The F-22 runs on ‘vintage ‘83 IBM software’?

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent critique of the dismal state of U.S. military contracting by John Lehman, secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration.

Here’s a taste:

The situation is worse in the Air Force. In 1983, I was in the Pentagon meeting that launched the F-22 Raptor. The plan was to buy 648 jets beginning in 1996 for $60 million each (in 1983 dollars). Now they cost $350 million apiece and the Obama budget caps the program at 187 jets.

At least they are safe from cyberattack since no one in China knows how to program the ‘83 vintage IBM software that runs them.

There are other problems. Navy shipbuilding fiascoes like the staggering overruns on new surface combatants, the near total failure of the Army’s Future Combat System that was meant to re-equip the entire army, the 400% cost overrun of the new Air Force weather satellite — to name but a few — all prove that we are currently unable to design, develop and deliver major weapons systems in anything approaching a cost-effective and timely manner.

The Government Accountability Office recently reported that the cost overruns for the top 75% procurement programs were over $295 billion. We are rapidly disarming ourselves, even as defense spending grows.

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23 comments Add your comment


July 18th, 2009
3:28 pm

Legacy code is better in some cases. At the core, those new shiny macintoshes run on code that’s essentially unchanged from the mid-sixties – UNIX. Compare that with the “brand new” code in Windows Vista.


July 18th, 2009
8:30 pm

what there’s new IBM code out there? I heard once that they were considering some ‘86 rewrites but I didn’t think I’d live to see the day…. My how time just flies.

Jim Callihan

July 18th, 2009
9:46 pm

It’s called “collusion” – follow the “Iron Triangle/Carlysle”. The ruse, false premise, is that America is a “free market” system – not so…and less everyday – especially when the feds get their corrupt sticky fingers on meg-industries like “energy, healthcare, auto-manufacturing”. No-bid contracts are the norm for federal government…and “telecommunications” in some States, as well – ring a bell?

While mainstreet America tries harder everyday to do more with less (competitive bids), their hard earned and ill-spent tax dollars end up in the “blank check” cess-pool – none moreso than “military/defense” spending. But no worries, there is a way out of this – just keep spending, it will overt the looming collapse, so says Vice President.

Capitol Hill is also misnamed. It would be more appropriately called “The Federal Sinkhole”. When those of us maintaining budgets realize we are rapidly approaching “red ink”, we are left with very few choices – really, just two: cut spending, increase revenue. The Federal Government does not “produce revenue”. They have shown no ability to cut spending, since enabled with access to all of Americas personal wealth – via the income tax. So what are they left to do? STEAL from those who earn. And before those of you who take issue with that word, get your cotton in a wad, let me remind you that “stealing” is taking something not yours. Even the good Lord, Himself encouraged us to forgive those who take, even offer them more. And some say we aren’t a “Christian Nation”? Before long, we’ll be holding yard sales to pay for our government and then what?

Well, as they say, “if you have your health – you’ve got everything”. Yep. They’re coming for that too. On a brighter note, I’ve got lots of candels to use when I can no longer pay to run the lights. And even better, on this lovely 60 degree, July evening, they are wrong about “global warming” too, so I won’t have to run the A/C either. Some things do not get worse when the government gets it wrong. A very lovely evening indeed.

Bob from Winder

July 19th, 2009
8:01 am

One of the most favored insiders in Representative John Murtha’s rich churn of defense earmarks has pleaded guilty to criminal charges, shedding light on a twisting, pay-to-play money trail. The contractor, Richard Ianieri, admitted taking $200,000 in bribes from another big defense contractor in the Murtha orbit, and is cooperating with investigators.

John P. Murtha“What’s that got to do with me?” commented Mr. Murtha, who previously lavished praise and tens of millions of dollars in contracts on the two companies caught up in the criminal investigation.

He asks an ever more urgent question. Investigators have not identified him as a target. But the inquiry is backtracking a trail of hundreds of millions awarded to Pentagon contractors who gratefully requited with tens of millions in political donations to Democrats on the appropriations subcommittee headed by Mr. Murtha.

In just one tangent of the complex inquiry, Mr. Ianieri’s company hired the lobbying firm of Mr. Murtha’s brother Kit. The company soon was blessed with money from an $8.2 million defense earmark. The Capitol newspaper Roll Call reported last month that Representative Murtha, using a 2005 tsunami relief bill, took the $8.2 million from another contractor that had severed ties with his brother’s lobbying firm. The Department of Justice alleges that Mr. Ianieri’s company then illicitly distributed $1.8 million of the money to other companies, some of them represented by Kit Murtha’s firm.

