Pentagon Says Billions Needed To Make First 100 F-22s 'Fully Capable'
Defense Daily 11/21/2008
Author: Marina Malenic
The Air Force will have to spend approximately $8 billion to upgrade the 100 "lesser models" in its F-22 Raptor fleet, the Pentagon's top weapons buyer said yesterday.
John Young, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told the Defense Writers Group the Air Force has laid out a "two-tiered structure where some of the earlier jets were not fully capable jets" with "something like 100 jets being lesser models."
Young said the Pentagon's proposed fiscal year 2010 budget, which is to be passed on to President-Elect Barack Obama's defense team for further review, will include funds "to bring most of that fleet to a common, high-end capable configuration." He said $6.3 billion worth of research and development and another $2 billion for software and other engineering work on the airplanes would be needed to do that.
Young testified before Congress on Wednesday, fielding tough questions from lawmakers about why the Pentagon has not spent $140 million allocated for advance procurement of 20 more F-22s (Defense Daily, Nov. 20). The Defense Department has thus far released $50 million of that money to begin buying parts for four aircraft (Defense Daily, Nov. 13).
The Bush administration has resisted congressional pressure to buy more than 183 of the jets, even while Air Force officials have pushed for a fleet of 381. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said he favors buying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter instead of more F-22s. Lockheed Martin [LMT] builds both aircraft. As a compromise measure, the Pentagon this year said it would create a "bridge" in production to leave the incoming administration with the option to buy more F-22s.
Young said yesterday that the billions of dollars in upgrades needed for the early models must be taken into account before such a decision is made.
"Those discussions need to be had before you talk about buying more jets," he said. "There's obviously this level of...support for F-22, and the Congress has added money for advanced procurement to buy more airplanes, and I don't think that debate is informed by all the facts."
Further, Young said recent operational tests have raised concerns about operational and maintenance costs, as well as reliability of the platform.
"The recent mission-capable data for fiscal year 2008 on F-22s had the mission capable rate somewhere in the range of 62 percent," he said. "I think that's troubling."
In addition, operational tests conducted last year "raised operational suitability issues and noted that the airplane still does not meet most of its" key performance parameters, Young explained.
"And the trend in those operational tests...is actually negative," he added. "The maintenance man hours per flying hour have increased through those tests. The last one was a substantial increase."
Young said he is concerned that the platform is proving "very expensive to operate" and "complex to maintain."
Barring a decision by the Obama administration to continue purchasing the fighters, F-22 production is scheduled to end after 2011 when Lockheed Martin delivers the last of the aircraft currently under contract.
My surprised face -> [>:/]
I am genuinely surprised at the mission capable rate, however.