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May 01, 2007



Having watched the military-industrial complex for the last twenty five years, I have to say: something about the F-22 export circus doesn't add up.

Everyone from Lockheed Martin to the AF should be trying to get this fighter exported. Encouraging everyone else to get the fighter exported.

With the exception of Israel, I think our circle of close allies is not a huge security risk. Especially for a fighter twenty years old. (Oops! I mean for a fighter "twenty years in development.") Refusing to share this fighter could do more damage to our strategic relationships than sharing it could do to our technological edge.

David Axe


I totally agree. Plus exporting the F-22 would drive down the price and let the Air Force buy more, maybe.


Hi Dave,

Thanks for the comments, this one and ones previously...

Some more thoughts...

From the Japanese perspective: the North Koreans have nuclear weapons. The Chinese economy continues enjoying spectacular growth, and their new fighter, the J-10, is the second major fighter they've fielded in 10 years. (The first being the Su-27.) Ten years from now, what is China going to field? I'm not impressed too much with the Chinese Su-27 or the J-10, but the Chinese fighter force is undeniably improving.

Japan is 20 years behind the U.S. in most military technology. They've never been happy with that, but never been motivated enough to do something about it. (Not having an export outlet for their military goods and resulting high per unit costs are probably major factors.) But if we won't sell them something that will put them comfortably ahead of their potential adversaries, we may force the Japanese to build their own answer to the F-22. This is the country that built the Zero. This is the country with the 5th largest defense budget and as far as a percentage of GDP spent on the military, they're not even breaking a sweat. We currently have only one potential peer competitor for 5th generation fighters. We don't need another.

Japan's military is growing--perhaps not in numbers, but in capability. That's the hard part of growth. What the Chinese are doing is easy, and does not reflect any actual gain in real-world capability. The Japanese are finally waking up, and if we snub them by not selling them the F-22, we risk them developing their own version (which could eventually be exported) and having less faith in the U.S.-Japan strategic alliance.

David Axe

Good point, Bigfoot. But I think Japan's fighter production enthusiasm was cooled by its experience with the F-2, which is basically a big-wing F-16 but costs around as much as an F-22 does in the U.S.


Certainly true. However, I don't think economics and technical difficulty are the only factors here. There is one other factor I cut from my previous post:

Also, although I am only of Japanese descent and frequently admit being befuddled by the native Japanese mind...the Japanese are going to go absolutely nuts if they have to settle for generational fighter parity with the South Koreans and the Chinese. They won't accept it. Pride, nationalism, and indeed racism at work.

It'll be the F-22 or a homebrewed solution.

Big Rocket

I believe it would be a national security risk to the United States to export the F-22 Raptor to any country, including even its close allies such as Japan.

Traditionally, Mitsubishi has produced fighters such as the Phantom and the Eagle under license. If Congress allows Japan to acquire the Raptor, and if history serves as any indication, Japan will be building its own Raptors. This poses a tremendous risk to US air supremacy, to transfer technology behind our best available fighter -- developed at great cost to the American taxpayer -- to a foreign nation. No matter how "tamper-proof" a technology might be, hackers will always find a way to access hidden information; just ask any software company how much money it loses each year despite its best efforts at anti-piracy measures. In addition, should there be any security breaches at Mitsubishi, Raptor technology will become available not just to Japan, but to America's enemies as well.

And let us not forget the sale of the F-14 Tomcat to the Shah of Iran, before the Islamic Revolution that turned Iran into one of America's enemies. Don't think that can happen to America's allies? Well, no one thought it could happen to the Soviet empire, either. To quote Bill Sweetman in his book, "YF-22 and YF-23: Advanced Tactical Fighters": Fighters last longer than promises of political friendship.

For these reasons, I believe it would be foolish to allow any foreign nation, however close an ally, to purchase the F-22 Raptor, the pinnacle of US fighter technology and US air supremacy. It is a non sequitur to downgrade the Raptor for export, when the less-capable F-35 Lightning II (Joint Strike Fighter) was developed with the export market in mind. And, if Japan's pride is wounded by Congress' refusal to export the F-22, then let Japan try to develop its own Japanese Raptor -- that is, if it has the $28 billion USD it took the US to undertake the Raptor's research, development and testing. Not to mention the almost 2 decades it would take Japan just to play catch up with the US.


