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.
[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.]