Fox News analyst Thomas McInerney bizarrely twisted today's pirate attack to cheerlead for a pricey fighter the Obama administration plans to cancel. Is that because he's been paid by a contractor on the plane?

McInerney is no stranger to shilling. Last year, the New York Times busted the retired lieutenant general for acting as an on-air puppet to George W. Bush's Department of Defense, helping promote war in Iraq. "Good work — we will use it," the general wrote the Pentagon after swallowing a fresh batch of talking points.

McInerney "sits on the boards of several military contractors," the Times wrote. Those are typically well-paid positions.

The talking head has worked as a consultant to Northrop Grumman. Northrop is a major contractor on the F-22 Raptor, a fighter slashed from the Pentagon's new budget proposal. Contractors are already organizing a fight in Congress.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that McInerney turned up on Fox today to say the Raptor, a fighter designed to cruise a supersonic speeds and shoot down other airplanes, is ideal for escorting U.S. ships and fighting off the hot military enemy of the moment, bands of pirates — especially if you pair it with Northrop's spy drone (scandalously over budget) and an in-flight refueling tanker (like the Northrop model McInerney consulted on).

See the clip above, found by Mike Byhoff in our video department (and mentioned in a previous post).

It doesn't take an Air Force general to see how bizarre McInerney's military reasoning is. The analyst told Fox the F-22, at $146 million each, would be great against pirates due to its fast "reaction time" and 20 milimeter cannon.

He neglected to mention virtually every U.S. fighter made in the last 30 years carries such a cannon (usually the six-barrel M-61 Vulcan, the same one the F-22 uses), including the F/A-18 Hornet already in use by the U.S. Navy (pictured left). He also fails to mention that, no matter how fast the F-22 might be, it can't be based off an aircraft carrier. So its reaction time could never be as good (from a land base on, say, the Arabian Peninsula) as a Hornet or other existing Navy jet floating in the waters nearest the pirates.

Finally, McInerney fails to mention that, though capable of ground attack, the F-22 is optimized for air-to-air operations, i.e., shooting down other fighters.

The idea of going after hostage-taking pirates with an advanced fighter jet and a high-altitude drone is absurd on its face. Prior to intercepting its prey, a pirate ship could be taken with anything from a cheap, Hellfire-missile-equipped Predator (for small ships) to an inexpensive helicopter to almost any existing fighter plane. Once hostages are involved, there's very a little any attack aircraft could do, short of dropping in some commandos.

But military realism need not matter to either Fox or its shill general. McInerney's fantasy not only helps his benefactors — we need the Raptor to keep away evil pirates, you see — it also no doubt holds a certain sexy Top Gun appeal to many Fox News viewers. It's a win-win, at least until more people start calling Fox on its weapons-lobby footsie.

(First thumbnail picture, of F-22, by Rob Shenk)