Connecticut’s congressional delegation (along with others around the country) has been up in arms over the proposed cancellation of the F-22 program. Rep. John Larson (D-1st District), in whose district the Raptors are partially produced, has been defending the Raptor program since 1999, and teamed up with Sen. Dodd yesterday to promise workers that they were going to fight for the program to continue.
What’s happened is that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has proposed sweeping cuts in weapons programs, including the F-22. Under the proposed budget, only four more of the planes would be made between now and 2011–when the new F-35 program is scheduled to start. It’s been a controversial move, to be sure, because jobs in the military industry would be lost all over the country. Some members of Congress, like Sen. John McCain, have defended the move, but many others have been critical. After all, no one wants to tell his or her state/district that high-paying, skilled positions are going away.
Pratt & Whitney and Hamilton Sundstrand build major parts of the aircraft (which is powered by Pratt’s engines), and stand to lose up to 3,000 jobs before production of the F-35 comes on line. Hence, Dodd and Larson’s concern. In fact, New England would be one of the hardest hit areas should the F-22 cease production.
But I have to ask: is Gates right? Does the U.S. military really need this plane? The criticisms of the program that I’ve seen suggest that it’s a Cold War-era fighter, best suited to air-to-air combat, and that in the current world situation it’s outmoded. Also, there are currently 183 F-22’s in existence, with four more scheduled to be made, and a new jet scheduled to start rolling off the assembly line soon. In fact, Gates wants to move up production of the F-35, which would also be made with Pratt engines.
Again, I’m not a military expert. I bet a bunch of you are, however. What do you think?