Journalism in the Public Interest

Despite $65 Billion Investment, World’s Most Costly Jet Still Grounded


A U.S. Air Force F-22 takes off from Nellis Air Force Base on April 25, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nev. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The most expensive fighter jet ever built, the U.S.’s F-22, has not only sat on the sidelines in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya—the entire fleet has been grounded indefinitely since early May due to a problem that’s caused some mysterious symptoms for pilots.

Wired notes that if this doesn’t change in the next few months, the Air Force’s F-22 pilots will need to be retrained on how to fly the jets: 

Air Force requires pilots to fly a certain number of sorties in their aircraft every month, in order to stay fresh. If they don’t fly for 210 days, the pilots lose their “currency,” as it’s known in military jargon. Then, they have to be retrained on their jets, nearly from scratch.

Ordinarily, that’s a problem for an individual pilot when he gets sick, goes on leave, or takes a desk job somewhere. But now, the Air Force is facing the possibility of it happening to hundreds of their very best fighter pilots. 

As we noted in March, there’d been some buzz in defense circles about whether the F-22 would get its first taste of combat in Libya—but that never happened. Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz told Bloomberg that the planes were up to the task but simply based too far away to join the fight.

But concern about problems with the planes has been growing for months. Last November, an F-22 crashed over Alaska, killing the pilot. After other pilots reported symptoms of hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, the Air Force initially placed restrictions on the altitudes at which the plane could be operated, until it finally grounded the entire fleet in early May. It’s still investigating what caused the symptoms but has been looking at possible carbon monoxide poisoning or flaws with the oxygen system. No root cause has yet been identified, AOL Defense reported last week.

The problem is just the latest in a series of snafus for the F-22, which has faced a number of hurdles in its three-decade-long development. In 2009, the Washington Post noted early structural deficiencies and computer flaws with the F-22s, as well as problems with the jet’s radar-absorbent coating, which required costly and time-consuming maintenance.  

The United States has spent more than $65 billion on developing the F-22s, which have never been used in combat. Air Force officials told the Los Angeles Times recently that the F-22 hasn’t been used in conflicts yet because it’s “designed for high-threat environments, not what we’ve seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.”

In 2009, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates successfully pushed to Congress to stop buying more of the planes.

The Pentagon—which has warned that steep budget cuts written into the recent debt deal could “have devastating effects on our national defense”—may soon have to find other programs to cut back as well. (Another Lockheed Martin stealth fighter jet, the F-35, has also been plagued by cost overruns and could be eyed for cuts. The U.S. fleet of F-35s was also grounded earlier this month for an electrical problem.)

The new debt deal requires about $350 billion in cuts over the next 10 years from a broad category of defense and security funding that includes funding for Defense, Homeland Security and even foreign aid. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the Defense Department will be able to make those cuts.

But if the super-committee of 12 members doesn’t reach another agreement, a second round of so-called “trigger cuts” would require an additional $500 billion in cuts to the Pentagon budget. Panetta has warned those would have “devastating effects on our national defense.”

Ignoring the fact that we’re pouring money into yet another piece of garbage that’s killing our own people, “...designed for high-threat environments”?  Why is that?  Are we expecting a dogfighting enemy to just show up soon?  Who is such a thing going to be used against?

What a waste of money. They are too precious to be used in current conflicts and in 10 years they’ll be obsolete because of developments in unmanned airplanes.

War profiteers don’t care if they never get used.

They made the money during assembly.

For about a third the price we could buy Russian SUT-50s which outperform both the F-22 and F-35.

Steve McIlree

Aug. 17, 2011, 3:35 p.m.

Are you sure they’re still grounded. I was pretty sure I heard them flying low and subsonic over the White Sands Range yesterday evening.

Think Ron Paul’s record and stance on our military spendings habits reguardless of which party is in power is the clear answer here!

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, the hydrocarbons industry did not view the Republicans as a tool for use in keeping America dependent upon foreign oil.

Once upon a time our military/industrial complex wouldn’t have dreamed of colluding with Big Oil to finance and so empower the Republicans…

Once upon a time - right up until about the time Reagan unleashed greed upon America like a Biblical plague with “flood-up/trickle-down” economics - our defense industry didn’t view the forcing of junk regardless of the risks upon America’s fighting men and women as “an acceptable business practice”.

