PICTURES: Lockheed rolls out last F-22A from Marietta plant

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Lockheed Martin has rolled out the last F-22A Raptor on order by the US Air Force, to close a nearly 15-year-old final assembly line that produced a total of 187 operational fighters.

After a ceremony marking the milestone event with employees, the final F-22A, bearing the tail number 4195, was moved to the flight line outside Lockheed's massive factory in Marietta, Georgia. It is scheduled for delivery to the USAF late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2012.

Meanwhile, Lockheed is implementing a plan to preserve carefully the F-22's special tooling and the manufacturing knowledge of its existing workforce. The air force has revealed no plans to restart F-22 production, but the tools will not be scrapped. Lockheed has said the equipment may be needed again for a future mid-life upgrade programme.

final f-22 at lockheed martin marietta, lockheed martin
final f-22 on production line, lockheed martin

 © Lockheed Martin

The same Marietta factory also produces the C-130J Super Hercules tactical transport and assembles new wing skins for the P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The space occupied by the F-22 will be converted into an assembly area for the centre wing of the F-35 Lightning II. C-5M Galaxy modifications are installed at another Lockheed facility in Marietta.

The USAF originally planned to buy 750 F-22s, but this number was significantly reduced over the years as a result of cost overruns in the development phase. In 2006, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld finally slashed the planned F-22 order from more than 300 to the current number of 187. Two aircraft have been lost in crashes.