So long, F-22

The high-level campaign to save the F-22 as a production system has likely come to an end.  Lockheed Martin, the program’s prime contractor, announced that they would cease all lobbying activity after Defense Secretary Robert Gates scratched the Raptor in a series of cost-cutting moves at the Pentagon.  That leaves 95,000 jobs at risk:

Lockheed Martin will not spend any more time and effort trying to overturn Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ decision to halt production of F-22 Raptor fighter jets, a top company official said Tuesday.

After making a vigorous case for the F-22 with Gates, other senior Pentagon officials and Congress in recent months, Lockheed plans to move on and meet its commitments for other major defense programs such as the F-35 joint strike fighter. …

Lockheed had lobbied the Pentagon and Congress for months to counter public statements by Gates and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England that the Air Force did not need to buy more F-22s after pending orders for 187 planes are filled.

The company even bought ads in Washington newspapers and on bus-stop benches extolling the F-22’s virtues.

Lockheed instead will focus on accelerating deliveries of the F-35 Lightning II fighter, which Gates chose as priority over the F-22.  They want to push the schedule so that they can make up the difference in revenue quickly, as the lack of sales would likely force layoffs rather than transfers to the new program.  They scheduled F-35 deliveries originally to begin in 2010 and to meet operational levels in 2012, but with the extra labor and narrower focus, perhaps Lockheed can move those dates up a bit.

The withdrawal will likely close a minor debate point from President Obama’s critics, who looked at the scale of government stimulus spending in other sectors and wondered why the F-22 wouldn’t make a good subject for job preservation.  The entire production chain employed 95,000 people by its advocates’ estimates, and the price of delivering the remaining Raptors would have been dwarfed by the rest of Porkulus.  With Lockheed conceding the point, the question is now moot.