This is a sensitive moment for the F/A-22 Raptor. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget recently ordered Pentagon officials to take a hard new look at USAF’s premier fighter, now entering operational testing. The result conceivably could be curtailment of the program, or worse.
OMB’s questions sounded ominous. Does the Raptor have true “transformational value” or is it “merely another step” in a long evolution of fighters? Is the requirement “still relevant”? Are there “alternatives”? There have been six previous Raptor reviews. Each time, the Air Force was able to make a strong case for the fighter, but this time could be different.
Some believe OMB schemed with the F/A-22’s critics in the Pentagon to stack the deck against the fighter. They observe that USAF won’t be allowed to take part in the review and can only answer questions when asked.
The study will probably wind up this summer. We can expect to hear a number of plausible-sounding reasons for why it would be OK to decimate the F/A-22 program. Those arguments will either ignore or fudge certain facts, presented here for handy future reference.