Congress Just Asked the Air Force to Look Into Restarting F-22 Production

US Congress has requested senior-level members of the US Air Force to explore the possibility of restarting production lines for the F-22 Raptor, arguably the most advanced fighter aircraft in existence today. This could potentially be the solution the US military is looking for with regards to its perceived fighter gap, especially with foreign nationals closing the technology gap rapidly with the development of their own next-generation fighters.

The F-22’s initial production run was ordered shut down in 2009, churning out a mere 187 Raptors by 2012, while the original procurement plan listed a total buy of over 750 Raptors, which would have replaced the Air Force’s aging F-15 Eagle stocks en masse. Because of the limited buy, which was drastically scaled down over the years before production was terminated, the Air Force has invested billions of dollars into extending the lifespan of its F-15s, which currently forms the backbone of its air superiority fleet. There’s only so much that can be done to keep the Eagles relevant, however, especially with China and Russia attempting to build advanced 5th generation fighter aircraft of their own (including models for mass export).

The Raptor hasn’t yet had its chance to face enemy fighters in air-to-air combat, but it does have a fantastic track record at various Red Flag exercises in Nevada, where it routinely faces off in dissimilar air combat training against the best allied nations have to offer. Its super-maneuverability, provided by thrust vectoring on its twin P&W F119 turbofans, along with advanced sensor fusion and powerful radar, give the Raptor incredible advantages in the air over any adversary. Its all-stealth design makes it even harder to detect and kill. But air superiority isn’t all the Raptor’s good at. The F-22 has proven itself as a multirole fighter, and has seen combat action over Syria and Iraq within the past eleven months, engaging in airstrikes against Daesh (ISIS) as part of the American contingent supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Lt. Col. Robert Buchanan, 301st Fighter Squadron commander, makes his final launch preparations, Feb. 16, before taxiing out for a flight. Eight F-22 Raptors were launched as Holloman’s premiere aircraft took to the sky to continue training to maintain combat mission readiness.

That being said, the F-22 is still an old aircraft. By the time it was pressed into service in 2005, technology (at least in the Western hemisphere) had already caught up with the F-22 and had progressed beyond, resulting in some of the tech present on the F-35 Lightning II, another product of Lockheed Martin. Restarting the Raptor line would necessarily mean improving the F-22 beyond what it is today. The Raptor currently uses outdated computer systems from the 1980s and 1990s, which, if replaced with more modern equipment, can give the Raptor even more of an edge than ever before. The possibility exists to port over technology used on the F-35 Lightning II to the F-22, including the unique Electro-Optical Targeting System which enhances pilot situational awareness exponentially.

The Air Force will be required to deliver its findings in the form of a comprehensive report to Congress by the end of this year, including projected costs, mission requirements, and an investigation into how the F-22 will solve the Air Force’s fighter gap while preserving American aerial supremacy. Of course, this doesn’t confirm that the Raptor production line will be restarted, especially anytime soon. Upon the shuttering of the F-22 line in 2012, jigs and production tooling were stored, along with digitized and physical copies of manuals for parts manufacturing in the event that more Raptors would be built, or at the very least, more parts produced. However, finding these carefully-stored tools and equipment have proved to be incredibly difficult at times. Top-ranking Air Force officers were hesitant to speak positively of the potential for a Raptor production restart, citing sky-high costs as being the prohibiting factor.

An F-22 Raptor takes off from Ämari Air Base, Estonia, Sept. 4, 2015, following a brief forward deployment. The U.S. Air Force routinely deploys aircraft and Airmen to Europe for training and exercises. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane)

With the Air Force recently announcing that it has temporarily shelved its plans to design and build a singular 6th generation replacement for both the F-15 and the F-22, improved F-22s could possibly be the answer to the branch’s problems. Mass production of the aircraft could drive down costs significantly, especially if current technologies are utilized in the development of a newer upgraded Raptor. Exporting the Raptor to allied nations would further bring down costs, but this is currently banned by an act of Congress; that’s not to say that the act can’t be overturned, though. All in all, restarting the F-22’s production line is still a topic worthy of research and exploration, and it could prove to be a winning factor in aiding America’s quest to preserve its aerial supremacy capabilities worldwide.


