Obama saved by the fighter jet that he canceled

In mid-2009, Barack Obama persuaded the U.S. Senate to kill funding for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, a $65 billion program that will yield 187 planes (nearly $400 million per airplane).

Last Thursday, however, the scorned F-22 came to President Obama’s rescue. Mr. Obama had left his desk in Washington, D.C. to attend a birthday party and some fundraising events in Chicago (see this Bush-era post for how it would be incredible to see a U.S. president stay at his desk and work!). This involved the taxpayers shelling out for a few C-5 cargo planes to fly out to Chicago¬†filled with massive Marine One helicopters and armoured SUVs. Obama himself followed in a private Boeing 747 (estimated hourly cost was $56,800 in 2006). To ensure Mr. Obama’s security, the FAA was instructed to close off approximately 3000 square miles of airspace, thus shutting down flight schools and people attempting to use their airplanes for personal and business transportation.

Apparently oblivious to this temporary flight restriction, a “small biplane” wandered within 30 nautical miles of Obama. The unarmed $30,000 airplane, with a maximum speed of perhaps 100 knots. was met by two supersonic F-22 Raptors (total cost $800 million plus perhaps $50,000 per hour in operating costs (source)). “There was no threat to the president, the military said.”

In the past, planes such as this were met by a single $27 million F-16 or a $14 million Blackhawk helicopter, but apparently the Air Force has decided that the supersonic F-16 is no longer up to the task.

More: AirForceTimes.

[Note that the F-22 is not the most expensive airplane to run; the C-5s that haul the presidential helicopters around supposedly have the highest operating costs of any Air Force weapon (source).]

[The two Democratic fundraisers that Obama attended brought in roughly $3.5 million (source). So it would have been far cheaper for taxpayers if Obama had stayed in Washington and the U.S. Treasury had written a $3.5 million check to the Democratic Party.]

5 Comments

  1. Mark Lutton

    August 7, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

    1

    What is this, a remake of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer or something?

    We don’t want you, F-22. You’re a misfit.

    Poor me. Nobody wants me. I’m off for the island of misfit armaments.

    Oh dear! Our President is in danger! Who will help us?

    It would be an honor, sir!

    F-22, you’re a hero! You’ll go down in history!

  2. Frederick Le Murre

    August 9, 2010 @ 10:26 am

    2

    Well if you’re going to pay to keep 2 jet fighters cocked and locked, fueled, warm, and ready to go 24/7 with the pilots on alert you might as well pick the most capable, with the quickest intercept speed and best radar. 99.95% of the time it will be the Christensen Eagle or Rose Parakeet that gets intercepted, but that other .05%, well. Well at least the practice is good for crew proficiency.

  3. Government Reform Boi

    August 9, 2010 @ 3:22 pm

    3

    What would be cheaper still would be a federal statute that requires the president to pay all of his expenses when he travels for fundraising purposes. Just claw back some of that money he raised.

  4. philg

    August 9, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

    4

    Frederick: Your suggestion that “If a mission needs to be accomplished, let’s spare no expense” would make sense if the U.S. had infinite money. For me anyway, the Collapse of 2008 was a reminder that the U.S. is not infinitely rich. If we spend enormous sums on phantom security threats or a war in Afghanistan or whatever, there will be real consequences felt in other areas.

    If the president’s security is the foremost goal, it could likely be best achieved by having him stay in the White House rather than traveling. The core of Washington, D.C., is protected with anti-aircraft missiles and all manner of military aircraft. It would billions of dollars to make Obama’s next fundraising destination as secure as the White House. Right now we aren’t spending that kind of money, but someone arguing for cost-no-object security should advocate building state-of-the-art radar and missile defenses in every part of the U.S. that the president might conceivably want to visit.

  5. BI Software Reporter

    August 10, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

    5

    Here’s what came to my mind reading those figures: money in the context of the government budget has no definition similar to what it has in the real world. There is no expenditure by the government that can’t be covered by issuing more debt. The debt will never be completely repaid, ever, but as long as people trust that it theoretically could, then they cycle can go on forever.

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