More on the F-22, the F-35, and big expensive airplanes

The Atlantic has been your one-stop site for all aspects of the "F-22 question" -- the decision on whether to buy more copies of the Air Force's latest fighter plane. Mark Bowden's article in the magazine here; various perspective from me here, here, and here;  SecDef Robert Gates's rationale in calling off purchases discussed here and here.

Apart from the F-22, the other fighter in gestation over the past decade has been the "Joint Strike Fighter," known as the F-35, shown here in vertical take-off mode for use by the Marine Corps. (Photo via Discovery channel). It is also designed to take off and land "normally," from a runway, for the Air Force version, and a from an aircraft carrier deck for the Navy's.

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The case for this airplane (discussed at length in this article back in 2002) was that it would avoid the cost and complexity problems that plagued the F-22. The case against it, as presented in a recent document by the legendary military analyst and designer Pierre Sprey and Winslow Wheeler of America's Defense Meltdown, is that it too has turned into an example of those very same disorders. Their article about the two airplanes, "What 'Sweeping Reforms' in DOD?", takes a skeptical view of Sec. Gates's current procurement reforms and is available here. Worth reading not just about these aircraft but for the overall approach to defense spending.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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