9 thoughts on “Congress Just Asked the Air Force to Look Into Restarting F-22 Production

  1. With all the money spent on this “unbeatable” aircraft you would think they would equip it with the finest radar & fire control systems of this day & age with the possibility of potential upgrades when the time calls for it.


    1. You’re talking major work to do that. It’s not like retrofitting an after market stereo in your cars dashboard. The cost and time to upgrade and integrate the latest radar, comms, weapons and fusion systems into the 80’s used platforms of the F-22 would be huge.


  2. What is a superior dogfighter?
    Rafale vs F-22 ATC2009 :

    But the F-22 was beaten in dogfight by some old greek Mirage-2000 too…

    BTW, the Rafale can shoot missile over her shoulder in a 360° bubble…
    And… thrust vectoring will only be installed in 2018…
    In December 2015, the information was declassified : it was decided to make the Rafale stealth in 1988, before the 1st prototype was built (the 1986 one was a demonstrator of concept, the prototypes that followed were 90% different in fact) but without sacrificing anything in fly qualities. Thus, it’s a little less stealth than a F-22 : the RCS (radar cross section) being like a… seagull… And the 2018 upgrade will make her even stealthier.
    New Meteor missile : range : 200km
    Mica EM/IR : 80km
    With SPECTRA EM suite : you can fly over a S-300 system without even being noticed. Brit Typhoon pilots are going crazy, last time I had news about drills, the total on Typhoon that had been downed would have been 37 EF-2000 for 1 Rafale… Put your radar “on” to lock a Rafale and get a missile locked on your own radar or radio or IFF or anything emitting waves. Rafale can receive passive radar reflections, even cellphones or TVs waves can reflect… Anyway, radar-guided missiles will go crazy, some say they may even be diverted to return to sender…
    The only way to approach her : having everything active off… No fun, she’s smaller than you and the M-88 engines are the coldest of any jet-fighter : the low IR signature make her seen last on IRSTs so it may be very difficult to shoot first. As far as I know, the SPECTRA system is even more violent than a Growler and can be used as a more than efficient ELINT system.
    Data fusion works perfectly and so, she may receive datas from the gigantic Nostradamus radar based in France. In 1999, Nostradamus was monitoring B2 and F117 over Yugoslavia. More recently, B2 and F22 over Syria were monitored and it usually follows ESA’s Ariane rocket launchings in French-Guyana (7000 km!!!). When I had my pilot lessons in the mid 00’s, my instructor just retired from the Armée de l’Air. He told me : “we see F-22s, we see B-2s” “I can’t tell you everything : many are classified but I wouldn’t like to be in any plane chased by a Rafale”.
    Another point : no need to have 50 hours repairs between each flight : the radar absorbant materials are inside the airframe and not a coating… When attacking Libya, not a single alarm ringed and some airplanes reloaded their weapons on the air-carrier more than 10 times a day (!), refueling from a KC-135.
    Underwing pods are coming to put the missiles and bombs into a stealth cocoon too.

    Err, I forgot : the Rafale is already tested with the Dassault’s nEUROn stealth combat drone, the goal is having a Rafale surrounded by a swam of nEUROns…

    I’m not saying at all the F-22’s a bad aircraft, it’s really one of the very best you can fly nowadays but there is already stuff maybe not 100% as good/better, thus being able to compete and with much more availability.
    In fact, the risk is mostly for E.U. nations which will rely mostly only on the A-35, errr… “F-35” : as everybody’s going stealth, the advertisings from Crooked-Martin about Beyond Visual Range are just wanking, everything will end with A2/AD systems and WVR engagements if not dogfights… And I prefer not telling about some freakin’ air tactics that I have in mind that could make things turn even much worse and for cheap! I don’t want to see anyone applying such things…


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