Once upon a time - again, right up until about the time Reagan unleashed greed with “flood-up/trickle-down” economics - our defense and hydrocarbon industries weren’t so far gone that they thought of war as a “profit center” and its instigation to be “forward thinking”.

Once upon a time, the hydrocarbons/military/industrial complex hadn’t thought of using their Republicans to create a feedback mechanism wherein war ostensibly to protect access to that oil could be used to increase the consumption of oil as well as create tremendous opportunities for oil market manipulation.

Once upon a time, our defense and hydrocarbons industries and the wealthy few who control them couldn’t have manipulated our government into using war to generate incredible profits and rapid promotions for the entire military/industrial/hydrocarbons/Republican greed industry.

You see, once upon a time the Republicans counted sufficient numbers honorable men and women among their party to keep their party from devolving into rapaciousness.

Once upon a time…I get tired of thinking that.  Once upon a time, America wasn’t poisoned by a right whose hatred for the American people - for “labor” - is second only to their greed as their driving motivation.

Here’s an idea.  Sell the plans to our enemies and we can conquer them w/o firing a shot.

I started laughing at your comment, CDW - but then it died into one of those “strangled gasps” when I realized that the most likely outcome is for the defense industry to do just like what the rest of America’s large industries have done and blame their leadership failure upon “labor” and/or “the regulatory environment” and commence buying the permission they need from Congress to relocate weapons manufacturing offshore.

So we won’t have to “sell” the plans to our enemies…they’ll not only have the plans, they’ll have the tooling to go along with the industrial complex we’ve already given them….everything required to produce weaponry in far greater quantities and at a far greater rate than we could hope to do anymore.

The scary thing?  Our righties - our Republicans and neoliberal Democrats - will prove to be easily purchased, for they will tell themselves that they’ll be able to increase profits while hurting American “labor” as with any other offshoring effort and if there are any strategic implications “There is always the nuclear option.”

They’re ever willing to gamble with the lives and futures of the American people - a fact that they made bluntly obvious when they acknowledged way back in the 1990s that inequitable free trade would “hurt” some tens of millions of Americans - but they did it anyway.

useless for defending the U.S. but absolutely necessary for the defense of the Military-industrial complex.

Unlike past century, when the near sighted bullish characters are minority in the current playground of world leading powers, there really can’t exist any real threat against our great North-American (Including Canadian) National security and Defence unless a blind group of suicidal fools (IMSs) is allowed by another IMSs or IAHs to literally jokingly orchestrate an apparently reality based ‘Drama’ of “Our National security, symbolic-headquarters etc. under foreign attack” and convince the spectators and the public to agree on approving payable decades long trillions of dollar-bills for war machines and bombardments on imagined enemies (and then sell the same machines to the newly created real enemies for a limited time which in turn inflict further sufferings for mankinds on this planet: the Earth).
Soon there will be no need even for unmanned war machines, if the wise heads may stop the ancient trend. (Surely, if the old style trend continues, the Chinese will be able to make more cute ones performing same tasks or better version and in thousands of pieces probably for the price of one-made in USA by unionized too expensive experts).
If ‘not business minded or money hungry’-US (virtually global) leaderships (like Mr. Obama) could overcome foggy Third-world type negative political pressures first and then, out of selfless generosity towards the good portion of the global mankind, become able to change the style of old fashioned politics - where surely 21st Century’s inevitable new generation wars between conflicting some kind greed or ego blind individual groups of humans might be fought by intellectual and monetary weapons only, without involving war-machines or bombs at all!
We all have to have forgiving attitudes towards the humanly shortcomings and take the truth easy and accept the reality of goodness for avoiding future nasty tricks and bloodshed.
The secret beneficiaries of easy massive profits from manufacturing of war-machines may temporarily suffer financially for maintaining habituated luxuries when e.g. our Canadian or US public funds become unavailable for paying off bouncing bills for insect-like unnecessary and dangerous war-toys, submitted by childish whimsical but wealth-addicted master planners!
We need to change the policies regarding post payments of big bills for a group of so thought big guys with too selfish and cruel narrow minds.
The world, the unseen powers needed someone like Obama! That is why luckily he is among us today and I am talking about all these.
In a pleasant but somewhat compromising way for the sake of peace, he can partially open the secrets of old politics of the past centuries (even just like those so called humble ancient holymen, not a must but for winning the hearts of frustrated humble global public, he may ask for an apology on behalf of all including the previous grand old politicians and the honest or dishonest mistakes done by them for their eternally forgiveable blind beliefs).
It is now upto Mr. Obama, being well aware of the real situations behind the political scenes, to smile and in non-violent well balanced manner change the traditional course of future world politics!
Or be very serious and finally quit and leave the Great North-American power in the hands of grand old think-tank which for age related causes can abuse the opportunity and become cruel enough to take advantages of youngers’ forgiving attitudes and with old styled smokey political formulas may make the world more chaotic (among secularly rising new global powers beyond human controls) and dagerous place than ever….....................
................(More to be continued…....................I am hurrying, as painkillers fail these days to help me well manage my back pain, I should have been careful about lifting luggages).

michael williams

Aug. 17, 2011, 10:48 p.m.

So why are we continuing to use Lockheed Martin to build the F-35 or any other aircraft if they can’t fix this problem with OBOGS (which have been in use for decades now)?

Another good article and an excellent place to start cutting.  This is basically corporate welfare and they can’t even give us a decent plane?  Good grief.

Sounds like the F22 is more defense contractor welfare.

This boondoggle plane is the poster child to DOD excess.  Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson said there was so much pork in the defense budget it made their heads spin.  One example he gave was Tricare - a $53 billion a year program with no co-pays and only $470 a year in premiums.  And the wingnuts want to turn Medicare with only 2% overhead into a useless voucher program and throw our old people back under the bus.  How about a little peace and prosperity as an immediate alternative to proposals by tea party crazies.

If we made defense contracts with no cost overrun provisions, penalty clauses, and proof of concept prototypes, then we would be better off. The military has to become more environmentally conscience, since many superfund sites are old bases…Fraud inspectors need to be increased with a penalty clause for nonperformance. Yes this type of inspector will be handsomely compensated, but will there will be a penalty for failure. Watchdogs have to have teeth with light oversight.

Yet another boondoggle of the Congressional-Military-Industrial Complex. Dwight David Eisenhower warned the American people about this very thing happening in his last speech to the nation. One need only look at Congress and the Military manufacturing business for some of the reason for this economic situation we are now in.
President Eisenhower warned of economic crises because of a constant war economy footing, the manufacturers of weaponry looting the treasury and the pockets of the people for avaricious motives. Certainly profit is the motivation for any corporation, but the Military-Industrial complex is beyond greedy and into controlling the lives of the people for their own gain. Democracy is gone, we live in a corporatocracy now, the people have no voice in government. We are bereft of representation and nothing will change this situation short of changing the system of government we now have.
Congress must once again become responsive to the people’s interests and not the corporations. This situation is no longer tenable and is antithetical to the interests of democracy.
But will the necessary revolution happen? Will people who have had enough rise up and be counted among those who want change? This can only be answered in time, time for the people to wake up and smell the manure that we’ve been given for the last 50 years.

Joseph Underwood

Aug. 22, 2011, 5:55 a.m.

OK yeah the equipment that has been coming out sucks salty chocolate deez. You could prolly cut spending and be much more effective if you stop building smart bombs and start building carpet bombs again. This would prolly be a great deterrent as you could threaten to drop thousands on the enemies industrial complexes totally wiping it out like happened in much of Europe during WW2. Plus they are messy and kill civilians so they would actually stand up to their governments when they threaten to go to war with us. Well carpet bombs and daisy-cutters or better yet planes big enough to carpet bomb with daisy-cutters.

Anyway on a more serious note your tricare figures are way out of whack up there. I know I use it. I pay about $180.00/m for family coverage as a guardsman and have to use military doctors at a military hospital if I live within fifty miles of a military post or a doctor on thier list of preferred doctors if outside that range. If I use the military post my family has to take a back seat to all the military personnel unless it is life, limb, or eyesight and they still get triaged lower on the totem pole then military personnel with same. On active duty I get free tricare but I have to use the military hospital, I have to pay for my family…you know what screw it I’m tired. Go to the tricare website and educate yourself on it and you will realize how ignorant that statement is.

