Saturday, April 23, 2016

Thinking the unthinkable if the F-22 line re-opens. USN & USMC variants plus export models...

All Images via Air Power Australia.  Pages covering the proposal here and here.

With the sudden interest from Congress in reopening the F-22 line is it time to start thinking the unthinkable?

Is it time to investigate whether a couple of squadrons of F-22s can be reasonably modified for use by the Navy and Marine Corps?  I think so!

Consider the possibilities.  For the USMC its a less daunting task if we look at our history.  The Marine Corps has often used land based aircraft in its operations.  Hell lets be honest.  For wartime use...from WW2, to Vietnam, Gulf War 1 & 2, and the fighting in Afghanistan/Iraq/Syria today we've flown the majority of our missions from land bases.

To be brutally honest the only time we've seen LHA/LHD fixed wing used is when we've had small short notice wars/incidents.  Talking about Grenada,  the rescue of downed pilots in the Bosnian war and Libyan the idea of simply buying USAF models, sticking Marine Corps stickers on the side and riding them into combat isn't a break with our history.

For the Navy you'd be looking at the type of structural modifications that I can't begin to talk about but it would appear to be a solvable problem if APA is to be believed (and I do...they haven't been wrong on the F-35...even if I was late to the party).

But the most intriguing part of this is what about the possibility for export to our closest allies?  Japan, Israel, Norway, the UK, POLAND(!), and others?  Well check this article out...
Today, the F-22 might fly in the air forces of Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Australia. Japan only slowly gave up its aspirations for the aircraft; while the production line for the F-22 still operated, Japan seemed to hold out some hope that the United States would come to its senses. If Japan had acquired the Raptor, the United States almost certainly would have also sold it to Seoul, if only to avoid a serious diplomatic incident. Australia would likely have become interested as well, and Singapore has proven a reliable customer for the most advanced U.S. systems.
The Raptor is extremely expensive, of course, and has suffered from a variety of problems, but the F-35 program has experienced a litany of difficulties that seem to challenge the core rationale of the aircraft. And to be sure, the United States and its partners would have had to sort through thorny issues of technology transfer and joint production. Technology transfer is part of the appeal of the F-35, even for second order customers such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia. In the case of Japan in particular, the F-22 might have been a hard sell to the Japanese military-industrial complex without some significant tech transfer. Of course, the United States appears willing to engage in such transfer through export of the F-35, so it’s unclear what Japan will have trouble getting its hands on anyway.
What effect would the Raptor have had on regional stability? We can safely dismiss concerns that the Raptor would have produced some sort of arms race. China has embarked on the development of two different varieties of stealth fighter, as well as increasing its legacy capabilities. Japanese and South Korean F-22s are unlikely to have nudged the PLAAF’s dial at all. And at the very least, potential customers of the Raptor would likely have received their planes earlier than the anticipated arrival of the F-35. For the U.S., foreign orders might have kept the production line open long enough to hedge further against problems with the F-35.
We can overstate the impact of foreign-owned Raptors; Australia and Japan might still have taken an interest in the F-35B, as the F-22 could not conceivably have flown from the decks of their small carriers. And the prospective impact of Japanese Raptors on Chinese behavior is hard to assess. But without an export ban, the United States would likely benefit from several allies flying an aircraft clearly superior to anything the PLAAF can field. That’s no small thing.
Farley concentrated on the Pacific region (I get the feeling that he's coming around to my position that China is the greatest threat we will face) but hat he said about Japan, Singapore and Australia also applies to the nations that I already listed.

We also know that Australia wants it (probably as much as Japan).  Check this out...
Australia will never achieve regional air superiority with the new Lockheed F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter and should instead look to the US F-22 Raptor, a former RAAF officer says.
Retired Wing Commander Chris Mills said the F-35 was never designed to achieve air superiority and was outclassed by advanced new Russian aircraft entering service in regional air forces.
In a submission to a Greens-instigated Senate inquiry examining acquisition of the F-35, he said the F-22, now in service with the US Air Force, was designed to dominate the skies.
Production of the F-22 ended in 2011 and in any case US law specifically bans exports.
Mr Mills said the answer to providing Australia and other western countries with a superior future air combat capability was to bring the F-22 back into production.
I personally don't like the emphasis that the USMC is placing on aviation over the ground forces now.  Correction, make that the entire DoD.  But if they're going to go down the road of over reliance on airpower then we need a plane that works.  That would be the F-22.

There is another benefit.

We're seeing the rise of stealth programs in Japan and S. Korea.  We can blunt those programs in their infancy by offering them our airplanes.

Lastly it would allow us to start and finish the next gen fighter at our leisure instead of having a crash program that provides questionable results.

I don't know what was in that briefing that has Congress asking about restarting F-22 production but from my seat I think the people's representatives were told the cold truth.  We're losing air superiority and we need to change course with the F-35 before it's too late.

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