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Chopping Block

February 24th, 2004 - 12:19 pm

The Army’s Commanche helicopter died yesterday. Could the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 JSF be next? From StrategyPage:

If the air force decides it needs a lot of UCAVs in a hurry, Congress will probably not put up with buying expensive F-22s and F-35s (which only cost about $40 million each) as well. So the air force is looking into the possibility of cutting or canceling F-22 and F-35 production, and upgrading current aircraft (F-15s, F-16s and A-10s) to hold the fort until the UCAVs are available in quantity. The huge development costs for the F-22 and F-35 won’t be wasted. Those technologies can be applied to UCAVs, which can be built cheaper (at least 20 percent cheaper) because these aircraft don’t have to carry a pilot. That means F-22 class UCAVs could be built for under $100-150 million each. The F-22 UCAV would also be a more capable aircraft, being able to perform maneuvers a human pilot could not survive.

It’s hard to kill a program as big as either of these two new warplanes, and you can bet the F-22 ($250 million each) would be killed off before the cheap-in-comparison JSF (at a mere $40 million a copy).

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