The F-22 Raptor, Obama’s First Major Weapon Systems Decision
One of the first weapon systems-related decisions the Obama administration will have to make is whether to purchase additional Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptors, after the last one of a 183 aircraft order has been delivered.
As retired U.S. Air Force and retired Lockheed-Martin, this decision and this aircraft naturally interest me.
According to The Hill, a group of 44 senators—25 Democrats and 19 Republicans—have sent Obama a letter pleading for continued F-22 production, a letter that said in part:
The F-22 Raptor is the nation’s most capable fighter and the world’s only operational fifth-generation fighter aircraft in full-rate production…The F-22 is a model production line and, since full-rate production began, the unit flyaway cost has decreased 35 percent.
Some, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates have opposed buying more F-22s in favor of the F-35, the newest multinational, multiservice Joint Strike Fighter, or “Lightning II” (also a Lockheed-Martin-led production effort) “an aircraft in development that is expected to be cheaper than the F-22.”
“But when Gates released the Pentagon’s request for an emergency supplemental spending measure to cover the remainder of the year, four F-22s were included,” according to The Hill.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a defense appropriator from a state home to Boeing (Lockheed Martin’s subcontractor on the Raptor), said in a statement:
Continued F-22 production is critical to both the national security and economic interests of our country…At a time when we are looking to create jobs and stimulate the economy, eliminating the $12 billion in economic activity and thousands of American jobs tied to F-22 production simply doesn’t make sense.
According to lawmakers quoted by The Hill, more than 25,000 people work for more than 1,000 suppliers in 44 states and estimated that another 70,000 people indirectly owe their jobs to the F-22 program.
Also, according to The Hill:
Bill Lynn, the designee to become the deputy secretary of Defense, said at his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that part of an early strategic review includes the Pentagon deciding on the right mix of F-22s and the Joint Strike Fighter.
Finally, according to The Hill, “The Pentagon and Congress have been at odds over how many more F-22s the Air Force should buy. Senior lawmakers from both parties want the Pentagon to buy more F-22s, but the Pentagon is resisting.”
Without, at this time, getting in the middle of this “at odds” issue, let me just provide some information about this great fighter, the F-22 Raptor, “Dominating the Skies. Overwhelming the Threat.”
The information comes from official Lockheed-Martin sites
The F-22 is the only fighter capable of simultaneously conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions with near impunity. This is accomplished with a never-before-seen standard of survivability even while facing large numbers of sophisticated airborne and ground-based threats.
In addition to being America’s most prominent air-superiority fighter, the F-22 evolved from its original concept to become a lethal, survivable and flexible multimission fighter. By taking advantage of emerging technologies the F-22 has emerged as a superior platform for many diverse missions including intelligence gathering, surveillance, reconnaissance and electronic attack.
The Raptor is operational today, protecting our homeland and combat ready for worldwide deployment. Two squadrons of F-22s are assigned to Air Combat Command’s 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va. And two squadrons are assigned to the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. Raptor pilots and maintainers train at Tyndall AFB, Fla., while operational testing is conducted at Edwards AFB, Calif., and Nellis AFB, Nev. New F-22s continue to roll from the production line and will soon operate out of Holloman AFB, N.M., and Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
The F-22 is leading U.S. Air Force transformation efforts. Its ability to penetrate anti-access airspace, while finding, tracking and targeting enemy air and ground-based threats will ensure freedom to maneuver and freedom from attack for all joint forces. The F-22’s unique combination of advanced stealth, supercruise, advanced maneuverability and integrated avionics will allow it to “kick down the door,” and then follow up with 24-hour stealth operations and freedom of movement for all follow-on forces – fully leveraging the Raptor’s technological advantages.
The F-22’s all-aspect stealth and high speed / high altitude capability gives U.S. forces and allies an advantage that will endure well into the future. By incorporating revolutionary advances in technology, the F-22 is ready to dominate any and all adversaries from the outset of any conflict. This capability provides a critical edge to joint force commanders and acts as an effective deterrent to future adversaries.
Length 62 ft / 18.90 m
Height 16.7 ft / 5.09 m
Wingspan 44.5 ft / 13.56 m
Wing area 840 sq ft / 78.04 sq m
Horizontal tail span 29 ft / 8.84 m
Weight empty 43,340 lb /19,700 kg
Maximum take-off weight 83,500 lb / 38,000 kg
with two external wing tanks 18,000 lb / 8,200 kg
26,000 lb / 11,900 kg
Speed Mach 2 class
Range* > 1,600 n. mi
Power plant Two F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles
Engine thrust 35,000 lb / 15,876 kg
* with two external fuel tanks