The Murtha money trail is far from fully explored but already features a second tangent of Congressional appropriations staff members’ exiting through the golden door to defense lobbying and scoring big contracts from their old bosses. Taxpayers should press the question of what all this has to do with Mr. Murtha (who has also used his gavel to create a luxury supermart of defense contractors in his Pennsylvania district).

Beyond the criminal investigation, a full-scale ethics inquiry should be pressed by House Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. If not, the Murtha money trail could lead them back to the minority.

Rick in Grayson

July 19th, 2009
8:42 am

Not surprised about the poor design and engineering on defense contracts. Very few US citizens study engineering nowadays. The engineering schools are staffed with and for foreign nationals. The US will need to hire these foreign nationals to build their weapons systems.

It would be smart to question our national security when native born workers aren’t the major labor component in the design, engineering, and maintenance of the very stuff that China, Russia, and Iran would like to get their hands on.

But just think about all the cheap foreign labor that is available to the other non-defense industries….oh, I forgot, most of them are subject to espionage also. Cheap labor might be more susceptible to those who want to steal our secrets.

Mike in Chamblee

July 19th, 2009
10:22 am

Who cares if it’s 1983 vintage software? As long as it works effectively. It’s a fighter jet they’re developing not an internet router. The radar, stealth capabilities, and weapons are the most important aspects of this jet, not the software interface. Do you want them to slap a windows 7 server with a WiMax internet connection so they have to install new upgrades and patches every 30 minutes and worry about North Korean hackers?


July 19th, 2009
10:35 am

If we can buy them for $60,000,000.00 we ought to buy them, if not on to the F35

“The situation is worse in the Air Force. In 1983, I was in the Pentagon meeting that launched the F-22 Raptor. The plan was to buy 648 jets beginning in 1996 for $60 million each (in 1983 dollars). Now they cost $350 million apiece and the Obama budget caps the program at 187 jets.”


July 19th, 2009
10:57 am

Hey Rick – I’m a Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech. And you’re totally wrong. 1. You can’t get the majority of defense jobs unless you’re a U.S. citizen. In some cases additional security clearance is required. 2. The majority of undergrads at Georgia Tech are not “foreign nationals.” They’re from right here. Where are you getting this stuff?

Mike "Hussein" Smith

July 19th, 2009
11:36 am

And our two Georgia senators are begging us to continue this F22 production. Like Einstein said: Insanity is repeating the same mistake
over and over.


July 19th, 2009
11:38 am

I would question you facts on the F22 since weapon system and code are constantly being updated. I worked on the F15 years about and there were always technical changes and modifications. Essentially one comment here is correct that Unix is far better stable than most other platforms, however we have not idea what operating system is used for the F22. You can develop your own integerated system if you know engineering and computer architecture so Lockheed doesn’t need Microsoft or whoever to control their flight system or weapon system on the F22. I really doubt the F22 is running on 1983 IBM code.


July 19th, 2009
12:05 pm

If the F-22 is such a great weapon system – why has it never flown a single combat mission? We need to use the Pentagon procurement system to help defend the country – not cure the unemployment problem.


July 19th, 2009
12:08 pm

Geez where does all this garbage come from. OK I’ll set the facts straight. I work for Lockheed on the F-22 assembly line and I will say yet again the info be spread is completely false.

Cost is all smoke and mirrors as well. When they was to build the F-22 and contracts signed it was for well over 700 and base price is set at that level as those numbers drop the price goes up. Its simple economics and 90% don’t get it. All the R and D is figured into the purchase but if they cut the number back the price will go up because that dollar figure has to be spread into fewer planes. Note they did the same thing with the B-2 and it was once at 180 mil a copy till the program was cut at 21 so the price jumps and now you have a 2.2 bil per copy.

Yes there has been cost overruns but not all that is Lockheed or the other contractors. Fault is also placed on DOD for making changes that are not in the first contract ie attempting to make the F-22 an FA-22. Everything cost money and requires changes some of them major changes

The F-35 is not the answer but will be a great acft in its own. Truth is the F-22 would eat up F-35’s all day and night. They are reaching for this acft to spread cost around the world but as far as ability the F-22 can not be beat. Just last year the F-22 was sent to Red Flag. ( A major war rediness exercise) The F-22 come home with a kill ratio against all other fighters or 144/1 That kind of domanince cost and I’d rather keep the F-22 going than kill it


July 19th, 2009
12:10 pm

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is intended to be a relatively inexpensive, F-16-like multi-purpose airplane that can be produced in large numbers and can provide the bulk of our air arm in all services.

