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More On the F-22

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The latest in the e-mail conversation, begun below, which I am happy to mediate:


Thanks again for posting, and your updated post with a reply email does make some excellent points, and shows what happens when you type an email stream of thought and don’t fully edit your writing. Many assumptions built in to my thought process.
1. No missile is perfect, but proper positioning before you fire makes it pretty close, and the F-22’s ability to get in position before engaging without much if any threat to itself is why I paint such a rosy picture of the AMRAAM and Sidewinder. Also, the maneuverability of the Su-37 is greatly important when you get in close for Visual ID’s and dogfights. I dare say if we get into a guns/Sidewinder fight against these guys we may not have the upper hand (but that excludes the superior training our pilots enjoy). I admit to a bit of the early Vietnam-era mentality of “the dogfight era is over,” but I think that mentality is as true now as it ever will be. The dogfight will never go away, but then the F-22 is very capable in a dogfight.
2. I figured my “control the world” comment would be recognized as hyperbole. No question we will rely upon legacy aircraft, but then we always have. I DO want more F-22s, I just feel that 30 year old ships are a higher priority when our battles are going to be primarily against dispersed organizations like Al-Qaeda. The F-22 is vital in wars against nation states, but it also has one fatal flaw: it requires a land based runway. We showed that we can build airbases quickly in Afghanistan, but then we didn’t need a strong air-superiority fighter like the F-22 there. Would we be able to build such a base against Russia or China? We’d use bases in Korea or Japan most likely, but then you have the issue of attacks on those bases by enemy aircraft. Carriers are much more flexible in their positioning and their AEGIS/SM-2 defense through Ticonderoga and Burke class ships provide a pretty thorough defense.
3. The GCI certainly a problem, but that’s just more reason for a capable strike force. They cannot see you if their radar systems are burning hulks of steel killed by Wild Weasels missions (or more famously, Apache strikes like in Desert Storm). Iraq had a very capable GCI system that did it little good against the very legacy platforms we are discussing (supplemented of course by F-117s)
Ultimately, the emailer and I agree on many things I think, we just have slightly different priorities. I admit that as a SWO, I am both less educated than an F/A-18 driver in the finer points of aerial combat, as well as biased towards shipbuilding. That, however, doesn’t disprove my bigger point: Strike aircraft are more important than pure air superiority fighters in our future battles, and newer, more capable ships (such as the aforementioned Zumwalt class) provide a better force projection/homeland defense platform.
I wish that the F-22 had some strike capability, the flexibility that would offer would make the F-22 a much more vital aircraft. There should have also been a Naval version, as carrier based aircraft have shown that they are more useful in rapid response, unless there happens to be a friendly runway nearby that is secure.
All in all, we need to upgrade all the branches, improved tanks/APCs, helicopters, aircraft and ships. But if we have to pick and choose where the money goes, despite their cost, I think ships are the best investment.
Jason Kercheval


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