1994: The F-22 controversy begins

Even before it flew, the F-22 was making news. Steve Kroft was there at the controversial start of the nation's most expensive and hi-tech jet

This week on 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl interviews two Air Force pilotswho decided to take a drastic step: Go public with their safety concerns about the F-22 fighter jet.

It's a big story, but as far back as the early 1990s -- when the F-22 was still just a prototype -- it was making news.

We reported on the F-22 controversy before the plane even flew. In 1994, Steve Kroft introduced 60 Minutes viewers to the Air Force's new "technological marvel." But, as Kroft pointed out, these jets were not only astronomically expensive, they were also designed to fight enemy that no longer exists: the Soviet Union. In 1994, Kroft asked the question that many are still asking today: Is it worth it?

Depends on who you ask, of course. Air Force Lieutenant General Richard Hawley told Kroft that even in the relative calm after the Cold War, the world was a dangerous place and 35 other countries had planes that could compete with ours.

"We have a threat that we're convinced is going to be very real and that we're going to be asked to counter," Hawley told Kroft 1994. "We're going to be asked to do it with the smallest expenditure of American lives that we can manage, and this airplane is what we need to be able to do that."

It's hard to blame Hawley for not foreseeing the kind of insurgent wars the US would eventually fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the fact remains: it's now 18 years later and the F-22 still hasn't been used in combat.

If only the problem ended there. Now even the F-22's loyal pilots are voicing concerns about this aircraft. What do you think: Does the United States need the terrifically sophisticated and possibly dangerous F-22?

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