New Republican presidential frontrunner Rick Perry has in one shot managed to blast both the Obama and Bush administrations on national security policy. According to Perry, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates
, who ran the Pentagon during both the final years of George W. Bush and the first years of Barack Obama, gave Communist China an alarming long-term military advantage by cancelling purchases of the new F-22 fighter.
“We made some huge errors in the course of the last three-to-five years from the standpoint of militarily not continuing to fund R&D with our military,” Perry charged during an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s talk radio program on Thursday. “For instance, we had a next-generation fighter aircraft that was on the books to be developed. And the then-secretary of Defense – through, I suppose, direction by this president, Obama – said, you know, we’re gonna cut back. And that’s gonna be one of the cutbacks.”
Directly blaming Gates, Perry pointed to naivete and ignorance regarding China’s aggressive motives. He mockingly said the rationale for the cutback in F-22 Raptors was the belief that “the Chinese are not gonna have a next-generation fighter ready until 2025. If everything goes perfect for them it won’t be ready until 2020,” Gates and the Obama administration believed, Perry said.
“Well, guess what, Laura. It’s gonna be deployed by 2017,” Perry said, referring to Defense Intelligence Agency estimates regarding China’s Chengdu J-20 stealth, twin-engine fighter, as well as a November, 2009 statement about the J-20 by Gen. He Weirong, deputy commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
“We’ve got to have secretary/cabinet-level people that are principled, that are disciplined, and that, frankly, know these hot spots around the world very well and are willing to stand up,” Perry concluded.
Early during Obama’s first year as president, Gates imposed a 187-unit limit on new purchases of the Lockheed Martin-produced F-22, evoking the ire of senior Air Force generals. But even during the Bush administration Gates was no fan of the advanced fighter, arguing that it had limited usefulness in the global war on terror. Lockheed warned that the Obama plan of ordering only four more Raptors than the Bush administration would mean the destruction of more than 90,000 jobs in 44 states.
“The reality is we are fighting two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the F-22 has not performed a single mission in either theater,” Gates told Congress in 2008. “So it is principally for use against a near peer in a conflict, and I think we all know who that is,” Gates said, presumably referring to both China and Russia.
Over “the next four or five years,” Gates said in that 2008 testimony, he didn’t see enough risk to warrant more than the 183 purchases the Bush administration was planning. The Air Force, by comparison, wanted over 380 F-22s to replace the aging, and periodically trouble-prone, F-15.
The Raptor was not the only item on Gates’ chopping block, as the Army’s $160 billion Future Combat System, the Missile Defense Agency and other high-tech weapons systems were targeted by an Obama administration intent on a wide-ranging downscale of defense spending.
Gates in 2009 placed the full weight of his reputation behind his push for the Obama scalebacks, claiming that “my recommendations represent a cumulative outcome of a lifetime spent in the national security arena.” He was backed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who called ending production of the F-22 a “major step in the right direction.”
McCain’s fellow Senate Armed Services Committee Republican, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, at the time said Gates’ “decisions are, in my opinion, purely budget-oriented choices.” Quoted in Politico, Chambliss took serious issue with Gates. “It’s clear the recommendations that he’s made were without conducting virtually any analysis of risk, what the strategic goals of the military are or should be and how, if implemented, his recommendations will affect our ability to achieve these goals,” the Georgia senator charged.
The F-22 Raptor can “supercruise” at in excess of 50,000 feet at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6, with velocity and stealth capabilities allowing it to evade surface-to-air missiles. China’s Chengdu J-20, which made its first flight in January, can’t cruise as fast as the F-22 and has less agility, but it has greater range and may be able to carry more weapons and fuel.
Gates, McCain and other foes of relying on the F-22 have placed their faith in Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, of which the U.S. ultimately plans to purchase over 2,440. The F-35, however, lacks the F-22’s “supercruise” propulsion abilities.
Moreover, prominent military aviation experts Carlo Kopp and Peter Goon warned earlier this year: “Any notion that an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will be capable of competing against this Chengdu design in air combat, let alone penetrate airspace defended by this fighter, would be simply absurd.”
According to Kopp and Goon, writing in Air Power Australia, “The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet are both aerodynamically and kinematically quite inferior to the as-presented J-XX/J-20 design” – and “The stealth shaping is without doubt considerably better … than that seen in the intended production configuration of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”
A Pentagon report released Tuesday said China’s development of the stealth fighter, its space program, and other military technological advancements are aimed at opposing the possibility of U.S. intervention in a conflict between Beijing and Taiwan.
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