The F-22 Raptor may be considered the most preeminent air superiority platform the world has ever seen, but the high-profile Raptor was on the verge of becoming a new bomber platform.
F-22 Raptor bomber?
In the difficult times of the height of the Cold War in the 1980s, the need for stealth and an integrated air strike was not lacking, given the threat posed by the Soviet Union. It was necessary to circumvent the advanced Soviet-designed air defenses and rapidly achieve catastrophic effects to paralyze the enemy.
At that time, the B-52 had exhausted its life cycle for several decades and had not yet been modernized to the extent that it is today. The B-2 Spirit had fallen short.
Perhaps this means that the Pentagon intended to address the bomber shortfall created by the decision to cut B-2 production short and massively reduce the planned size of the fleet. The Cold War was drawing near, and at the time, it might have seemed that there was less need for a high-end stealth bomber like the B-2.
The escalation of tensions between the United States and Russia in the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, may have resurrected belief in the need for a larger stealth-bomb attack fleet, a circumstance that may have inspired the idea. To adapt the F-22 of the 90s era as a new bomber.
Tensions with Russia and China promoted the project.
At the same time, however, there was a compelling need to strive to stay ahead of the Russian Su-27 and Chinese J-10. Considerations about a bomber platform for the F-22 point to a deficit in the bomber fleet that the Air Force is currently trying to correct.
The service has been working on a vectored bomber fleet strategy for many years. As the B1-B bombers near retirement, the highly efficient and revered B-52 is, of course, low stealth, and the B-2 fleet had been massively cut short at the end of the Cold War.
The high command of the Air Force affirms that there continues to be a need to solve the deficit of bombers in the entire service, one of the reasons why the possibility of accelerating the development of the B-21 Raider and increasing the size is being discussed so much of the planned B-21 fleet.
Modernize the bomber fleet.
To ensure that the Air Force’s bomber force remains a significant threat to adversaries until sufficient numbers of B-21s arrive, the service is making significant efforts to maintain and modernize its fleet of B-52, B1-B, and B-2 bombers through upgrades and relocations.
Given the state of the threat landscape, a new generation of air superiority fighters was also desperately needed. However, the service cut F-22 production below its original plan, much like the sudden and unanticipated reduction in the size of the B-2 bomber force.
After the Cold War ended, a significant attack platform was no longer necessary for the superpowers. The decisions were taken during the 1990s, commonly known as the procurement holiday.
Some weapons designers may now regret the choice to decrease the bomber and fighter fleet in light of the quick shift in the threat environment towards great power rivalry.