The United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, and Japan (all of whom are interested in the F-22) are all stable, modern states. You cannot compare a democratic, politically stable Japan to the repressive regime of the Shah. I sincerely doubt Australia is going to descend into chaos and fracture into a dozen separate states. These nations share our values, our interests, and have proven themselves as our friends.

Can these nations be trusted? Does that list of interested parties resemble anything? Maybe the list of nations that followed us into Iraq?

True, we should be careful that technology is not transferred to the wrong hands. But, how many Irans have we had? Iran was a foolish mistake on our part three decades ago and one that has not been repeated since. As for Mitsubishi leaking technology, I seem to recall none other than Lockheed Martin herself was charged by the U.S. State Department several years ago with leaking technology to China.

Twenty five years ago, the President of Israel defined the F-15 as a fighter so revolutionary, a state that has F-15s in it's arsenal no longer resembles a state that doesn't. Sound familiar? Twenty nine (!) years ago the Japanese bought their first F-15s, a mere two years after the first American F-15 squadron was activated. Net change to American security? A huge benefit. And there was no flow of F-15 technology to the USSR.

What's changed in the last thirty years?

The F-22 is not going to be the pinnacle of US fighter technology forever, and we shouldn't treat it as such. And we shouldn't treat our allies that have gone with us to war like second-class friends.


You make good points about both Japan and Australia. The UK I don't think would be interested in buying the F_22. They already have a air superiority fighter they are committed to, the Eurofighter.

Korea is the country that I am not sure about selling the F-22 to. That may create a arms race between allies that don't necessarily have a benign view of each other, but Korea is a important Allie in the Pacific.

Of course the sales would make it more affordable for the US to buy more F22.


The UK interested in buying Raptors...hmm, come to think of it, that may be very old information. Anyone remember that? I can't remember where I got that from.

The only thing I can think of is that maybe I heard that 10-15 years ago, when the Eurofighter was having teething problems and the British may have been casting about for alternatives.

Or perhaps it was part of a theoretical discussion as in, "Would we sell the F-22 to the UK?"

Big Rocket


In regards to your post on May 02, 2007 at 02:37 AM, I respectfully disagree.

You made the point that our closest allies have supported us by going to war with us, and that they should not be treated as second-class citizens. This is absolutely true. But let us not forget the lesson that history has taught us: The communist Soviet empire was our ally during World War II, and it became our enemy shortly thereafter during the Cold War. The Soviet MiG-15 downed numerous USAF aircraft, including the Saber, which was the best US fighter available during the Korean War. The MiG-15 was powered by a Russian-built version of the Rolls Royce Nene jet engine, which the British government had exported to the Soviet Union.

The US exported the Tomcat to Iran because no one thought it was ever possible for an ally to turn into an enemy. The British exported the Nene jet to the Soviet Union because no one thought it was ever possible for an ally to turn into an enemy. History has taught us that political alliances are fickle: Back then, no one thought Iran or the Soviet Union could become a threat to the US; just as right now, no one thinks Japan, Israel, et al could become a threat to the US, either. If we now export the Raptor, we could very well be repeating the same mistake all over again. The purpose of the Raptor, including tens of billions of USD from the US taxpayer, is to ensure the national security of the US. Exporting it to other countries, with the subsequent risk in technology leaks, defeats the Raptor's purpose. We should not be exporting a piece of technology so advanced that it could be used to penetrate our own airspace. And to downgrade the capabilities of the Raptor for an export version, is a redundant, costly, and unnecessary effort to create yet another Joint Strike Fighter, which our allies are encouraged to buy.

David Axe

The era of states acting independently is ending. Globalization is accelerating. Leadership in this era is all about cooperation and sharing ... so let's cooperate and share the F-22.

Big Rocket

It is absolutely true that leadership involves cooperation and sharing. This is why any ally wishing to cooperate and share advanced US aircraft technology is more than welcome to the JSF, which is the downgraded export version of the F-22.

Sean Meade

I'm inclined to agree with David here. Would it then follow that we should cooperate with similar allies to bring the 6th generation fighter to market sooner, and really leave its competitors in the dust?

Big Rocket

Despite the development of plasma stealth in Russia, and active electronic stealth in France, the rest of the world has yet to even approach the high level of RCS reduction achieved by the F-117A, which first flew in 1981. It is precisely this monopoly on ultra-low RCS stealth that the USAF has relied on to win every major battle since Desert Storm.

