The F-22 is supposed to be phased out in the next few years, but there are some Republicans in the area (and oh, yeah, Chet Edwards of US House District 17) who want to keep that ole Pork Barrell full and rolling.
Congressional supporters of Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor are unleashing a high-profile offensive to keep the twin-engine warplane rolling off the assembly line beyond the Pentagon's targeted production cutoff early in the next decade.
Several dozen lawmakers in the House and Senate have signed a letter urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to allow continued F-22 production, saying it would be "ill-advised and premature" to phase out the program within the next three years.
The Defense Department plans to cease production of the aircraft in 2011 after completing a final purchase of 60 F-22s under a multiyear purchasing plan approved in a previous session of Congress. The Air Force's F-22 fleet would be capped at 183 aircraft, roughly half the number that Air Force officials say is needed to maintain U.S. air superiority.
Shutting down the program would affect major aircraft-assembly plants in three cities and more than 1,000 suppliers in 44 states. More than 1,800 Lockheed workers in Fort Worth build the center fuselage, the largest section, and Boeing workers in Seattle construct the tail and rear section.
Who's for it around here?
"I'm hopeful that the response will be positive," said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, whose district includes the Fort Worth plant. "I think ensuring our air superiority is critical, and that's what we're trying to have happen."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the warplane is needed as "rival nations develop more advanced fighter aircraft." Other lawmakers calling for continued production include Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, and the four Republicans representing Tarrant County: Granger, Joe Barton of Arlington, Michael Burgess of Lewisville and Kenny Marchant of Coppell.
Is it pork? Here's a reference to an article from 2006
The manufacturers of the Air Force's newest fighter jet knew years ago that the composition of some mechanical access panels made the F-22 Raptor susceptible to corrosion. Military officials even changed the design to fix the problem.
But a decade later in a program already fraught with setbacks, the design flaw reappeared. Now, about two-thirds of the military's fleet of Raptors are suffering from corrosion, prompting the Air Force to speed up the timeline for bringing the aircraft through Hill Air Force Base for depot-level maintenance.
"So the world's most expensive, most advanced aircraft is in the shop for repairs for something simple that someone figured out a long time ago?" said Nick Schwellenbach, national security investigator for the Project On Government Oversight.
"I'd like to say I was outraged, and it is outrageous," Schwellenbach said, "but it's all too common."
The Project on Government Oversight has exposed numerous other problems with the Raptor, which costs more than $130 million per plane - and nearly three times that, when research, development and other costs are factored in.
Originally intended to be mission-ready by 1997, the Raptor has been plagued by cost overruns and delays. Billed as the most advanced fighter jet in the world, the aircraft has yet to fly a single combat mission.
It's unclear how much the corrosion issue will cost the Air Force to fix. Brig. Gen. C.D. Moore, who is leading production and sustainment efforts for the F-22 at Ohio's Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said the "cleanup and mitigation" of already-identified corrosion problems could cost nearly a half-million dollars in labor costs alone. Corrosively resistant replacement panels - which won't be ready to install for another six months - will cost millions more to produce and the jets will have to be brought back to Hill or another maintenance center for installation - at a cost of millions more.