Sure, put off the more useful program and go for the one which we won't really need in the near future. Good job, Congress, good job.
The GAO is embarrassed by their own narrow focussed awareness of what the F-22 could do. As such they are dead set against seeing it justified as an
all-doing (multirole) platform, whose functional superiority as a long range _strike_ aircraft is proven by relatively simple integration of radar
modes and the GBU-39.
FACT: If you want to win a 700-800nm radius interdiction campaign, you have two choices. One is either to perform the Hobbit Run (There and Back
Again) /twice as fast/ as you would with a subsonic airframe at 400nm.
The other is to fly the whole distance at at 'herd speed' but to STAY THERE, upon arrival, for such a length of time, with SO MANY, cheap,
airframes. That you can still accomplish what we are only now admitting is an airwar paradigm almost entirely redefined by TCT/TST Time
Critical-Sensitive Targeting on micro-set moving tactical aimpoints as much as any fixed-structural hard target kills for which a 2,000lb JDAM (and
the F-35) are designed.
It is this failure to keep up with the realities of modern military doctrine. Along with the increasing likelihood that even 'professional'
(uniformed) threats will use terrorist tactics and weapons against us in both invasion and occupation, that is driving the realities of
us-hurting-them airpower use.
OTOH, what will increasingly come to be equally accepted as the them-hurting-us counterpoint is that DEWS and Hunting Weapons will rule the skies in
ways which deny subsonic, 'low' altitude (sub-30K) use of airspace altogether.
NOW, throw in two more modifiers:
We are hated and the world IS running out of it. Faster than we ever would have assumed 'back when' we were the industrial power supplying the
goods rathre than the gaping commercial maw consuming them. UCAVs don't need to train more than about 2% of the force to maintain overall 'Red
Baron' competencies. And they can go almost twice as far on HALF the fuel. With a 2hr loiter.
2. Ea$e of Use.
Contrary to popular belief, our military has never been funded by anything as noble as 'treasure for blood' superiority. At least not OUR treasure.
It has always been about selling it off to keep the wartech escalation loop going and the rich getting richer as some penny ante dictator refuses the
hospital to buy F-16s. This is getting harder to do with not only the baseline (platform) cost but the mission utility of airpower getting so great
that an F-16 doesn't mean anything without an EW pod, a targeting pod, AMRAAM that work, and IAM that can hit anything you generate a spatial memory
UCAVs remove half of the above 'sophistication' /crap/, trading traditional vulnerability to (non-existent) 'roving air threats' for LO against
S2A radar detection and _cheap overall costs_. Functionally being closer to cruise missiles with separable warheads and landing gear than anything
related to a 'fighter'.
Monkey Airpower has had it's day.
Man being such a pathetic sky knight that we have had to crutch him up with so many systems as to not only render him unaffordable. But to also
enable the complete automation of most of what he does (IAMs were really the last step). The only remaining factor to consider is the simple
certainty that the followons are so simple, ANYONE can build them.
Which means the real competitor for the Gen-5 F-35 is not the Gen-4 F-22. But the Gen-6 Neuron.
I can only hope that, with the death of an unpopular (Bush) regime and the 'better a 90 billion dollar bird in the hand than a 276 billion dollar
bird lost in the bushes of Iraq' that will be the economic realities of a Democratic presidency paying for a Republic Trillion Dollar War.
The USAF has finally done what it 'always intended to'.
Namely keep the F-22 line hot until they could 'make their business case' by default of JSF skyrocketing costs. Nothing like sticking it to the
Gyrines and the Squids while saving your own favorite toy to prove who's head of the roost in Tacair.
The only real danger being that they will not continue to develop DEWS and robotics once they get their 400 airframe buy. Because the new definition
of Air Dominance is about to be set to a bar of 186,000mps off an ABL whose own 'true range' is likely to be line of sight on airframe targets
operating at altitude.
GAO Pleads For A New Business Case
(so they don't look like idiots before the next 'cancellation cycle' FY push makes them right-by-default.)