—Michael C. Sirak
July 14, 2009—National Guard leaders in five coastal states with fighter wings that play a critical role in protecting US airspace want the Pentagon to acquire 100 F-22s to outfit these units.
The adjutants general of the five “corner states” of Oregon, California, Florida, Louisiana, and Massachusetts are united in their stance that the F-22 is needed to effectively counter current and emerging air threats to the nation, says Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Rees, adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard.
“The more research we have done, the more convinced we are that it is absolutely imperative,” Rees told the Daily Report in an interview.
Of particular concern is the ominous specter of small, fast, low-radar-cross-section cruise missiles fired at American cities from platforms off of the US coast, he said.
Under the concept, the five Air National Guard fighter wings in these states that perform NORAD’s air sovereignty alert mission—or, in the case of Massachusetts, are slated to take it on next year—would receive F-22s to replace their legacy fighters. All of these wings operate F-15s today except for the California unit, which flies F-16s.
Envisioned is a four-year multiyear deal with Lockheed Martin starting in Fiscal 2011 for 25 F-22s per per annum to populate the five wings, Rees said. His understanding is that there would be “a significant reduction” in the unit flyaway cost of each F-22 under this arrangement compared to the price tag of the F-22 at today’s lower build rates.
Procuring a total of 100 F-22s for these five wings would “appropriately take care of these five corners” that protect the periphery of the contiguous 48 states, said Rees. These aircraft would also be available, as the Air Guard units are now, for rotational overseas deployments overseas. he said.
“There would be no doubt about our ability to put these aircraft out the door to back up any expeditionary requirements out there,” he said.
Further, Rees said he and his colleagues have proposed the creation of active associate relationships so that “there is a comfortable level of active participation.”
Rees said the proposal has the support of additional adjutants general, particularly those in states with F-16 wings that are assigned the ASA mission, but are expected to lose their aircraft to retirement in the next five or so years. As the five corner states receive their F-22s, their F-15s could be moved to the Air Guard units losing their F-16s as a bridge measure until the F-35 comes along, he said.
The four-year multiyear would also have the benefit of preserving an export option for the F-22, Rees said. Japan and Israel are still interested in the F-22, but an export version would not be available until around 2015, Air Force and industry officials have said.
Exporting the F-22 would be an “economic boon” for the nation, he said. And a larger F-22 force than the planned current buy of 187 would move the nation from a high-risk F-22 inventory to a medium-risk one, he said.
“We do have a lot of areas here of concern and by advancing this business of a multiyear buy on the F-22, we can resolve a lot of them and do a lot of good for the country,” said Rees. He added, “It would certainly look to me like a wise investment.”
Rees also said with the expected cuts in the US strategic nuclear arsenal, it makes sense to beef conventional capability like the F-22 to deter aggression.
Rees has been one of the leading proponents for the idea of the Guard wings getting the F-22. The concept is not new. It actually had its genesis about 3.5 years ago after BRAC 2005. At that time, Rees said Oregon Guard officials began mulling how the state’s 142nd Fighter Wing at Portland, which guards the skies of the Pacific Northwest from northern California to the lower part of British Columbia, would be able to cover the great distances involved in its area of responsibility to deal with emerging threats like the offshore cruise missiles.
The F-22 was identified as the clear option of choice. The idea then grew beyond Oregon to the other corner states.
The faulty longeron issue that caused a Missouri ANG F-15C to fall apart in mid air in 2007 only solidified this belief, he said.
“I think it was a catalyst for many to say let‘s get on with this—we have to get serious about recapitalization,” he said.
For a while, the idea seemed dead. But new life was breathed into it when Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) earlier this year began advocating for F-22 export options to be explored, Rees said.
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