July 1, 2009  

F-22 finagling

TO SEN. DANIEL INOUYE for leading an ill-researched and clumsily disguised effort to keep the F-22 in production. The Hawaii Democrat said the Japanese asked him to inquire about an export variant of the fighter. He then asked the Air Force to research what it would take to create a foreign version of the highly classified F-22. Even a little research would inform the senator of some exceedingly awkward legal, technical and cost obstacles. Practically all of the F-22’s embedded software is U.S. eyes only; it would be no simple matter to extract it, and no one knows how it would be done or what the cost would be. And while Japan might well be interested in the F-22, the country is notoriously slow to commit to programs of this size and cost. Such a decision could be five years away, even assuming Congress lifts the legal barriers that rightly prevent the F-22 from being sold overseas. So what the senator is really seeking is a backdoor way to keep the F-22 production line open — which can only happen if the Air Force buys planes beyond the 187 that Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommends.