As a former soldier and soon-to-be U.S. Army officer, I reluctantly but truthfully acknowledge the greatness of the U.S. Air Force. Army paratroopers rely on Air Force planes in order to transport them into battle. Air Force attacks from the air have greatly helped the Army fight on the ground. While I personally acknowledge and respect the Air Force, I still see it functioning under an outdated Cold War mindset. One excellent example is its continual support for an inappropriate project for these times: the F/A-22 Raptor fighter jet.
According to the Air Force Web site, the F/A-22 is supposed to be the new generation of fighter jet, which is supposed to eventually replace our current aging fighter planes. The Air Force conceived the F/A-22 during the Cold War, intending it to fight air-to-air battles against Soviet MiG airplanes. However, the Soviet Union no longer exists, and few nations can successfully fight air-to-air against the United States. In fact, one joke during Operation Iraqi Freedom went, “Why does the Iraqi Navy have glass-bottom boats? So they can see their Air Force.” Along with the lack of feasible air-to-air opponents, other problems plague the plane.
According to recent stories in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the F/A-22 continues to drain both time and money from the Pentagon. The prototypes continue to fail current tests and necessary additional testing cannot continue until improvements happen. That additional testing needed to finally begin full production has been delayed three times since 2001. The F/A-22 still continues to be a huge financial burden for the U.S. military. The accumulated costs for numerous years of research, designing, and testing have reached $71 billion, and more funding may still be necessary. Instead of continuing to fund and wait for a Cold War era fighter jet, there are better things to do.
A multi-purpose plane, the Joint Strike Fighter, is currently being developed for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps along with the U.S. Air Force. While there are still some rough spots with its development, since it is intended for multiple types of missions and multiple military branches, it would be more pragmatic to shift additional focus onto this airplane. In addition, while current fighter planes are based on an old design, they still successfully fly and carry out their intended tasks. Acquiring, repairing, and upgrading more of our current planes would be a cheaper alternative than continuing to fund a Cold War project.
Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Army announced that is was canceling its own Cold War aircraft project, the Comanche attack helicopter. According to Army spokespeople, buying additional existing helicopters and upgrading them seemed more economical than continuing to fund the development of the Comanche. While I respect the U.S. Air Force, I personally think they should take the recent U.S. Army decision into consideration. The Cold War is over, the War on Terror is in progress, and I personally believe that a contemporary focus is needed for this contemporary war.
Eugene Chu is a senior political science major from Arlington.