Saturday, March 14, 2009

The F-22 for a Bold, New, Dangerous World

Vice President Joe Biden was right; the new administration is being tested. This week alone brings a number of ominous signs of conflict the world will expect the United States to deal with. These are issues that will have to be handled fastidiously.

Wired reports that U.S. MNF-Iraq shot down an Iranian UAV last month. This opens yet a new front on the Iraq war.

Further east, Japan has threatened to shoot down North Korea's "satellite launch." If Japan follows through on its word, the action may cause North Korea to begin matching its rhetoric with deeds.

Lastly, Russia's interfax news agency is reporting the possibility that Russian strategic bombers could be flown out of Cuban and Venezuelan air fields. This obviously smacks of a second Cuban missile crisis.

These aerial crises stand apart from current wars being fought on the ground by the U.S. and its allies in the middle east. Military strategists, such as Thomas P.M. Barnett, have rightly argued the need for a robust American ground force which can provide not only security, but also civil affairs and humanitarian aid.

However, these increased threats to American air dominance among its adversaries may give the strategists pause. For example, Secretary of Defense Gates halted further production of the new fifth generation F-22 fighter at 185. The school of thought questioned the need for so many stealth, agile, supersonic dog-fighters in an age when insurgencies are fought in the cities and villages of third world countries. Others added the yet-to-be-fielded F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as another argument to kill the F-22 and thereby cut Defense spending.

The F-22 program was put on hold because opponents argued the fighter was built to help wage obsolete Cold War battle. Yet, as recent bellicosity from Russia, Cuba, Iran and North Korea demonstrate, many of our old adversaries are still in a Cold War mindset.

The United States should re-think a growing need for the F-22, especially considering the price tag of the F-35.

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