To forsake this monopoly in exchange for a reduced fly-away cost for the Raptor, or to share the development cost of a 6th generation fighter aircraft, would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. The technological leadership in US aerospace, which took decades of research and development, and tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars, could be wiped out if and when crucial technology is leaked. And technology leaks are more likely to happen when more partners are involved, and privy to secret technical know-how.

Add to that the uncertain nature of politics, when today's ally can become tomorrow's enemy as history has repeatedly shown, and it becomes most unwise to share our most potent offensive weaponry for which we ourselves have no adequate defense. For these reasons, many countries have exported downgraded versions of their weapons, including Russia and France. The US is no exception, and when it comes to a downgraded version of the Raptor for export, the JSF is the obvious answer for US allies, as witnessed by the participation of the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Turkey in the JSF program.

It has been written that Japan has made it a point of national pride to acquire the Raptor. It is time for Japan to set aside its "me too" syndrome, learn that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and realize that the JSF is the export version of the Raptor that they have been looking for all along. It is time for Japan to get with the program, or the JSF program in this case.


Whether to sell the F22 to long time allies or not is one argument, that I generally favor and whether joint development and production agreements are a good Idea is another, which I don't think is too keen(slang dated)

One of the lessons that I have drawn from the whole JSF soap opera is that sometimes too many cooks can spoil the broth(not very original).
Filling too many requirements and having so many development partners may have produce a aircraft that no one nation really needs and doesn't fit their defense requirements, in a effective fashion.
The US would be better off without the JSF. Australia would also be better off buying the F22, instead of the JSF. The Europeans might be better off with another aircraft.

If we had jointly developed the F22 with just Japan. Where would that leave Korea ? Somehow I think Japan would be less likely to sell the F22 to Korea than we would, which of course could damaging our relations with a important Allie.
Japan may wish to sell to someone that for our own reasons we would rather not sell too.
Joint development programs between nations present a whole new set of problems.

In the future the US may need to buy more of the self weapons, much like many nations do now, picking and choosing which we want to develop and which we want to buy from someone else. That rather than complex joint development programs with allied nation my be the future.

Sean Meade

i still lean toward mutual dependence (v. Big Rocket), but you have a good point, Peter.


There should be no moral issue with selling the F-22 to any NATO ally, as well as Australia, Japan and Korea. (By the way, if you offer the F-22 to Japan, you are compelled to offer it to Korea as well, for diplomatic reasons.)

Rep. Obey got the legislation passed to ban F-22 exports in an effort to kill the US program, not because of any real concern about transferring the technology overseas.

If any ally is pleased to pay the $1 billion or so bill to modify the F-22 to make it exportable, the US would be lucky to have it.

This is not an endorsement of the F-22 as a desirable weapon system for a foreign military, mind you. Unless your military intends to adopt the "kick down the door" strategy pursued with such zeal by the USAF, the F-22 is overkill for the needs of any ally I can think of.

Big Rocket


The JSF isn't so much a joint development program, as it is a joint manufacturing program. Before allies were invited to participate in the JSF, the US and the UK had already selected the Lockheed design over the Boeing design, and one has to wonder just how much influence the UK had over US decision making. The X-35 was already a relatively mature design by the time other partner nations joined the JSF program. Taking your analogy one step further, there may be many cooks in the kitchen, but the broth is already pretty much done. These cooks are now trying to figure out how to make the broth in a Campbell Soup's canning facility.

And of course, the USAF would be better off without the JSF, but only if we had an unlimited budget. As Bill Sweetman pointed out in the PBS Nova TV program, "Battle of the X-Planes", the USAF could never afford enough of the F-22 to deal with the many targets on a battlefield; hence, the need for a relatively low-cost JSF.

Big Rocket


The issue was never one of morality, but one of national security. Legislation to ban F-22 export sales might have been passed for the wrong reasons, but it is serving the right purpose: To prevent the most potent of US aircraft technology from falling into the wrong hands. National security should never be put in the balance for any kind of money, least of all for a paltry $1 billion when the Raptor had already taken $28 billion in sunk costs so far.

And while the Raptor might be viewed as an overkill for the war on terror now, the fact remains China has ambitions that could bring it into a new Cold War with the US in the future. If or when that happens, the Raptor will be there to defend our national security, and kick down the enemy's door for us. All the more reason we should do the utmost to safeguard its technology, and keep the Raptor to ourselves.

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