Sunday, December 18, 2005

Birds of Prey

The F-22 Raptor is now officially in our arsenal and ready to fight. (And the Tomcat is heading out the door, BTW.)

For years, I've consistently called for enough fighters to equip two wings with spares and trainers and it looks like that's what we'll get. We just don't need the numbers the Air Force has lobbied for, but we do need a hedge against an uncertain future. This plane will be incredible:

"If we go to war tomorrow, the Raptor will go with us," Gen. Ronald Keys, head of the Air Force's Air Combat command, said in a statement. He said an initial group of 12 was ready for combat worldwide or for homeland defense.

The squadron may swing through the Pacific next year, probably flying from Guam and elsewhere, though no decision has been made about where to best "showcase" it, Keys said in a later teleconference with reporters.

With the Soviet Union gone, defense analysts have cast the F-22 as the weapon of choice for any future U.S. conflict with China, for instance over Taiwan.

The Chinese will not stand a chance in a campaign against these planes plugged into our entire system of surveillance, training, command and control, and technology. The only way these planes will be lost in significant numbers will be if the enemy can hit them while on the tarmac. We'll need to make sure air defense systems on Guam and in Japan are up to the task.

I don't want a lot of those planes since defense dollars really are limited despite all the zeros in the budget (but that's how we fight with such success and with such low casualties). Right now we'll have fewer than 190. But I'm glad the Raptor is coming on line anyway.

Our potential enemies are not happy.