F-22 Jet Is ‘Expensive Corroding Hangar Queen,’ McCain Says

Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-22 jet is among several U.S. weapons that are flawed, waste taxpayer dollars and benefit from the military-industrial alliance, Senator John McCain said today.

Lockheed’s F-22 “may very well become the most expensive, corroding, hangar queen ever in the history of modern aviation,” McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said in remarks as prepared remarks for delivery on the Senate floor.

The 187th, and last, of what McCain said is a $200 million fighter rolled off Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Georgia plant this week.

He also cited Lockheed’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite and F-35 jet, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon, as flawed programs sustained by the institutional influence of defense companies, retired military officials they hire and the military services.

“The military-industrial complex does not cause programs to fail, but it does help create poorly conceived programs -- that are so fundamentally unsound they are doomed to be poorly executed. And it does help keep them alive long after they should have been ended or restructured,” McCain said.

McCain addressed military spending matters as the Senate started debate on the final version of the $662 billion fiscal 2012 defense bill. His prepared remarks were provided by his press office.

Skyrocketing Maintenance

McCain highlighted cost, schedule and “sky-rocketing maintenance costs” for the F-22 that have made maintaining its stealthy surface “cost-prohibitive to sustain over the long run.”

“The Air Force is now faced with a huge maintenance headache costing over hundreds of millions of dollars and growing to keep all F-22 sitting on the ramp from corroding from the inside out,” McCain said.

F-22 jets began corroding soon after introduction into the U.S. Air Force in 2005 and it plans to spend $228 million through 2016 to fix the deteriorating aluminum skin panels, the Government Accountability Office said in a December 2010 report.

The Air Force bought F-22s “without having conducted careful developmental testing and reliably estimating how much they will cost to own and operate,” McCain said.

Operational F-22s are based at Langley Air Force Base, Va.; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Holloman AFB, N.M. and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

The entire F-22 fleet was grounded for months this year because of problems with the aircraft’s on-board oxygen system that caused pilots to get dizzy or, in some cases, lose consciousness, a condition called hypoxia, he said.

“While this grounding was lifted, exactly why F-22 pilots have been experiencing hypoxia remains unknown -- but similar unexplained incidents continue,” McCain said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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