At a time when the US Air Force wants to accelerate fighter aircraft development under a ‘Digital Century Series’, Combat Aircraft Journal looks at the F-22’s service entry and how the USAF is working to ensure the fighter remains relevant into the future.
The single biggest problem for the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is that the US Air Force simply doesn’t have enough of them. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) of May 1997 took procurement down to 339 (including the eight Production Representative Test Vehicles), but this further reduced to 224 before, in December 2004, the US Department of Defense (DoD) moved to cut total procurement to 180 aircraft. The USAF fought hard for more, but ultimately the tough US Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced on April 6, 2009, that production was to be terminated. From an original aspiration for 750 aircraft, Lockheed Martin built just 195 Raptors — equating to 187 for the operational inventory.