Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter is known for its capability and promise, but how combat-ready are they really?

The F-22 Raptor: what was promised

The F-22 Raptor is hailed as the most advanced air superiority fighter in service today, with unprecedented air dominance and combat capabilities.

The United States Air Force considers the F-22 Raptor to be an exponentially lethal combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics. The Raptor can perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, making it a key element in US military strategy in the 21st century.

However, the reality is that, until now, the F-22 has never been involved in air-to-air combat, and we don’t know how it would perform in actual combat operations.

Is the F-22 Raptor as lethal as you think?

The problem with the F-22 Block 20

This month, the US Air Force has asked Congress to remove 32 F-22 Block 20 fighters from its 2024 budget, arguing that they cannot be used in combat. Upgrading these fighters would require a costly and lengthy effort, negatively impacting Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II program.

Lt. Gen. Richard Moore argues that the Block 20s do not have the latest communications, weapons, or electronic warfare capabilities, making them unsuitable for combat.

Retiring the 32 F-22 Raptors would save approximately $485 million per year, which could be used for the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

The cost of upgrading the F-22 Block 20

It is estimated that the update of the F-22 Block 20 would cost about 3.5 billion dollars and would take a decade of work. In addition, it would place a burden on Lockheed Martin, which would have to reallocate resources from the F-35 Block 4 program to the F-22.

Moore argues that upgrading the F-22 Block 20 does not make sense, as the cost and time required would be exorbitant, and it would affect the development of the F-35 Block 4.

Is the F-22 Raptor as lethal as you think?

The History of the F-22 Raptor

The United States Air Force selected the F-22 Raptor as a result of the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program. Although it has never been used in air-to-air combat, in 2014, F-22s carried out strikes in Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria.

Originally planned to purchase 750 F-22s, the program was reduced to 187 operational aircraft in 2009 due to high costs, a lack of air-to-air missions at the time, and the development of the F-35 Lightning II, which proved to be more affordable and versatile.

What does the future hold for the F-22?

The decision to withdraw or not the F-22 Block 20 and allocate the resources to the NGAD program is still in the hands of Congress. Meanwhile, the debate over the combat effectiveness and capability of the F-22 Raptor continues to be a hot topic in the military and defense community.

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

In summary

Although the F-22 Raptor is known for its promise of unprecedented combat capabilities, the reality is that many of these fighters are not combat-ready.

Upgrading the F-22 Block 20 would require a costly and lengthy effort, and Congress may decide to retire these aircraft and direct resources toward more modern and promising programs like NGAD. Only time will tell how the role of the F-22 Raptor in America’s defense strategy will evolve.