Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bias At 40 000 ft

It's a bias hatrick at the Beeb today. Our final entry concerns the latest US fighter, the F-22 Raptor. You can tell Auntie is teed off with Uncle right from the headline: US rolls out most expensive jet - I thought the Left was in favour of public spending, but no, not this time. The people who speak out in favour of art therapy think the most important thing about a revolutionary aircraft is that you can't buy one and get change from a fiver (but Concorde was still a technical marvel).

In case you missed the headline, the first sentance rams the point home:

The first of a fleet of the world's most expensive fighter jet, the FA-22 Raptor, is being commissioned into the United States Air Force.

The US military has ordered 277 planes, the first of which was due to roll out onto the tarmac at its manufacturing base in Georgia on Wednesday.

It is to join a fighter squadron based close to the capital, Washington DC.

That would be the city which came under air attack three years ago - yet still the Yanks insist on defending it.

But doesn't the F-22 have any striking features other than the cost ?

The FA-22 stealth fighter can fly at 1500 km/h and still remain undetected by radar.

It fires precisely targeted smart bombs and can engage hostile aircraft far beyond the pilot's vision.

Or to put it another way: every other aircraft in service today is now obsolete.

Impressive, hey ?

That is the impressive part of the story.

Y'know, I'm not sure he's being entirely sincere here.

The other part is that, at a cost of about $260m (£142m) each, the Raptor is designed to fight a potential Soviet enemy that no longer exists, and a Third World War that - if it ever happens - will be very different from what could have been imagined in 1981.

Yes - in this kind of war it's a positive disadvantage to be able to blow the enemy out of the sky and then deliver a 2000lb bomb more accuratly than if you sent it via UPS. Mind you, the Soviets have gone (just like the Beeb said they wouldn't) and it's not like there are any other massive communist dictatorships with aggressive foreign policies and year on year double-digit increases in military spending (talking of which, I'm betting a search of BBC Online won't bring up any cases of the Beeb tut-tutting about China's military expenditure).

Some years ago there was a serious attempt in the Congress to scrap the whole project, especially as the revised cost exceeded four times the original estimate.

You mean the Democrats want to slash military spending ? Surely not!

It failed largely because of pressure from military contractors and labour unions in states that will directly benefit from this multi-billion dollar programme.

It's a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy after all. If there's one thing the BBC can't stand, it's companies leeching off the public purse to produce rubbish.

The introduction of the new fighter jet comes in the same week that its manufacturer, Lockheed-Martin, announced a 40% rise in profits as it processes orders for its next generation of fighter aircraft, the F-35.

An arms company making money during time of war ? Who'd have thunk it ? This sort of complaint doesn't exactly kill the theory that the licence fee prevents BBC employees from having any grasp of business reality.

So that's it then. A revolution in military aviation has occured and the Beeb's contribution is to carp. But don't call them biased.

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