raptor Receives Kudos, Criticism
A Pentagon report by David Duma of the Office of Operational Test and Evaluation has rated the F/A-22 Raptor fighter as “operationally effective and survivable” but needing work in the areas of reliability, diagnostics and maintenance procedures. It also noted that the F/A-22 was successful in 90% of missions and three times more effective than the F-15C in air-to-air missions, exceeding an early 1990s Pentagon directive that combat testing must demonstrate at least twice the effectiveness of the Boeing Co. F-15C it would replace.
In contrast, Col. Everest Riccioni (USAF ret.), who pioneered supersonic cruise technology and the F-16 Lightweight Fighter Program, has published a critical analysis, noting problems with the program and calling it “the wrong weapon at the wrong time.”
The F/A-22 program currently costs $72 billion, of which $41 billion has been spent. The inflation-adjusted $256.8 million price per plane covers everything from research to long-range operation and support. If the President’s proposed FY2006 Defense budget is approved, the program would be cut back to approximately $61 billion, but the Air Force would only be able to acquire 180 aircraft, bringing the life cycle cost to over $330 million per aircraft.
The Air Force plans to buy 179 F/A-22s, 98 of which have been ordered, and the evaluation is required by law as a final step before the Pentagon can approve the plane for full production. That decision, slated for this month, would trigger about $11 billion in aircraft purchase.
Duma, in the unclassified portion of his cover letter to Capitol Hill, said the plane is still “operationally unsuitable,” meaning it has problems that maintenance personnel can’t easily support in the field. Such ratings are not uncommon at this stage, and they don’t automatically mean the Pentagon will delay a full-production decision. An Air Force spokesman noted that the aircraft failed to meet its required combat-mission-availability rates because of flaws in diagnostic systems, incomplete technical manuals and parts reliability, stating that new software should correct many of these issues.
Col. Everest Riccioni (USAF ret.), who pioneered supersonic cruise technology and the F-16 Lightweight Fighter Program, has published his critical analysis of the Air Force’s F/A-22 Raptor fighter jet program in concert with the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). Riccioni traces the history of the escalating cost projections and changing justifications for the Raptor program, and argues that the current fleet of fighter aircraft is appropriate for U.S. needs. He recommends upgrading/rebuilding the current F-16 and F-15 fleet with modern avionics systems in order to free up $5 billion per year over the F/A-22 program’s expected life cycle. Dallas-Fort Worth Star Telegram: F/A-22 effective but needs work, Pentagon report says Ricconi Report: POGO Press Release | Full Report [PDF]