At a town hall Tuesday with Raytheon Missile Systems employees, Arizona’s senior senator said the cut would have been to “probably the best and most-proven missile system ever.” McCain also spoke in support of a modernization program for the Tomahawk that would make the weapon threat-relevant through about 2040.
Also in positive news for the local aerospace industry, Congress passed an additional $225 million for the Iron Dome missile, co-produced by Raytheon and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
“Iron Dome… has had the most dramatic effect on Israel’s ability to defend itself. Think of what would have happened in Israel if they did not have that capability,” McCain said. “Which is also a continued argument for the United States to have strong and robust missile defense capabilities as well.”
Among other topics in McCain’s wide-ranging talk:
- Radical Islamic extremism: McCain said we live in threatening times, namely due to the rise of Islam extremism.
“These people are dedicated to our extinction. Don’t take my word for it. The head of the CIA, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the director of the FBI, and the Attorney General of the United States have said they pose a direct threat to the United States of America,” he said.
The most radical, the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), controls a part of Iraq and Syria that is larger than the state of Indiana. McCain said that ISIS cannot be defeated without significant use of American air power, and that power will need to go into Syria as well.
McCain also warned against gradual escalation, or else “you’ll repeat the lessons of the Vietnam War, and these people will adjust. They are smart and they are tough. Don’t underestimate what a fanatic will do.”
- The A-10: McCain said the Air Force’s rejected proposal to replace the A-10 with the F-35 and B-1 was “nuts” and that the Warthog is the best ground support the U.S. military has. He said he will do everything in his power to keep the A-10 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base until an equal replacement comes along.
“The A-10 has probably been the best return for taxpayers’ dollars in recent history. It’s been around a long, long time, it is still the most effective ground support, air to ground capability that we've ever had and it continues to prove its worth. The F-35 has been a marvel of technology and a disaster of cost overruns.”
- Priorities as potential chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee: McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that if Republicans regain control of Senate and he becomes committee chair, he will seek a new strategy. “Right now I see us only reacting. We react to events. Something happens in Libya we react to it. Something happens in Egypt we are surprised by it.”
On unrest in Ukraine, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin is bent on restoration of the old Russian empire. McCain said that doesn't mean going to war with Russia, but it does mean strengthening allies and NATO, and supporting the Ukrainian government.
- Land swap: A land exchange near Tucson International Airport to allow Raytheon to expand is on track. “If we’re going to fully utilize the capability of Raytheon here we have to do this land agreement.”
- The likelihood of Congress passing a 2015 budget by year’s end: None, he said.
“I don’t believe there’s anyone in this room that sooner or later doesn't have to live on a budget. And yet we in Congress don’t have one.”