Skip to Main Content

Riccioni Responds to F/A-22 Advocates

F22_1POGO note: The following was written by Everest Riccioni, Col. USAF, Retired. All emphasis is his.  His most recent report on the F/A-22 Raptor, which he refers to in the following can be found here.

After reading comments posted on POGO's blog, it is clear that I am not on the same frequency as some of you commenting on the F-22. It is seemingly impossible to change people's opinions, their preconceptions and misconceptions. Most of my critics missed the coherence of the report as they read. Most of the criticisms should disappear if the report is reread for comprehension and the connections made.

Many in our country are now aware that - The F-22 is unnecessary because it is no longer relevant to the current and future enemies of the US. Terrorists are a product of the new state of the world. Our enemies and their motivation have been well defined in the writings of experts- works by CIA operatives Richard Clark, Mike Scheuer, analytical reporter Bamford, Robin Wright, Richard Perle, Hal Lindsay, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and many others, and I agree with their views. My critics merely seek countries that possess fighter aircraft and declare them potentially inimical. Potential does not mean real. Fighters don't define our enemies, people do! And they no longer need to be national leaders to concern us. Foreign Affairs is an excellent source of information.

For 15 years the USAF repeated the mantra - "A new, capable, air superiority aircraft is necessary to protect our ground troops." That F-22 advocates have come to realize that this role for the Raptor can no longer justify the acquisition and its expense, is proven by the actions of the USAF! To save the program, the mantra is now very seldom heard, and there is a mad scramble to find many new roles and missions, new justifications. Each variation is analyzed in detail in the report. None of the new concepts make sense.


Critics reminding me that the F-22 carries missiles and guns (together with its very light bomb load) and the F-117 (with twice the bomb load) doesn't, insist on missing the point. Our only real enemy - terrorists - do not and will not fly fighters or fighter-bombers against us. In fact, none of our real enemies will. Enemy fighters haven't seriously challenged the USAF since World War II, more than half a century ago! There are other, lower cost and better ways of gaining control of the air. Only Russia posed a significant aerial threat, a threat that vanished along with the Cold War. Critics should reread my report. And they would do well to study foreign relations.

Some F-22 advocates talk of being prepared for war with China. China is not going to attack the US. Engaging China in a conventional war would be the worst error this country can possibly make! The US couldn't conquer its small backward neighbor, North Vietnam, after 10 years of war throwing everything we had at them except nuclear weapons. This is in my report. Nuclear war with China would be a catastrophe for the US and the world.

The readers don't see, or they disregard my detailed logic, miss the point, and then revert to their previous opinions. Opinions are worthless! Only facts and cogent analyses are meaningful! That my critics differ from me is fine! But, properly, they should/must provide overpowering logic, more-relevant facts, and more profound analyses - not (unjustified) opinions. I do my research, and make quantified analyses with an open mind, and then and only then, form my conclusions. (The quantified analyses are available - for a price.)

I endured similar criticism while serving as the Godfather of a triumvirate renowned as the Lightweight Fighter Mafia. It was composed of: myself, and two geniuses - the famed fighter pilot and incomparable Col John R. Boyd, and the perspicacious Pierre M Sprey. I was banished twice as a "reward" for initiating the Lightweight Fighter (cum F-16) program, and for solving the Air Staff's constant complaint that we would be badly outnumbered in a European war. The Fighter Mafia was successful in forcing the F-16 into a recalcitrant USAF-literally doubling the size of Tactical Air Command! We inadvertently helped the Navy to solve its numbers problem via the F-18A, born of the F-17. Interestingly, properly, the air services never complained about being outnumbered after the advent of the F-16 and the F-18. Today I must endure critics making egregious statements that "small numbers of F-22s are desirable?" For what battles? For what wars? Logic? In the report, I discussed that instead of creating a global air force, with small numbers the US can aggress only one small, undeveloped country at a time. Today, a conquered Iraq with its mere 20 million population is stressing our military. Ten to 20 thousand insurgents are the problem, against whom the Raptor has no necessary role.

My critics think highly of the Raptor's performance, but don't know that it represents no progress over the thirty-year old F-15C. Neither the USAF nor the contractor advertise this. Proof of this fact is in the report. I briefed the competent Honorable Thomas Christie (until recently director of all military testing, DOTE, under Rumsfeld) and his Air Force and civilian staff. No one contradicted any of my facts, data, or conclusions! A Lockheed test pilot verified the similarity in performance. I have other deeper checks. This is in the report. Curiously, I've had a general try to contradict this, citing incorrect data.

