Obama Weakens U.S. By Cutting Fighter Jets

| by Heritage Foundation

In World War I, Eddie Rickenbacker downed 26 enemy planes. In World War II, Richard Bong notched 40, while Francis Gabreski killed 34 across World War II and Korea. In contrast, when Cesar Rodriguez retired from the Air Force two years ago, his three air-to-air kills (two over Iraq in 1991 and one over Kosovo) were the most of any American fighter pilot on active duty. The steep decline in these numbers is no accident. They are the residue of a purposeful strategy to avoid war through unquestioned strength. As Ronald Reagan told the Republican National Convention in Dallas in 1984: “There are some who’ve forgotten why we have a military. It’s not to promote war; it’s to be prepared for peace.”

Yesterday, the Obama administration significantly undercut our strength by killing production of the Air Force’s best fighter: the F-22. For Obama, the victory was purely symbolic. While he sends our nation spiraling into trillions of new debt, his $1.75 billion in savings by cutting the F-22 amounts to a third of one percent of the overall 2010 defense budget. So if killing the F-22 was not about savings, what was the motivation? The New York Times reports: “Senate aides said that some Democrats who otherwise might have voted for more planes sided with the President out of concern that a loss could have hurt him in the fight for health care reform.”

So at what cost to our national security did the Obama trade political momentum for his domestic initiatives? Russia is expanding its fighter forces more now than at any other time since the end of the Cold War. The Russians plan to field 300 Su-Fullback strike aircraft by 2022 and an additional 300 Sukhoi Pak fifth-generation fighters. Meanwhile, China has ordered an estimated 76 Su-30MKK Flanker-Gs and can produce an additional 250 under license, including at least 100 “knock-down kits” to be assembled in China. If China modernizes its 171 Su-27SK/UBs to the Su-27SKM standard and assembles another 105 Su-27SKMs under license, it will have roughly 626 multi-role fighters available for air superiority missions. This would place China in the same league as the U.S., which has 522 F-15A/B/C/Ds, 217 F-15Es, and a planned end strength of 186 F-22s.

The fighter gap is often considered to be far in the future, but the reality is that future shortfalls must be addressed today. The President’s fighter cuts would eliminate one of the two remaining fifth-generation fighter production lines. This would severely limit the options available to Congress if it wanted to restart production at some later date. The cost to the taxpayer would also be much higher than if production continues.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration weakened our defenses on another front, agreeing to reduce the number of strategic launchers, despite receiving no real concessions from the Russians on Missile Defense.

You can join Governor Mitt Romney, Speaker Newt Gingrich, Republican Whip Eric Cantor, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and send the President a message that weakness invites aggression, not peace. You can join the 55,000 other Americans who have signed the 4% for Freedom petition which calls on the President and Congress to protect America by: 1) restoring missile defense funding; 2) giving our troops the equipment they need to complete their missions; and 3) not including war funding, maintain a minimum defense budget of 4% of GDP.