I hope that its performance is not the match of its price tag. Unfortunately, there are ongoing questions about its capabilities. I understand that the Achilles heel of the F-22 is that it can be overwhelmed by massive numbers of lower-tech opponents. Should we ever be in the dire situation of going to war against China, India or Russia, that’s probably the scenario the F-22 would face.

One can only hope that the F-35 is a capable backstop against such an opponent, and that we can churn out enough pilot bodies to not be overwhelmed.


July 19th, 2009
12:16 pm


July 19th, 2009
12:08 pm

I don’t understand your “government” accounting but it looks like we have paid for over 600 f22’s but have only got about 180. Has the union over there offered to take a pay cut like the auto unions? How much do the lobbyist make on this deal?


July 19th, 2009
12:44 pm

First, the software on the F-22 is indeed IBM code, but it definitely does NOT fun under Windows, or DOS for that matter. It runs on a real-time operating system, which looks nothing like the others, except maybe Unix.

Why should we be concerned about software from 1983? Well, every time the DoD or Lockheed Martin or whomever adds a new feature to the aircraft, the software has to accommodate it. Any time the radar or navigation systems are updated, the software has to accommodate it. It’s not that easy a task to do, so it’s admirable that the programmers can make it work. But, that extra work adds to the cost of the aircraft.


July 19th, 2009
12:55 pm

Mike, the “government” accounting goes like this…

Say it takes ten billion dollars to design, test, and build the prototype F-22. If you stop production after that one, the cost is ten billion dollars one airplane.

Now, let’s use the same development cost of ten billion dollars, plus $100 million per additional airplane and do some math.

If you build a hundred airplanes, the cost is $10 billion in development divided by 100 airplanes = $100 million in development per airplane plus $100 million in production cost per airplane. That ends up being $200 million per airplane.

Using the same math and dividing the $10 billion development cost by a thousand airplanes (development = $10 million/airplane), the per plane cost = $10 million in development + $100 million in production = $110 million/airplane.

There are many more factors which have driven program costs up on the F-22. Congress deciding to spread the production out over many, many years drives costs up. Repeated changes in equipment and performance requirements drove a need for huge amounts of additional engineering.

FYI… Inflation alone would have more than doubled the price of the F-22 over its 25+ year program life.

Bob from Winder

July 19th, 2009
1:11 pm

Mike,,648 planes at $60 million would cost $38,880,000,000.00, 187 planes at $350 million would be $65,450,000,000.00. So it looks like we could have bought more than 1,000 planes. I was thinking about this at church, I need to sell my little business, hire a few lobbyist and sell to the government. Out in the real world, it’s hard to make a living much less get away with theft like this.

kyle … Check my numbers, I don’t see how your numbers add up.

silent jay

July 19th, 2009
1:38 pm

Wow. More Republicans defending an obsolete money vortex. No wonder you’re at 20%.


July 19th, 2009
1:59 pm

And Now we want to have the government “manage” our own health care? Really? Cost over runs there?Nooooooooooooooooo


July 19th, 2009
2:05 pm

Bob, did you see my comments about the impact of inflation, schedule delays (largely govt cashflow related), and changing requirements from the Air Force? Those are the *major* inflators. Add to that the bureaucracy which drives military contracts and you get a very expensive airplane.

Back to the original article – be very, very, careful reading financial information provided in the media. Whoever wrote the original article failed to mention the impact of inflation over the life of a 25+ year program. Perhaps ignorance, perhaps a little bias. Who knows…

Bob from Winder

July 19th, 2009
4:33 pm

kyle …From $60 to $350 Million per plane is 483%, you are not close to accounting for this increase..try with real numbers,

Bob from Winder

July 19th, 2009
4:38 pm

kyle 2:05 pm

assuming you work for Lockheed, in the real world we have to cut cost every year but that is not the case in a cost+ contract. Inflation should run about $60 million of the $290 million cost increase. So you have another $230 million more to account for. Like I said I am going to sell my business and hire some Generals for lobbyist, do you have any money to invest with me?


July 19th, 2009
8:45 pm

The airplane works, and it works very well. It’s capabilities and functionality should never be questioned. Who cares about the age of the software.

Given its an air to air only fighter, we’ve got enough of them. Even if another country decided to build a fighter with greater capability than F-22, we would know and could counter (We’d have like 10 years). The JSF can perform ground missions and compares favorably with all other modern aircraft.

The plane hasn’t been used in Iraq or Afghanistan, and there is no clear opponent. It’s just time for this program to end.