11. February 2005 · Comments Off on Fight Is On Over Hercules And Raptor · Categories: General

This from the Trib:

WASHINGTON — Less than 24 hours after the Bush administration announced its plans to save billions of dollars by scaling back two new Air Force planes, a group of senators on Tuesday launched a campaign to rescind those cuts.

Chief among them was Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, where 8,500 workers assemble both planes–the F/A-22 fighter jet and the C-130J Hercules transport–at the Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta.

After attending a Pentagon breakfast with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Isakson said the secretary promised that indeed he already was reconsidering the C-130J cut.


However one interprets the breakfast, it was no surprise that members of Congress stepped up quickly to take issue with the administration’s proposed $419.3 billion military budget. Nor was it a surprise that the Raptor and the Hercules, two projects whose development costs have skyrocketed, would be on the chopping block.

“The F-22 should go away now,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate Budget Committee staff member and author of a book that examines Congress’ role in authorizing multibillion-dollar military projects.

One would authorize buying 179 Raptors, which have been 19 years in the making and only recently were put into production. That would be 96 fewer than the Air Force was expecting.

At one time, the Air Force planned on a fleet of 750. So far, 45 Raptors have been delivered, according to Lockheed Martin, the primary manufacturer.

The second cut would end production of the C-130J next year. To date, 121 have been delivered and 59 more are on order, according to Lockheed Martin, which also makes that plane.

While I like both these planes, I really have to question the wisdom of continuing procurement. I mean, there’s little doubt that the Raptor is a whole new frontier in air superiority fighters. But the Eagle/Strike Eagle are already the best thing in general deployment, and Raptors cost the world. As for the C-130J: it still doesn’t have the capability of the C-17. And, even with some problems with wing cracks, the existing C-130 fleet still has a lot of life left in it.

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