Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 07:45 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 07:45 | SYDNEY

Writer riposte: Mark Bowden replies


Sam Roggeveen


17 February 2009 13:09

I passed my short critique of Mark Bowden's latest Atlantic Monthly article on to Mark himself, and he quickly sent back this reply:

I think the points in your critique are well taken. Certainly a key factor in any decision about the F-22 would be to assess the level of risk posed by potential adversaries. As the article makes clear, it seems very likely that we will not be building many more Raptors. My story is not an argument for reversing that course, but an effort to understand its consequences in wartime.

The best case scenario is that our air force will not face a sophisticated threat in the foreseeable future, which would mean we have no need for advanced fighter planes, and we will have saved a great deal of public treasure by not building them. If we do face such a threat, however, from whatever quarter, we will likely lose more planes and pilots establishing aerial dominance with the current fleet of F-15s backed by a few F-22s than we would with a fleet of the more advanced fighters. While this is academic for you and I, it is not for the men and women in the cockpits of those planes.

Mark's right, but given that the numbers of fourth generation fighters with modern missiles and avionics are so modest in countries such as North Korea and Iran, a 'silver bullet' force of 183 F-22s ought to be more than enough to ensure that the US would not have to go to war with those countries at appreciably higher risk than before.

If you want to argue that such a silver bullet force is insufficient to ensure victory against an adversary like China, you're entering entirely new strategic territory. I tend to think China's military modernisation has already passed the point at which the US could go to war with China at an acceptable cost, and that the US will have to be content with something closer to regional parity.