- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The F-22 debate presents a set of complex questions (“F-22 Raptor imperative,” Commentary, Sunday). Michael Fumento quotes a defense expert who stated that “only the F-22 can survive in airspace defended by increasingly capable surface-to-air missiles.” However, it is possible that even the F-22 may not be able to survive the next generation of missiles.

The F-22 may be similar to the best wooden ship before the ironclads rendered them all obsolete. The enhanced lethality of anti-aircraft missiles is coming at the same time as the development of increasingly capable unmanned air vehicles. UAVs can take G-forces that would kill a pilot. Additionally, we can build them less expensively than the missiles that destroy them.

There are broader questions of priorities and direction. One of our biggest challenges moving forward will be to deal with declining oil production. Many oil experts are convinced we have passed the peak of global oil production. The Iraq war has demonstrated that oil infrastructure is fragile and that our armed forces are extremely oil-dependent. Declining oil may destroy our ability to project power around the world. The military may be the wrong tool for a world with declining energy.

We would be better served to cancel all new weapons systems that rely heavily on oil and put the money instead into transit systems, home insulation and other investments that will reduce our energy appetite. Our military has some hard thinking to do regarding its fossil-fuel dependence. Artillery may be a more robust technology than combat aircraft. An F-22 has far greater range and capability than a howitzer - until it runs out of gas. The imperative is to reduce our energy demand.



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