10 July 2009

F-22 High Maintenance

[O]n average from October last year to this May, just 55 percent of the deployed F-22 fleet has been available to fulfill missions guarding U.S. airspace, the Defense Department acknowledged this week. The F-22 has never been flown over Iraq or Afghanistan. . . .

"It is a disgrace that you can fly a plane [an average of] only 1.7 hours before it gets a critical failure" that jeopardizes success of the aircraft's mission, said a Defense Department critic of the plane who is not authorized to speak on the record. Other skeptics inside the Pentagon note that the planes, designed 30 years ago to combat a Cold War adversary, have cost an average of $350 million apiece and say they are not a priority in the age of small wars and terrorist threats.

Skin problems -- often requiring re-gluing small surfaces that can take more than a day to dry -- helped force more frequent and time-consuming repairs, according to the confidential data drawn from tests conducted by the Pentagon's independent Office of Operational Test and Evaluation between 2004 and 2008.

Over the four-year period, the F-22's average maintenance time per hour of flight grew from 20 hours to 34, with skin repairs accounting for more than half of that time -- and more than half the hourly flying costs -- last year, according to the test and evaluation office.

The Air Force says the F-22 cost $44,259 per flying hour in 2008; the Office of the Secretary of Defense said the figure was $49,808. The F-15, the F-22's predecessor, has a fleet average cost of $30,818.

From here.

A secret false claims act suit filed in 2007 by a Lockheed employee claims that Lockheed deliberate lied about skin coating problems to the Air Force.

Keep in mind that the F-15 warplanes it is replacing were built several decades ago, while the F-22s are brand new.


Anonymous said...

This article is filled with inaccuracies and flat-out mis-information. I've seen the OSD fact sheet AND the AF fact sheets they used to brief the reporter and later gave him--still he refused to use the updated numbers because it did not fit his headline and preconceived notion. The AF has put out a scathing rebuttal that refutes 90% of Smith's argument. FACT: The AF needs 60 more Raptors ($143M each) to total up to 243 to defend this nation from peer threats like China, Russia and other nations who threaten our allies like Iran and North Korea.
FACT: This country has spent 200 times this amount in last 6 months on Stimulus and restoring Wall Street banks who made horrendous bets in the oil and mortgage markets and lost.

I guess in the end, the Wash Post and the others like you, who posted this story without further investigation, care more about Goldman Sachs than they do about the USAF.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

A link to the AF's rebuttal or specific identification of the facts the Washington Post has wrong would be interesting. On the whole the Wasington Post has a better track record for accuracy in public statements than the Air Force.

The needs of the AF are firmly in the realm of opinion and prognostication rather than fact. Moreover, the usefulness of the Raptor against countries like China and Russia (the term "peer threats" is deceptive, as our real peers are also our allies) is impacted significantly by the F-22 maintenance question.

There is very little reason to think that 243 Raptors would be more effective in taking on Iran or North Korea than 183.

The amount "spent" on stimulus is a mix of numbers. Quite a bit of it is in the form of loans and loan guarantees that have a genuine chance of being paid back. More is in the form of what amounts to deferred maintenance. At any rate, waste in one area of the budget is still waste, regardless of how much one spends in another area of the budget.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The original estimate was under ten hours.