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Merits of F/A-22 Raptor

October 05, 2002

William Arkin's critique of how the Air Force is pushing its new F/A-22 fighter as a homeland defense weapon missed the point (Opinion, Sept. 29). Of course it wasn't designed to deal with terrorist attacks--none of the military's weapons were--but it is still uniquely well-suited to addressing some forms of unconventional aggression. Its combination of range, speed and sensors makes it by far the best way of coping with stealthy cruise missiles launched from the sea against U.S. targets.

It would be nice to live in a political system where policymakers could grasp the long-term consequences of losing global air superiority. That's the main mission the F/A-22 was conceived to accomplish. Replacing the Air Force's 30-year-old fighters with the F/A-22 may not eliminate domestic vulnerability, but it will reduce it while effectively taking the fight to the enemy.

Loren B. Thompson

Chief Operating Officer

Lexington Institute

Arlington, Va.


Arkin made some interesting arguments in his objections to fully funding the F/A-22 Raptor. However, he failed to mention how the shrinking available funds should be spent.

The facts of history have proved that the most important airplane in our inventory is the aerial tanker. No other aircraft has given our entire military such a quantum leap forward in its global capabilities.

The aerial tanker was first proposed by junior pilots to attack Japan from Midway Island with single airplane nighttime bombing. The myopic culture recently attributed to the CIA and the FBI for failing to connect the dots prior to 9/11 was in full force in the military. A screaming and kicking Air Force finally accepted the words of Gen. Joseph T. McNarney that it was imperative that we obtain in-flight refueling capability to begin the secret overflights of the Soviet Union in 1948.

It was once reported in the Air Force Assn. magazine that the only American military capability ever envied by the former Soviet Union was the seemingly easy way we aerially refueled at night and in all kinds of weather our entire fleet of aircraft and helicopters. Today this capability is under serious stress.

The 5,000 women and men who maintain and fly our 600 aging tankers are this nation's No. 1 military treasure. They rarely receive any praise or recognition. It is imperative that their contributions be recognized by providing adequate funding to replace their aging equipment.

William J. Spelliscy


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