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The U.S. Air Force Plans to Retire 32 F-22 “Raptors”, But Faces Opposition from Congress

Anggota-anggota Kongres Amerika Syarikat itu enggan membenarkan USAF menamatkan khidmat pesawat pejuang generasi kelima F-22 itu kerana bimbang program pembangunan pesawat air dominance generasi keenam (Next Generation Air Dominance – NGAD) akan berdepan dengan kelewatan.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA)  — The United States Air Force (USAF) plans to phase out approximately 32 of its F-22 “Raptor” air-dominance fighters starting in 2030, but this initiative is being obstructed by members of Congress.

These lawmakers are hesitant to allow the USAF to retire the fifth-generation F-22 fighters, fearing delays in the development of the sixth-generation Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

Congress insists that all 32 F-22 Block 20 aircraft remain operational beyond 2030, or until the NGAD aircraft are ready to replace the roles previously filled by the F-22.

They argue that the F-22 Block 20s, lacking modern systems and primarily used for training, should continue in service.

Furthermore, Congress is advocating for substantial financial allocations to upgrade the F-22 Block 20s with modern equipment and systems comparable to the F-22 Block 30/35 and other current USAF fighters like the F-35 and F-15EX.

F-22
F-22 Raptor

 

Currently, the USAF has 185 F-22 fighters, with 32 being the less equipped Block 20 variant primarily used for training.

The Block 20 variants lack advanced systems and components like IRST (Infra Red Search Tracking) and newer radar which is why they are not deployed in frontline missions.

If the USAF were to retire the 32 F-22 Block 20s, it would retain 153 F-22s for its needs.

However, Congress is not only reluctant to retire these aircraft but is also prepared to spend approximately $1.6 billion to upgrade the F-22 Block 20s to the Block 30/35 variant.

The budget for upgrading a single F-22 Block 20 to the Block 30/35 variant is estimated at $50 million per unit.

The USAF plans to spend $1.6 billion to upgrade the less capable F-22 variant to the F-22 Block 30/35 model to meet challenges from advanced aircraft such as China’s J-20 “Mighty Dragon” and Russia’s Su-57 “Felon.”

J-20
J-20 “Mighty Dragon”
Su-57
Su-57 “Felon”

 

The U.S. has reportedly spent around $64 billion to develop the fifth-generation F-22 “Raptor,” which was first introduced in 1997 but made its maiden flight in September 2005.

After investing such a vast sum in developing this aircraft designed to dominate air combat, only 187 F-22 Raptors were built.

Production of this highly advanced fifth-generation aircraft ended in 2011 by Lockheed Martin.

With development costs (including R&D) reaching approximately $256 billion, the per-unit cost of the F-22 is estimated at $330 million, while the cost of operating the aircraft per hour is about $70,000.

In comparison, it costs $33,000 per hour to operate the F-35 fighter, which currently serves as the USAF’s interim replacement for the F-22 until the NGAD is developed.

F-22 Raptor
F-22 Raptor.

 

Among the highly sensitive technologies on the F-22 is its superior stealth capability, far exceeding that of the F-35 Lightning used by the USAF and its allies.

The radar cross-section of the F-22 Raptor is significantly smaller than that of the F-35, described as no larger than that of a bee.

The Raptor features a “top secret coating” that enhances its stealth beyond other stealth aircraft, by absorbing radar signatures instead of just deflecting them. — DSA

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