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Bye bye F-22

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Posted by John McHale

Well, after months of speculation in the media, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced his plans for restructuring of the Department of Defense (DOD) including cutting the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor program.

The decision not to produce any more F-22s hits many in the defense electronics industry in the gut especially at F-22 prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Reportedly Lockheed claims canceling this program would result in the loss of about 90,000 jobs.

I remember speaking to people from Lockheed in Ft. Worth, Texas, back when they won the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and was told that people were crying with joy because the win would guarantee work for 30 to 40 years and mean they could send their children and grandchildren to college.

It hits every area of the community.

It won't just be Lockheed jobs that disappear, but many from the second and third tier suppliers that design hardware and software for the F-22's advanced systems.

The loss of the F-22 will affect the companies that supply the mission computers, cockpit displays, real-time operating systems all the way down to the optical connectors.

These suppliers will still support the aircraft that have already been bought, but the loss of future orders will change their one, two, and five year outlooks drastically.

However, there will still be opportunities for designers of defense electronics. Gates says that the DOD will still support the JSF and increase funding for Special Forces operations to go after insurgents.

They are trying to restructure the military to better fight the War on Terror. Many in the current administration feel that the F-22 was designed to fight a more conventional type of war.

Therefore the DOD will still need electronics for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance more than ever before to help track down terrorists worldwide. This will come in the form of better communications and electro-optics capability for Special Forces, video and satellite surveillance technology, electronics for unmanned systems, etc.

Despite these opportunities, the loss of the F-22 will hurt, but we won't see how much for at least a year or two.

Some leaders in Congress reportedly protested the cut of the program claiming that cutting funding to help the warfighter is a mistake and only being done because the Obama administration wants to spend money anywhere else such as bailing out a failing General Motors.

I keep thinking of what Ronald Reagan said once during a debate with Jimmy Carter --that "a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, a depression is when you lose yours and recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."

Something tells me some folks at Lockheed might want to swap out Jimmy Carter for someone else right now...

You be the judge.

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Welcome to the lighter side of Military & Aerospace Electronics. This is where our staff recount tales of the strange, the weird, and the otherwise offbeat. We could put news here, but we have the rest of our Website for that. Enjoy our scribblings, and feel free to add your own opinions. You might also get to know us in the process. Proceed at your own risk.

John Keller for MAE
John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Courtney Howard for MAE Courtney E. Howard is senior editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine. She is responsible for writing news stories and feature articles for the print publication, as well as composing daily news for the magazine's Website and assembling the weekly electronic newsletter. Her features have appeared in such high-tech trade publications as Military & Aerospace Electronics, Computer Graphics World, Electronic Publishing, Small Times, and The Audio Amateur.

John McHale for MAE John McHale is executive editor of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, where he has been covering the defense Industry for more than dozen years. During that time he also led PennWell's launches of magazines and shows on homeland security and a defense publication and website in Europe. Mr. McHale has served as chairman of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Forum and its Advisory Council since 2004. He lives in Boston with his golf clubs.