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Misinformation spread about F-22

It has been said the first casualty in war is the truth. Unfortunately, in the modern political arena we must now expand this maxim to include the defense procurement process. A prime example is the misinformation being disseminated about the F-22A Raptor. If one bases his or her opinion of the F-22 on these inaccurate assertions, it would be natural to conclude the Raptor is the biggest boondoggle since the Edsel. Fortunately, for this and future generations of Americans who will rely on the F-22 to maintain our nation's control of the skies, the truth is far different.

The fact is, the F-22 will be the pre-eminent fighter/bomber for the next 40 years, capable of defeating the air threats of today and tomorrow. What are these air threats? One of the most menacing is, and will remain, the relatively inexpensive advanced integrated air defense system. It is easy, for example, to imagine a nation such as Iran, with its insistence on building nuclear weapons, purchasing the Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile system. This system makes penetrating hostile airspace extremely difficult, if not deadly, for those aircraft lacking the F-22's advanced stealth technology and sustained supersonic speeds of supercruise engines. Only one western aircraft, the Raptor, will for the foreseeable future combine these decisive technologies, thereby giving it the unique ability to penetrate hostile airspace and hunt and destroy strategic ground targets during the night and day.

The Raptor will accomplish this while simultaneously establishing air superiority. For example, during a recent military exercise in Alaska, the F-22 dispatched 144 adversaries versus the loss of only one aircraft. Once again, the F-22's advanced stealth capabilities and supercruise engines proved decisive. The F-22 also has remarkable avionics that, in addition to collecting intelligence and providing battlespace awareness, enable it to engage aircraft and surface threats long before an enemy can retaliate.

Some might argue these are impressive capabilities, but they do not address the technical and maintenance difficulties described in a recent Washington Post article. To address those allegations, the Air Force has written a rebuttal that is posted on our Senate Web sites. What is striking about this point-by-point rebuttal is the service's explanation as to why six of the points made in the article are false, four are misleading and two are "not true."

For example, a primary assertion of the Post's article is the hourly cost to fly the F-22 is far more expensive than the F-15 aircraft it is replacing. In reality, the F-22 variable flying cost per hour is $19,750 versus $17,465 for the F-15. Granted, this is higher, but the F-22 offers far more advantages and capabilities than the 1960s-designed, non-stealthy and non-supercruise-equipped F-15.

In addition, the Post claims the F-22's mission capable rate for "guarding U.S. airspace" is 55 percent. This is misleading. The Raptor's overall mission capable rate has improved from 62 percent to 68 percent from 2004 to 2009.

The article is correct when it notes the F-22 requires a significant amount of maintenance hours per flight hour. But the majority of those hours are spent on the F-22's stealthy skin. The ability of an aircraft to remain unseen by a radar system is an enormous technological accomplishment. Stealth is not magic; it requires precision and a dedication to meticulous detail. In addition, the article incorrectly states the F-22's stealthy skin "is vulnerable to rain." Further, the F-22 requires far less work to maintain its stealthy characteristics than its predecessors, the F-117 and B-2.

In the end, it costs far less to maintain a war-winning stealth aircraft than to buy a replacement for a non-stealthy aircraft, such as the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18, which has been shot down because it was unable to penetrate hostile airspace — not to mention the moral cost of exposing our nation's servicemen and servicewomen to unnecessary dangers.

Still not convinced of the F-22's worth? Well, if the F-22 is a Cold War dinosaur with uneconomical maintenance problems, why then do the Japanese, Australian and Israeli governments continue to express considerable interest in purchasing the Raptor? Why has the Pentagon prevented its deployment to the Persian Gulf, citing concerns of "strategic dislocation?"

Perhaps it is because nations realize the F-22 is the only fighter/bomber that can successfully defeat and destroy the air and ground threats of today and tomorrow. The F-22 is an unrivaled deterrent to any nation that threatens the United States or its allies.

Orrin G. Hatch is Utah's senior senator. Republican Sen. James M. Inhofe represents Oklahoma.