Few critics realize that the program's money should be spent on the weapons, technology, and training for fighting guerrillas and insurgents - our only real enemy. Neither the obscene unit cost of the F-22 nor the USAF's gross distortions in reporting it, disturb the critics. Nor does the enormous drop from a stated requirement for 750 aircraft (funded by $40B) to a likely 180 fighters (now for $70B) disturb them! This incontrovertible history is in the report. Misspent money means little to my critics, despite its weakening our military capability. How do they justify the misinformation on cost? Why did no critic address my exposition of the great perpetual (endless cycle) scam of requiring new, high performance fighters to engage friendly countries flying our former best fighter aircraft? Is it true? Is the allegation valid? Or is it inconsequential?

Among the qualifications of the critics-It is doubtful that any have ever written the requirements for, or managed the design of fighter aircraft. Few if any have they planned air-wars and air-to-ground-wars for any country. They didn't develop the artful combination of technologies that give a fighter the supercruise characteristic. I did. This is in the report. None of the critics have created a novel tactical doctrine for aerial combat. I did. None of them commanded a group that generated the air-to-ground war plans to defend South Korea. General Robert Malloy, commander of the 314th Air Division assigned me this task. None planned the air-war for the defense of South Korea. I did essentially single-handedly, at the order of PACAF Commander, General Vogt.

I'm reminded of the enormous resistance I met after creating, advocating, and demonstrating the Double Attack aerial tactical doctrine in 1957, which doctrine eventually destroyed the USAF's inefficient Fluid Four System. I was vilified for 13 years for espousing a system other than the USAF's "successful" Fluid Four System. After 13 years (circa 1972), my Double Attack System was formally written into Secret AFM 3-1 giving me full credit by name (generally not done). The Fluid Four then disappeared. Interestingly, US Navy pilots independently created a very similar system at the same time -The Loose Deuce. We understood each other. At fighter symposiums, I sat among competent US Navy pilots rather than with my competent friends in the USAF.

There are still valorous USAF fighter pilots that know the whole history of the Double Attack, its development, and the trauma of its acceptance. A bright, competent, Major Herbert Arnberger, instructing in the USAF Fighter Weapons School, published it in their magazine for the benefit of all in TAC. He risked his career to advocate my system and views. Even after demonstrating the system by soundly and consistently thrashing my adversaries in the air, many of the vanquished and even some of my victorious flight mates, failed to embrace it. The point of this? - Clearly, conviction must ultimately come from within. Interestingly, two USAF fighter pilots requested and were freely given my written description of the Double Attack System. They rewrote it, and tried to take credit for its creation. One must agree with Confucius - "Success has many fathers - Failure dies an orphan."

It may be useless to bring some light and reason into those steeped in the thinking of past wars, past military balances, but moving with the crowd (why later). A relevant philosophic point - A coworker at Northrop tried to console me when we were isolated and criticized for advocating a powerful 30mm gunpod for the F-5E aircraft by observing that - "the only thing worse than being dead wrong is to be the only one that is right."

I assume some of my critics are fighter pilots- a major difficulty arises because - they all believe they are - "The World's Greatest Fighter Pilot." Some of them are probably wrong. With this sign on so many pilots' desks in the Pentagon, I would ask them what they had contributed to the profession of fighter aviation. I never received a constructive response. Yet these street-wise individuals never turned the question around on me. We both knew why. But those days, it was my joy to be working with the legendary genius Col. John Boyd as my constant friend, advisor, and mentor, backing me all the way. He was the leading contributor to fighter aviation in the history of the USAF. He was the major activist forcing the F-16A into a resisting USAF. He was the world's leading expert on waging successful warfare. Yet when two books were written describing his many contributions and accomplishments, many fighter pilots, prima donnas all, rose out of the carpet to disavow his greatness, his achievements, and to criticize him. Nothing ever changes.

I am not concerned with responding to critics one-on-one, I will not counter dissenting opinions with my opinions. Even here, all I've done is to repeat what is covered in my report. Most of the critics need only re-read it for comprehension! I may blog with some. Today, I am merely amused and possibly disappointed when I read incorrectly based criticisms. However, a profound criticism, properly justified, will get my attention. I will learn from it, correct my ways, and dutifully thank the good critic.

I leave the reader two final relevant philosophic thoughts on the nature of this event - In one of his many books on war, Britain's famous historian, analyst, and military strategist, B. H. Liddell Hart, states- "Military Criticism is the least populous of professions. The critic, moreover, has so much to gain by conforming to prevailing dogmas - if he but clothe conventional tenets in fresh verbiage, his wisdom will be applauded - and so much to lose if he emphasizes his inherent isolation by standing against the current. Thus subtract from the few, the fearful, and the residue of true critics may well be zero." This is where I am. And while outnumbered, I am really not alone. The residue will never be zero.

Centuries ago, the great physicist and creative mathematician Blaise Pascal, said - "Truth is so obscure. . . and falsehood so established . . . that unless we love the truth . . . we cannot know it." Some things never change.

-Everest E. Riccioni, Col. USAF, Retired

comments powered by Disqus

Browse POGOBlog by Topic

POGO on Facebook