Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Schwartz v. Young Context Smackdown

Today’s "Daily Report," posted at airforce-magazine.com, quotes the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, on the subject of the F-22. Schwartz said the new fighter should not be judged by metrics intended for use when the fighter reaches maturity.

Nothing to Scoff at: Setting aside unreasonably high expectations, the F-22’s reliability rates are entirely “respectable” and its performance today is not meant to be judged by metrics intended for when the fighter fleet reaches maturity, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told defense reporters today in Washington, D.C. Last November, Pentagon acquisition executive John Young criticized the F-22, characterizing the aircraft’s mission-capable rates of around 62 percent as worse than expected and signaling a “troubling” trend. Further, Young said the aircraft wasn’t meeting its key performance parameters, which are put in place to see how well the aircraft is matching its requirements. Schwartz, in the Air Force’s first official response to Young’s comments, said “it is important to ... keep these things in the appropriate context.” MC rates for the F-22 are “in the 60 percent range,” when factoring the time spent maintaining the aircraft’s low-observable characteristics. But, they are “in the mid-to-high 70s range” without LO maintenance, he said. “That is respectable,” he noted, particularly when compared to the service’s previous stealth platforms: the F-117 and B-2. “My take is that, while there may have been expectations that the F-22 would be even more ready in terms of mission capability rate than that, these are not numbers which are to be scoffed at,” he said. Further, the KPPs are meant to apply when the F-22 fleet reaches 100,000 flight hours. Today it stands at about 55,000 hours, meaning that the fleet is “not at maturity” yet,” he said.

Schwartz has finally cast a harsh light on Pentagon acquisition executive John Young’s remarks (at the Defense Writers Group last November) that the F-22 sufferes from a mission-capable rating of "only" 62 percent. The F-22 is the only fifth-generation fighter in the world, and it can kill anything sent up against it. According to General Schwartz, if you took out the low observable maintenance then the MC rate would be in the 70s. Folks, this is a new airplane. Does anyone remember how the F-15 performed, MC-wise, when it first was deployed? It was not a pretty picture. The F-22 is already ahead of that aircraft. John Young surely knows all this, but that's what you get when someone is ideologically opposed to a weapon system.

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