Let’s Consider Selling

There is instability in the Middle East and Iran’s president has threatened to wipe Israel "off the map." China is a rising power that is investing in all three branches of its military. The U.S. is itself in the midst of a debt crisis and will likely cutback on defense spending. As such, we may need our allies more than ever. The F-22 Raptor, America’s fifth-generation fighter built for total air dominance, would give our allies a distinct advantage over adversaries. In the past, we have not sold the F-22 Raptor for a multitude of reasons, including national security. It might be time for the U.S. to consider changing this policy in order to further expand our influence and power and ensure a favorable military situation for us and our allies.

Any "export-variant" of the Raptor will be an inferior version. Any classified information or technology used in the F-22 will almost certainly be replaced when sold to foreign buyers. This plane would still be remarkably advanced, but these small changes would allow the U.S. to continue to have an advantage in air combat for the foreseeable future.

This version of the F-22 would not be sold at random to nations, but only to those very close allies who have expressed interest, specifically Israel and Japan. Both countries have professional forces that are well-connected to the Pentagon and regularly interact with the U.S. military. These planes would further inter-operability between the militaries. Additionally, the sale of these planes would increase the reliance of these countries on the U.S. for spare parts and expertise, likely ensuring that bonds between the two militaries become closer.

The Raptor would also give our allies a decisive advantage over potential adversaries. For Israel, this would guarantee air dominance in a neighborhood that can still be rather hostile (and if the Arab Spring proves anything, unstable). For Japan, the F-22 would provide some level of protection against China and North Korea.

The rise of China and its military deserves special consideration. The new Chinese J-20 stealth fighter has been garnering quite a bit of attention. While its level of stealth, lack of maneuverability, and technology onboard leave questions as to its effectiveness, the threat that such a plane will be produced by 2017 is alarming. While Taiwan may not be able to use these planes effectively in the event of a Chinese attack, the F-22 will remain important in any conflict with China as a counter to the J-20, and as such it should seem more important to equip Japan, one of our most important allies, with the F-22.

Should we be worried about the response of the Chinese or any other nation? Not really. The U.S. has sold weapons to Taiwan numerous times, and the Chinese response has always been angry, but temporarily so. China was upset at a sale of weapons to Taiwan in 2010 and ceased relations with the U.S. military, but this was a temporary response (relations have begun to thaw after only one year). Their response to the sale of the F-22 to any country not named Taiwan will likely be more muted. China knows its own development of advanced fighter aircraft and improvements in their navy will not come without a response from the U.S. Other countries who these sales are directed against (Iran, North Korea) will likely protest as well, but their position is isolated enough that it is likely nothing beyond spoken words will be the result.

It is not as if the U.S. does not have precedent for the release of advanced technology to its allies either. Australia, South Korea, and Spain are among the navies that use the advanced AEGIS naval weapons system. The United Kingdom, Italy, and Canada are among the several nations that have helped fund and will purchase the F-35 Lightning II. Neither of these has compromised the effectiveness of the U.S. military. If an ally’s equipment is outdated during a high-intensity conflict, its forces become secondary at best and a burden at worst. In order to keep our allies up to strength on a 21st-century battlefield, we must understand that some technology is too critical not to share. In selling the F-22, the U.S. may be able to retain the balance between maintaining America’s military superiority and advancing the defenses of our allies.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons