The first fifth-generation fighter in history, the F-22 Raptors United States Air ForceIt has been in the spotlight for years. There are more and more voices within the Pentagon calling for its withdrawal in order to concentrate all budgetary and technological efforts on developing a sixth-generation aircraft and reinforcing the F-35. the lieutenant general Richard Moore, deputy chief of staff for plans and programs of the Air Force, has assured that the United States cannot use its planes F-22 Block 20 in a hypothetical conflict and that its update would require too much effort and money. “They will never be part of the fighting force. They don’t have the latest communications or fire the latest weapons. Nor do they possess the most modern electronic warfare capabilities,” he argued.
Moore added that it would cost about $3.5 billion to prepare these planes for combat. Another hurdle would be the time it takes to upgrade it for war. It would take ten years, he said, since the maker Lockheed Martin, which builds both the F-22 and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, is “understaffed” so it would be “reasonable” to assume that the company would have to remove engineers from the F-35 block for the development of a hypothetical program for the F-22.
The US Air Force already tried last year to convince the US Congress to give the green light to the withdrawal of some units of its F-22 Raptor. Now insist again withdraw at least 32 aircraft, which represents 17% of the fleet, throughout 2023.
The main argument for “retiring” the F-22 is the high cost required for each operation as well as its maintenance, which causes a much lower availability rate. It is estimated that operating costs for the F-22 run to $70,000 per hour, more than double the cost of any other American fighter class. The data handled by some US congressmen indicate that it is more profitable to retire them and buy new planes than to keep them flying.
Air Force chief of acquisitions Andrew Hunter, reported to the House Armed Services Committee in late March to keep the fleet of 184 F-22s in service for the next six years (through 2030). would cost the Air Force $9 billion, which would be equivalent to the purchase of about 80 fifth-generation F-35 fighters, according to Military Watch Magazine.
Another factor handled by the US Armed Forces is the current obsolescence of Raptor avionics“even in comparison with the fourth-generation fighters of the early 2000s and even more so with fifth-generation competitors such as the F-35 and J-20,” says the aforementioned medium, which adds that this element questions its viability for the air to air combatas the lack of up-to-date data links limits their ability to contribute to modern network-centric operations.
Military Watch Magazine experts consider the F-35 and China’s fifth-generation J-20 fighter to have very significant avionics advantages over the F-22, “including more sophisticated radars and the use of distributed aperture systems, features that even expensive upgrades to the F-22 won’t provide.” Its obsolescence for high-end air superiority missions has also become a problem due to the fighter’s low versatility, meaning it cannot carry anti-surface missiles or advanced electronic warfare suites that allow it to operate in other roles as it once did. he F-15.
The F-22 Raptor remains operational for missions of all kinds. In February it was used to fire a missile to shoot down a Chinese spy balloon over the east coast of the United States. A week ago two US Air Force F-22 Raptors landed in the Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in a movement that reflects the rapprochement of the two allied countries against Chinese expansionism. Last year it marked 25 years as the world’s first fifth-generation fighter, with a development and production cost of $66.7 billion.