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Stealthly Return? Production restart of F-22 Raptor could be in works

F-22

House subcommittee asks Air Force to submit study to restart production of F-22 Raptor.

The House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces is indicating that production of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor could resume. The committee is directing the Air Force to report on the cost and feasibility of restarting the assembly line.

The original contract with Lockheed Martin called for 749 of the fifth-generation stealth fighters to be produced. But the high cost of the planes and budget pressures trimmed the order to 381. But the final delivery number was just 196, with187 of those being operational fighters.

In 2011, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates shut down the program, citing the high cost. Plus, the U.S. was preparing to focus funding and development for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-22 saw its first action against ISIS in September of 2014 and there is an increased interest in Congress to fortify the nation’s defenses.

The Air Force has been directed to submit a study by January of 2017 on producing another 194 F-22s.

In February, the Air Force denied a report that it was looking into a ballpark estimate as to the cost of restarting F-22 production. A report in 2011 indicated it would cost $2 billion to crank up the production lines. That report also indicated that building just 75 F-22s would cost $17 billion – based on 2008 dollars.

The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee’s markup for its section of the 2017 defense policy bill has the following section:

“In light of growing threats to U.S. air superiority as a result of adversaries closing the technology gap and increasing demand from allies and partners for high performance, multi-role aircraft to meet evolving and worsening global security threats, the committee believes that such proposals are worthy of further exploration.”

As the House sub-committee continues to assess the defense budget, the F-35 JSF program continues to be assessed. The F-35 costs $300 million per aircraft and has struggled to overcome design flaws and production issues. The Air Force has been conducting test flights and mock dogfights as the F-35 strives to become operational.

Wendell Barnhouse is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience as a writer and an editor. For the last 30 years, he wrote about college sports but he has had an interest and curiosity about aviation since he was in grade school.

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