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The F-22 Raptor: Separating Fact from Fiction on Its Deadly Capabilities

Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter is renowned for its capacity and potential, but how prepared are they for actual combat?

The F-22 Raptor: what was pledged

The F-22 Raptor is acclaimed as the most advanced air superiority fighter currently in operation, with unparalleled air supremacy and combat capabilities.

The United States Air Force views the F-22 Raptor as an exceptionally lethal combination of stealth, supercruise, agility, and integrated avionics. The Raptor is capable of executing both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, making it a crucial component of US military strategy in the 21st century.

However, the truth remains that, until now, the F-22 has never engaged in air-to-air combat, and its performance in real combat situations remains unknown.

The predicament with the F-22 Block 20

This month, the US Air Force has requested Congress to exclude 32 F-22 Block 20 fighters from its 2024 budget, citing their inability to be deployed in combat. Upgrading these fighters would necessitate a costly and time-consuming endeavor, which would negatively impact Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II program.

According to Lt. Gen. Richard Moore, the Block 20s lack the latest communications, weapons, and electronic warfare capabilities, rendering them unsuitable for combat.

Retiring the 32 F-22 Raptors would result in an annual savings of approximately $485 million, which could be allocated to the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

The expense of upgrading the F-22 Block 20

Estimations indicate that the update of the F-22 Block 20 would cost around $3.5 billion and would require a decade of work. Moreover, it would impose a burden on Lockheed Martin, as resources would need to be reallocated from the F-35 Block 4 program to the F-22.

Moore contends that upgrading the F-22 Block 20 is not a sensible option due to the exorbitant cost and time involved, as well as the potential impact on the development of the F-35 Block 4.

The History of the F-22 Raptor

The F-22 Raptor was chosen by the United States Air Force as a result of the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program. While it has never been engaged in air-to-air combat, F-22s conducted strikes in Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria in 2014.

Originally, the plan was to acquire 750 F-22s, but the program was scaled down to 187 operational aircraft in 2009 due to high costs, a lack of air-to-air missions at the time, and the emergence of the more affordable and versatile F-35 Lightning II.

What lies ahead for the F-22?

The decision to retire or retain the F-22 Block 20 and allocate resources to the NGAD program remains in the hands of Congress. Meanwhile, the discussion about the combat effectiveness and capability of the F-22 Raptor continues to be a contentious topic in the military and defense community.

The US Air Force continues to explore new avenues to enhance its capabilities and maintain air superiority. The F-22 Raptor may continue to evolve to meet the evolving needs of the 21st century.

In summary

While the F-22 Raptor is renowned for its potential in combat, the truth is that many of these fighters are not prepared for actual combat.

Upgrading the F-22 Block 20 would entail a costly and time-consuming effort, and Congress may opt to retire these aircraft and allocate resources to more modern and promising programs like NGAD. Only time will reveal how the role of the F-22 Raptor will evolve in America’s defense strategy.

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