The secretary of the air force has become the latest official to douse hopes of restarting Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor production, which was capped at 187 aircraft and closed in 2011.Forget the words of the AFSEC. She's gone in less than a year. The real eye opener is the fact that the Think Tank bubba's are asking the question.
The tooling and equipment needed to produce the twin-engine air-superiority fighter, which was barred from export because of its sophistication, remain in storage along with video instructions for various assembly processes.
This equipment will aid in the remanufacture of spare parts for the aircraft and its two Pratt & Whitney F119 engines, but some Raptor advocates want to see the assembly lines in Marietta, Georgia and Fort Worth, Texas reborn. This was done for improved versions of the Lockheed U-2 and Rockwell B-1.
That idea is “pretty much a non-starter,” service secretary Deborah Lee James said when asked about the prospect of resuming serial F-22 production at a recent CSIS event in Washington DC.
“If you were to ask [air force chief of staff Gen Mark Welsh] or any of the uniformed officers in the air force, they would probably tell you they would love to have more F-22s.
“The original plan was to have quite a few more additional F-22s, and it was a regrettable set of circumstances – a combination of budget overruns and taking way longer than originally projected – that actually caused what became an early termination for the F-22 programme.”
Optimised for air-to-air combat in a Cold War fight against Russia, the original requirement was for 750 aircraft. That number later dropped to 339, and then 187 plus eight test aircraft.
Somewhere in the backrooms this is being talked about. Someone is asking about restarting the F-22 line.
The absolutely great news? Restart the line and do the Airbus bit. Stick the good widgets from the F-35 into it (the ones that we know for sure work), add a few of the upgrade items that was planned for it and once again the USAF is back in the air superiority business. Build enough of them and they might be able to start talking air dominance again.
The painful reality? Something will have to give on the USAF's wish list. Cuts will have to be made. My personal view is to target the LRSB. Focus on missiles for the deep strike/penetration/air defense destruction mission and reorient the USAF to ensuring that our forces fight under clear skies.