Will Obama Repeat Carter’s B-1 Mistake?

Chuck Muth
By Chuck Muth | February 2, 2009 | 5:35 AM EST

Fans of the Jurassic Park movies will recall that the velociraptors were the fastest, most lethal killing machines in all of dinosaur-land.  So I doubt it was merely a coincidence that the United States Air Force nicknamed its fifth-generation F-22 fighter jet the “Raptor.”
The Raptor is the world’s most sophisticated defense weapon in the air – and it’s ours.  It was conceived in the mid-eighties to replace our aging fleet of F-15s, the entire fleet of which, you may recall, was grounded over safety concerns for two months in late 2007. 
Nothing in the world can match the Raptor - although Russia and China are trying hard to catch up.  To give you just a bit of an idea of this plane’s capabilities, in testing “a Raptor dropped a 1,000-pound JDAM (guided bomb) from 50,000 feet (passenger jets generally fly at around 35,000 feet) while cruising at Mach 1.5 (around 1,000 miles per hour), striking a moving target 24 miles away.”  That’s roughly the distance between the Washington, DC, beltway and the Baltimore beltway.
Oh, and to help the Raptor retain its stealth protection, a high-tech hydraulic system opens the bay doors, launches its missile, and closes the door in…less than a second.  That’s the blink of an eye.
So how has the Raptor done in simulated combat?  Glad you asked.
During Northern Edge exercises in Alaska in 2006, 12 Raptors downed 108 adversaries without losing a single F-22.  “In two weeks of exercises,” reports Wikipedia, “the Raptor-led Blue Force amassed 241 kills against two losses in air-to-air combat, and neither Blue Force loss was an F-22.” 
The plane enjoyed similar success in Red Flag exercises in Nevada in 2007 where “only one Raptor was adjudged lost against the virtual annihilation of the defending force” of F-15s and F-16s.  This is one bad mother.
Anyway, the Air Force originally planned to order 750 Raptors in 1986.  However, the end of the Cold War resulted in a reassessment, dropping the plan to 648.  That plan was shaved twice again in the 1990s; first to 442, then to 339.  Budget constraints lowered the number again in 2003 to 277…which is around the minimum number the Air Force says it absolutely needs to assure air superiority in future conflicts.
The current number of Raptors in service or currently in production is 183.  And they’ve been delivered on-budget and ahead of schedule.  Which is where President Obama enters the picture.
By March 1st of this year, the president is required to give continued production of the F-22 a Caesar-like thumbs up or thumbs down.  If he declares further Raptor production is in the nation’s interest, production will continue.  If, however, he says no, the production line will begin closing down once and for all.
And while national defense should never been seen as merely a “jobs program,” the fact remains that shutting down production will put an estimated 95,000 high-quality and well-paid workers and sub-contractors in 44 states out on the street.  I’m not sure, but I don’t think that’s the kind of economic “stimulus” that’ll help us recover from the current recession.
At issue here is a Department of Defense (DoD) assessment which is at odds with the Air Force - not unlike the situation President Carter faced in the 1970s over the B-1 bomber.  As you may recall Carter pulled the plug on the B-1, leading then-Rep. Bob Dornan (R-Calif.) to famously announce, “They’re breaking out the vodka and caviar in Moscow!”
You may also recall that in the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan effectively used Carter’s decision to cancel the B-1 to portray the president as weak on defense.  After defeating Carter, Reagan resurrected the B-1 program - and those planes continue to defend the U.S. to this day, currently providing ground support to boots-on-the-ground in Iraq with their precision-guided bombs.
Anyway, DoD maintains that the Raptor can be replaced by the new and less-expensive F-35, which isn’t even in the air yet and won’t be for several more years. 
But even if F-35s were prepared to enter into the nation’s defense service today, the fact remains that the F-35’s overall capabilities still don’t match that of the Raptor.  Indeed, the F-35 was conceived to fight in conjunction with Raptors, not replace them.  Raptors give the smaller planes the kind of air superiority cover which allow them to complete their missions with greater safety and efficiency.
The Air Force says it needs a full complement of around 240 Raptors to wreak havoc and defend the nation should the bad guys in Iran, North Korea, China, Russia or elsewhere decide to - as Vice President Joe Biden warned last year on the campaign trail - “test Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy.”  As it is they’re about 60 Raptors short and need to keep the F-22 production line open until they get the planes they need.
In the meantime, President Obama has wasted no time in starting down the “weak on defense” path which worked so well for one-term President Carter.
First he ordered the closing of Gitmo without having any plan for what to do with the terrorists there who, if released, would go right back to their old murderous ways - just like their colleagues who have already been released and are back at Infidel Killing, Inc.  He followed that up by prohibiting interrogators from giving captured terrorists the ol’ “Jack Bauer” treatment even if interrogators believe it’s necessary in order to extract information which might save thousands, if not millions of American lives.
We’ll see on March 1st whether or not President Obama will continue down this Carteresque weak-on-defense path when he decides whether or not to do to the F-22 Raptor what the peanut farmer from Georgia did to the B-1 bomber. For the nation’s sake and defense, let’s hope not.