Besides military personnel put their life on the line everyday. Our families face the ultimate sacrifice of losing that loved one and the hardships of military service. We deserve to know we will get patched up if something happens and that our families are taken care of. Without these benefits we get no one in their right mind would volunteer for military service unless they were starving, naked, and living in a box and then they would still have to think hard about it. Remember too that without volunteers the draft would be instated and you’d prolly end up a conscript or have a mandatory service requirement like every other country worth it’s salt out there. We represent just 1% to 2% of the population all of the four main branches combined and we protect this whole country, it’s waters, its skies, and our allies the majority of the time with our hands tied by bleeding heart claptrap. We also do more then just fight wars. Try looking up what all the US Army Engineers do for civilians in this country and others or how our medical staff go to other countries to help the destitute in third world countries. All of which makes the ones we help see us as the Americans we idealize ourself as instead of selfish capitalist bastards we really are.

This country needs to wake up in that respect and realize that one American should be worth 100 of any other nation. That’s just the reality of the world. Your nation of people should always come before any other. Does that mean go out and commit atrocities or war without just cause? No, but it does mean if its war you go at it with all you got. You don’t just defeat the enemy, you crush them in all respects: physically, mentally, emotionally, and culturally. Then you build them back up in your image so they no longer see you as the enemy but as kith and kin. You make sure you only have to commit that action once and then its settled forever. Too much blood is shed for it to be a futile endeavor when it comes to war. WW2 is a good example as proof of that. You don’t see us having problems out of Japan, Germany, or Italy anymore do you?

Do you see any of these people we usually fight now following the rules we are? Why hell no. China doesn’t, North Korea doesn’t, none of the Arab or Eastern Block countries do, hell even our allies send spys. You read examples of how one sided this rules of war thing is everyday in the papers. I can tell you as well that the majority of the 32% GDP going to the military budget is not going in the soldiers’ and sailors’ pockets in benefits or otherwise. Its pocketed by contractors who overcharge the government for everything and then send us lowest bidder crap. We still get the job done though and we do it well for all our flaws. Remember that next time you speak freely, or own private property, go where ever you want to without having to have papers. It only takes not having a string military for you to become the servitor of another of these countries and for your standard of living to go to s—t.

@Joseph Underwood

Below are some of the Tricare recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission.  The Tricare numbers I mentioned in my post came directly from Alan Simpson in a recent TV interview.  There are a large number of “third rail”/sacred cow recommendations in the Debt Commission report, Tricare being only one of several dozen.  I have two Purple Hearts from my military service in Vietnam.  I was a Navy Corpsman in the Ist Marine Division in 1968, and therefore, I am not insensitive to the needs of military veterans and their families. 

“MODERNIZE” TRICARE—TRICARE premiums and fees would climb for working-age military retirees, except more modestly than proposed earlier by the Bush and Obama administrations. Employers, however, would have to reimburse the government their normal share of health costs if a military retiree on the payroll opts to use TRICARE rather than employer health insurance. The aim is to end a $3 billion a year government “subsidy” of what should be “a normal business expense” for civilian employers.

All TRICARE beneficiaries including active duty family members would face a co-payment for office visits, to reduce their “higher than average usage of health care.” Also, a “modest enrollment fee” would be set for all three TRICARE options, including fee-for-service coverage under TRICARE Standard and the preferred provider network using TRICARE Extra.

Finally, TRICARE would be subject to PAYGO or “pay-as-you-go” budget deficit rules so that any future increases in military health benefits are paid for through higher premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

well, let’s see.  it has no armor so it can’t fly low.  rain causes damage to it’s “radar absorbing paint.”  the RAND CORPORATION found that in close combat, which was what this tricycle was “designed for, a Sukhoi 37 or Mig 35 can out fly, out gun, and out manuver this junker.  more tax payer dollars lost trying to keep the major arms manufacturer’s CEOs with a golden parachute.  just like the F-117, B-2, and F-35.  spectacularly expensive junk.

rezaul kabir hero

May 27, 2013, 2:01 p.m.

I want to see f-22/B-2 jet but its sky-scraping so how????

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