Defense Industry Daily has a very informative discussion of the export issues surrounding the controversial F-22 Raptor, all in the context of Japan as a potential purchaser. Now that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has all but put the kibosh on future DOD purchases, it’s only natural that the U.S. Air Force try to find ways of working within the export ban to extend the production run of the stealth fighter.
So far the debate over the Raptor has been formulated in terms of what kind of force structure will best respond to America’s threat horizon. But the export question raises another aspect to the F-22 debate that hasn’t gotten much attention. The U.S. military’s increasing emphasis on high-tech weapons systems creates barriers to export in the form of technology transfer concerns. Jason Miks reported for WPR back in January about how the F-22 export ban was contributing to the strain on U.S.-Japan defense ties. What the DID piece makes clear is the host of options Japan and other potential purchasers have as alternatives to the F-22. While none of them might be ideal replacements, they do exist.
This is more than just a concern about padding the bottom line for Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. It also has to do with military-to-military influence and interoperability. Fortress America can take on many forms. An army that can neither equip nor deploy with its allies is one of them.