It was the kind of email that anyone close to the folks at Nellis Air Force Base hates to receive and we got it on December 20 within minutes of the crash of an F/A-22 Raptor.
The good news—the pilot escaped unharmed.
The bad news is a little more complex. It set off again what Spiro Agnew once called the "nattering nabobs of negativism" who think that we can continue to fly old airplanes and maintain the kind of air superiority which essentially makes this country immune from any major attack. (Granted, the disgraced former Vice President isn’t a poster boy for honesty in government but he could turn a mean phrase.)
The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlanta Journal Constitution—liberal journals all—couldn’t wait to point out that a plane which cost $133-million had crashed.
And the Hate America First Journalism Society started a chorus of whining which even caught up Congressman Chris Shays (R-Connecticut) in talking about a congressional investigation.
Even a local Associated Press reporter couldn’t hide his cynicism as to the Air Force’s stated cost because "the New York Times said it was more". The same New York Times which did such accurate, unbiased and stellar campaign reporting this past year.
The whining goes something like this: "We’ll never have to fight a conventional war again so why should we invest $300-billion in a new airplane?"
The answer is, of course, because that assumption is nonsense.
One of the reasons people try and attack us with boxcutters and hijacked airliners is that the largest air force in the world happens to be the United States Air Force. The second largest happens to be the United States Navy.
And, despite some interservice rivalry, the fact is that they are the most well equipped and competent air forces in the world.
But the Chinese and the Russians aren’t stupid.
And if we were to choose to cease development of advanced weapons systems, they would continue.
They’ve always been a half a step behind us in research and development.
If we stand still, they’ll catch up.
And don’t forget that they will sell their weapons systems to anybody, even if they might be deterred from using them against us themselves.
Want to have our pilots facing the next Russian or Chinese advanced weapons system in 10 years with a 25-year old F-15 or a 30 year old F-16?
Our guys are the best, but why should they have to fight with their hands tied behind their back.
There seems to be an inherent truth among post-Watergate journalists.
If a weapon costs more than $10,000 it must be made by incompetent, greedy, corrupt contractors who have their sights set on stealing the taxpayers blind.
Here’s the problem with that assumption.
Everybody with the possible exception of Clark County, Nevada, knows how to build a courthouse.
But designing, building and then mass producing a single seat high performance aircraft which can do five jobs at once and replace what is now the state of the art is not exactly a task for which there is an operating manual.
It’s not only expensive but there is a moderate degree of uncertainty in challenging the unknown.
Frankly, crashes are not unheard of when you are on the leading edge of aviation technology. Crashes have happened in most every new aircraft program. That’s why we call their operators test pilots.
Nobody—especially the veteran decorated combat pilot who was flying the Raptor on December 20—wants to punch out of his airplane. But, bringing a new airplane on line is not an exact science.
What the nattering nabobs would really like is for us to close down the Air Force. And mothball the Navy. And reduce the Army to the size of the North Las Vegas police department.
Their predecessors thought we should sit out World War Two.
These are also the people who think that if we just leave the terrorists alone, they’ll stop trying to kill us.
History has shown that the nabobs have always been wrong. Consistent but wrong.
And telling us that somehow one crash of a pre-operational aircraft is a reason to stop development of the next generation of weapons systems is just another step down that consistently wrong road.
Congressman Shays should be ashamed of himself for the pandering he allowed himself to engage in. We expect it from the mainstream media but Shays ought to know better.
The only investigation which really counts here is the Air Force accident board which has already started work.