Five months after the US Congress approved the cancellation of the Lockheed Martin F-22, the air force is still deciding whether to preserve or scrap the production tooling.
The options under discussion include preserving at least the core of Lockheed's ability to build F-22 components and systems, although restarting production is not the USAF leadership's intent, says acquisition chief Lt Gen Mark Shackelford.
Rather, USAF officials are considering the cost of preserving tooling to sustain the F-22, which could include a service life extension programme in several years. The same tooling could also be used to repair or replace damaged Raptors.
Shackelford has not discussed the timeline for the USAF's decision-making process. Lockheed is scheduled to deliver the last of 187 F-22s in early 2012, although the long-lead elements of the supply chain could begin shutting down late this year.
© Staff Sgt Taylor Worley/US Air Force
The Obama administration in September defeated an attempt by F-22 supporters in Congress to continue building the advanced stealth fighter.
As lawmakers debated the issue from April to September, the USAF asked the Rand Project Air Force analytical team to study options to ending F-22A production. Rand's team briefed lawmakers on a draft report last June, and the final version of its report was published on 3 March.
The Rand team was asked to analyse four different options: shutting down production; continuing full production; scaling back to building five F-22s annually; and restarting production after a two-year delay.
Unless the Obama administration reverses course, the only option available now is to restart production after a two-year delay. Taking that step would itself require a dramatic policy change, and require the air force to preserve Lockheed's production capacity.
Rand's analysis shows that most of Lockheed's supply chain could be reactivated after two years, with very few suppliers leaving the market or going out of business because of the F-22 termination.
But the costs of restarting production after such a shutdown would increase significantly. Assuming a 75-aircraft production run over five years, the average unit cost per F-22 is $227 million. If production continued without stopping, the average is $173 million, according to the Rand study.