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The Catch-22 Raptor

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The United States Senate, yesterday did something rational which, for the Senate, is so irrational that I had to stop and think about whether what they did made any sense.

The issue was whether to authorize the funding of seven additional F-22 Raptor fighter jets at a cost of twenty-seven jillion dollars each.

Seriously, according to the LA Times the Senate vote was to strip $1.75 billion out of the Defense Authorization bill which, according to my calculator puts the cost of each plane at $250 million.

And that's not counting tax, title, dealer prep and undercoating.

The F-22 was first imagined in 1980 as an air-superiority fighter which would be able to beat anything the Soviet Air Force could put up against it. Follow me here. It was designed to defeat the Soviet Air Force. The Soviet Air Force ceased to exist in about 1989. The F-22 remained in development even after the enemy it was designed for had collapsed.

In fact, the F-22 didn't become operational until December 2005. Less than four years ago.

According to the Air Force's official website, the aircraft is: A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats. The F-22A possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot's situational awareness.

Unfortunately, none of those capabilities are useful against people who strap C-4 to their chests and walk into a market and blow themselves up.

Put another way, the F-22 has not been used in either Iraq or Afghanistan because it is too sophisticated for modern warfare.

That, my friends, is a classic Catch-22.

Catch-22 was book written by Joseph Heller, published in 1961. According to Wikipedia, he received an advance of $750 and was five years late in delivering the manuscript.

Here's an example of a Catch-22:

A World War II pilot is afraid to fly and so he decides to have himself pronounced mentally unfit. But, knowing he could have himself grounded for being mentally unfit to fly proved he was mentally fit to fly and so he was returned to flight status.


The Air Force took so long to design, develop, build and deploy its fighter that not only did it run out of enemies, but a newer fighter, the F-35, is now being produced which, according to its prime contractor, Lockeed Martin "will be the most formidable strike fighter ever fielded."

Lockheed says "Deliveries to the armed services are scheduled to begin in 2010 and continue well beyond 2030."

One of the things the Air Force did to share the cost of development was to invite 10 other countries into the deal. Unlike the F-22 - which outlived the enemy it was designed to defeat; the F-35 is inviting its potential enemies to participate in producing the plane they can potentially use to fight each other.

That's a Catch-35.

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