Your morning jolt: F-22 fight moves from sniping to data

In the last 24 hours, the looming confrontation between the Obama Administration and Congress over the F-22 stealth fighter has moved to the next level — from sniping to the rolling out of detailed arguments.

Near the close of business on Thursday, The Hill newspaper in D.C. posted an article that set a hefty per-hour pricetag on the Marietta-assembled F-22 Raptor — along with the worries of John Murtha, lead dog on defense spending in the House.

Murtha advocates more spending on the Raptor, but:

He also expressed some concern with the F-22 costs.

“We got problems with the F-22, there is no question about it. We are talking about $50,000 per hour to fly that plane,” he said.

The $50,000 price tag per hour is for operating and maintaining the F-22, according to data from the House Appropriations Defense panel.

This morning, the Washington Post sets the price of the F-22 slightly lower — at $44,000 per hour — but adds a large focus on the problems of upkeep:

The aircraft’s radar-absorbing metallic skin is the principal cause of its maintenance troubles, with unexpected shortcomings — such as vulnerability to rain and other abrasion — challenging Air Force and contractor technicians since the mid-1990s, according to Pentagon officials, internal documents and a former engineer.

While most aircraft fleets become easier and less costly to repair as they mature, key maintenance trends for the F-22 have been negative in recent years, and on average from October last year to this May, just 55 percent of the deployed F-22 fleet has been available to fulfill missions guarding U.S. airspace, the Defense Department acknowledged this week. The F-22 has never been flown over Iraq or Afghanistan.

The article also contains this claim of Washington gamesmanship:

[O]ther defense officials — reflecting sharp divisions inside the Pentagon about the wisdom of ending one of the largest arms programs in U.S. history — emphasize the plane’s unsurpassed flying abilities, express renewed optimism that the troubles will abate and say the plane is worth the unexpected costs.

But Pierre Sprey, a key designer in the 1970s and 1980s of the F-16 and A-10 warplanes, said that from the beginning, the Air Force designed it to be “too big to fail, that is, to be cancellation-proof.”
Lockheed farmed out more than 1,000 subcontracts to vendors in more than 40 states, and Sprey — now a prominent critic of the plane — said that by the time skeptics “could point out the failed tests, the combat flaws, and the exploding costs, most congressmen were already defending their subcontractors’ ”
revenues.

On Thursday, the Atlanta/North Georgia Labor Council endorsed state Sen. Kasim Reed in the race for mayor of Atlanta.

The organization says it represents about 87,000 union workers throughout metro Atlanta, including 1,100 city employees.

Evidence of the group’s clout can be found in the fact that, according to council president Charlie Flemming, the union umbrella has endorsed the winner of every Atlanta mayoral race since Sam Massell in 1969 — with one exception.

But Flemming can’t find anyone who remembers a key detail: Whether the labor council didn’t make an endorsement in the 1981 race between Andrew Young and Sidney Marcus, or whether the council endorsed Marcus.

If you’ve got that piece of history stored in your head, please pass it on.

In the meantime, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:

  • Georgia schools allowed to change days, hours.
  • Swine flu vaccine should be ready in October.
  • State’s first swine flu patient tested Emory staff.
  • Cobb County homeowners can expect to see an average $230 increase on tax bills next month.
  • Savannah River officials quit over squabble with Georgia.
  • Land deal adds another link to Beltline in Atlanta.
  • New state office considered to track stimulus money.
  • Hard-to-fake driver’s licenses to debut by end of year.
  • High-ranking Atlanta cop under investigation.
  • Some opinion:

  • Your Luckovich fix.
  • Jim Wooten says ‘Run, Sarah, run — set the pace, too’
  • Jay Bookman on the reality show that is American politics.
  • Atlanta street vendors lose with new pact.
  • From elsewhere in Georgia:

  • MT’s Lucid Idiocy: A pharmaceutical company in Pennsylvania wants Nathan Deal to be governor in Georgia.
  • Atlanta Unflitered: Burkhalter tops Richardson in campaign fund-raising.
  • And beyond:

  • WSJ: Iran protesters defy clampdown.
  • WP: In Argentina, Sanford sought light agenda.
  • NYT: With sale of good assets, GM comes out of bankruptcy.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

    6 comments Add your comment

    The Oddball

    July 10th, 2009
    12:03 pm

    Whatever “data” you may present for the F22, three things are clear: one, the Secretary of Defense doesn’t think we need it; two, we can’t afford it; and three, there is no enemy out there that we can’t handle with cheaper aircraft.

    Copyleft

    July 10th, 2009
    1:09 pm

    Oddball, you’re no fun! With those basic facts in place, there’s nothing to argue about–unless you change the subject to “how much the Democrats hate our soldiers and want to see America defenseless” or some such nonsense.

    You’re just a big ol’ spoilsport, you are….

    The Oddball

    July 12th, 2009
    5:41 pm

    The Oddball, having earned his nickname in the 80s maintaining those big green fighting machines, is no fun when it comes to buying weapons systems. The folks hawking that stuff to us certainly don’t come down to the barracks to discuss what works and what doesn’t. No one has shot down an American warplane since the Viet Nam war. So, why are we sending kids to war in the Middle East with poorly armored vehicles while Saxby Chambliss stumps for billions of dollar of aircraft we don’t need?

    Azazel

    July 13th, 2009
    5:25 am

    So, would this be a stimulus package to maintain and create jobs? I thought Republicans were against distributing the wealth and spending money on useless government programs — or, more precisely, for appropriating money for government created jobs. Their priorities are not well hidden — it is more important to spend money to maintain and create jobs manufacturing WMD’s to kill other people’s children, than to provide health care and education for our own.

    Bo Chambliss LOBBYIST

    July 13th, 2009
    10:02 am

    Dad, Saxby is really doing his job isn’t he. With Saxby it’s LOBBYIST first, Country last. That old man Mccain needs to lighten up & let dad make a few bucks.

    Frank Whizzle

    July 13th, 2009
    11:49 am

    US Planes have been shot down since Vietnam. Remember the F-117 Stealth over Kosovo? And didn’t we lose an F-16 or something in the first Gulf War? Correct me if I’m wrong.
    Any way- if the secretary of defense says we don’t need it, I’ll take his word over Saxby’s. Don’t think it’s wise to COMPLETELY overhaul the military for the kinds of “small wars” we’re fighting today, but spending to counter a super-power threat that no longer exists is pretty dumb.