F-22 Raptor News

The other F-22 export story

May 23, 2008 (by Eric L. Palmer) - For some time now, there is a lot of confusion about what defines all of the requirements for F-22 export. As time goes on, efforts by some to craft an export program years ago lay best forgotten to those in the know. One should expect this to continue.

Two F-22 Raptors from the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB, fly beside a KC-135 Stratotanker from 168th ARW on May 8th, 2008 prior to refueling. The aircraft are part of the more than 120 participating in Northern Edge 2008, the largest military training exercise in Alaska. [USAF photo by TSgt. Mikal Canfield]

The May 16th, Inside The Air Force article by Marcus Weisgerber , Exportable F-22A Raptors Would Take 5-Plus Years to Develop, Build, takes a shot at explaining F-22 export but misses a few things. For example, the article starts out with: “The exportability of the computer systems in one of the Air Force's two premier fifth-generation fighters, coupled with legislation prohibiting foreign sales of the other, will inevitably prevent any ally from purchasing an F-22A Raptor within the next five years.”

Previous efforts to export the F-22 were crafted already and most issues have been long figured out. This is not new. Just that some are unaware of it. The prime reason F-22 is not being considered for export is less about a law or technology transfer and more about money. The over $300 billion dollar F-35 program is too important to let anything else soak off potential sales. The article implies that an F-35 would be in service before an F-22 could be setup for export. Given the challenges of the F-35 program, this is an interesting claim.(see F-35 Hurdles Remain, F-16.net) The U.S. Obey Amendment, is a decade old law that prohibits U.S. taxpayer funds from being used to set up an F-22 export program. This, combined with mention of export risk of certain F-22 technologies, suits the needs of any company that is trying to make money off of the F-35.

The article, and to be fair others before it, also claim that it would take up to a billion dollars to set up the F-22 for export. The F-35 also requires money to be made export friendly.[1] You see, Lockheed Martin does not decide what U.S. technology is safe for export, the U.S. Government does. So far, money at $602,594,580 and $134,188,724 in two separate U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) contracts for the purpose: “… to develop a version of the JSF Air System that meets U.S. National Disclosure Policy, but remains common to the U.S. Air System, where possible,” have been authorized in the past years. There is more money for other similar export configuration efforts of the F-35. For example another DOD contract to help integrate the U.K. F-35 effort has been done. Quoting the contract: “….$115,836,036 modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-award-fee contract. This modification provides for integration of the United Kingdom version of the joint strike fighter (JSF) air system with the United Kingdom carrier version future (CVF) under the JSF systems development and demonstration effort.” Not quite to the billion claimed to make the F-22 exportable yet, but getting there.

If the F-22 was exportable, which it currently is not, would every non-U.S. customer need the supposed billion dollar effort to make it good for export? No. For example, Israel, Japan and Australia all have different kinds of export risk.

Here is a story, with some details left out to protect sources. Back in the mid to late 1990’s, a Lockheed Martin/Boeing team was established to develop an export configuration F-22 for NATO countries. The UK was not included due to their commitment to the Eurofighter. Around the time after the F-117 stealth aircraft shoot down in the air campaign against The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the United States Air Force (USAF) sponsored the F-22 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) team in getting smart on “anti-tamper” techniques. The FMS team plus various officers from the Secretary of the Air Force (SAF) developed a workable anti-tamper/technology transfer plan for the F-22. Estimates were that it cost Lockheed Martin around $5-8 million dollars. The team looked at every piece of the aircraft in relation to every aspect of allies flying the F-22 including inadvertent disclosure and technology transfer for country gain. At no cost to the DOD an anti-tamper/tech transfer model was developed for the F-22. This effort included a multimedia question and answer computer database that displayed the export technology risk/status of each F-22 component one may inquire about. This would make the job of a sitting U.S. Government board who would decide on F-22 export to specific countries a more orderly process.

The team briefed this configuration to SAF/AQP (Secretary of the Air Force Acquisitions Programs Tactical). From this, support was gained and the team was directed to explore a configuration specifically for Australia. General Michael Ryan, then Chief of Staff of the Air Force, was very supportive of these efforts. He had long acquaintances with Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) staff gained from having an exchange tour in the RAAF early in his career. He had also become friends with the RAAF’s Errol McCormack when they both attended a professional military college years before. Later, both were head of their respective Air Force in the same era. McCormack 1998-2001 and Ryan, 1997-2001. McCormack visited the U.S. and was briefed in Ryan’s office on the F-22’s capability at the highest classification level.

General Ryan approved industry members to come up with a “B configuration” plan for NATO, and a full-up USAF-spec “A configuration” for Australia. His guidelines for the A configuration were:

1.Same engine, no downgrade.
2.Same signature
3.Jet will not be used against us
4.Tech transfer concerns were downed aircraft and inadvertent disclosure scenarios; the same as USAF.
5.Full knowledge of all capabilities; information to remain in the embedded training system resident in the jet.
6.Withhold some hardware until needed, but full knowledge and training capabilities remain in the aircraft.

This configuration was briefed to Ryan and the Secretary of the Air Force and they both approved. Two briefings were built for the RAAF. They included one for F-22 performance specifications and another showing the value of stealth. In 2001, both USAF and RAAF leadership changed with the new head of the USAF General Jumper and new Secretary of the USAF Mr. Roche showing approval for the F-22 FMS progress thus far.

Not long before September 11th 2001, a team was sent to Australia to brief the RAAF and the Air 6000 Project Office, whose responsibility was to set up a competitive plan for deciding the replacement of the RAAF’s current fighter jet fleet. While on the way, the teams visit was canceled by senior officials. When they landed in Australia, they were told to go home. Australian Defence had decided to go with the Joint Strike Fighter plan and the Air 6000 process was effectively terminated.

Tom Burbage, the current head of the F-35 program for Lockheed, was then the man in charge of the F-22 program for the company. F-22 FMS briefings and briefing slides by industry and the USAF included F-22 FMS logos and facts and figures mentioning the advantages that a foreign used F-22 brought to a coalition air campaign in expected firepower and losses of the total effort. Obey or not, it is hard to believe that some U.S. government money was not spent to set up F-22 FMS.

Time marches on and today, the Australian Air Force is still committed toward the F-35 program. If F-22 export was allowed, anyone else but Australia may have to put up with industry using that billion dollars of money we hear so much about to have an export configurable Raptor . For now though, the law, combined by a complete lack of support of senior U.S. Defense officials, means the biggest concern will be how much longer the F-22 production line will be allowed to continue. At this pace, someday soon, the F-35 program won’t have the F-22 as a threat to its potential sales. If this happens, the USAF, combined with its line-in-the sand issue of no more F-15 and F-16 purchases will have closed off all of its options for recapitalizing the fighter force should the F-35 run into further delays. Lockheed Martin officials, including former ones now serving in DOD and USAF leadership positions are giving favor to the F-35.[2]

-End Notes-

[1]Bill Sweetman,My JSF is stealthier than yours, or is it?, Aviation Week/DTI, November 16, 2007

[2]Peter Coates, Don’t buy in haste, May 23, 2008

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