Boeing and Lockheed Martin have mounted a publicity campaign aimed at keeping the sophisticated, but very expensive, F-22 Raptor fighter programme alive By Rajiv Singh
Worried about the possibility of the sophisticated, but horribly expensive, F-22 Raptor fighter programme being on the chopping block of the new Obama administration, Boeing and Lockheed Martin have mounted a publicity campaign aimed at keeping the programme alive. Joining the campaign are US lawmakers who have already written letters to the new president asking him to secure the future of the F-22 production line in Marietta, Georgia.
The programme supports 1,200 Boeing jobs which would fade away over three years if current funding wasn't supplemented.
|image credit: USAF|
Though Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor, the wings and aft fuselage are made by Boeing. It also integrates avionics and software into the aircraft. An end to production would likely affect Boeing's legacy of building high-technology military aircraft.
Though acknowledged as the most capable fighter aircraft in the world, the hugely expensive, $153 million F-22 fighter is judged to be soaking up money badly needed elsewhere. The Bush administration tried to bring an end to the programme but found itself overruled by Congress and the US Air Force, which asked for more of the aircraft.
Originally seeking a force level of 750, the USAF now is hoping for a fleet of 243, according to Boeing spokesman Doug Cantwell. So far, 187 aircraft have been funded and 134 produced. At stake is immediate funding of another 20, which will bring the total number of aircraft funded up to 203, Cantwell said.
The US Air Force continues to argue that it will require more of the aircraft to handle future threats such as the SA-20 and S-300/400 advanced air defence systems being sought by potential adversaries.
Focusing their campaign on policymakers in Washington, DC, the firms are taking out print ads in policy journals, radio spots and even billboards, Cantwell said.
US lawmakers have already made their move by writing to the new president asking him to secure the future of the F-22 programme. These include Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) have written to Obama requesting funding for production citing a flyaway cost reduction of 35 per cent. They also said the end of the fighter's production could further drain the US economy in the midst of a recession.
A letter along similar lines is being circulated among House members and is said to have at least 150 signatures.
A decision has to be arrived at by early March to avoid closures in the production line.
In their letter, the senators claim the F-22 "provides over $12 billion of economic activity to the national economy."
The F-22 programme is estimated to cost $64.5 billion, including research and development.
Along with other pressing issues designed to give any president a headache, the F-22 is also being regarded as one of the initial lot of military procurement issues that Obama will have to face as president.
It will be his call if scarce government resources, especially in a recession, can be allocated to such a programme.
The aircraft has recently been targeted by the New York Times which said the government could save $3 billion a year by terminating the Raptor. The NYT also targeted other high-tech weapons systems such as the Zumwalt-class destroyer, the Virginia Class sub and the V-22 Osprey. It has argued that these resources should be put into more ground troops, more shallow-draft Navy ships, and supplies for the National Guard.
The Boeing-Lockheed Martin campaign has also factored in the recession, saying that the programme employs 25,000 people in 44 states, with more than twice that working for suppliers.
An article supporting the F-22 published by the conservative Lexington Institute contends that upward of 100,000 jobs are supported by the F-22 programme.