Lockheed Martin confirms the US Air Force has decided to retain tooling for the F-22 after the production line in Marietta, Georgia, shuts down as scheduled in 2012.
The decision means that USAF officials will be able to repair and modernise the service's aircraft, or manufacture new Raptors.
Lockheed says tools with "near-term needs" will be retained on site. Others will be preserved and stored in large, bar-coded steel containers commonly used by the shipping industry, which it says reduces "costs associated with conventional warehousing".
Air force officials were not immediately available to comment, but have previously said that a decision to preserve F-22 tooling would be intended to support a future service life-extension programme for the stealth fighter.
At the same time, the decision also implicitly preserves the option to restart production if future administrations decide that the USAF needs more than 186 F-22s.
Congress in 2009 approved the Obama administration's decision not to extend F-22 production beyond the programme of record set by the Bush administration in 2006. But the Congressional approval came only after several months of heated debate.
Meanwhile, Rand's Project Air Force analytical group published a study on 3 March showing that the F-22 supply chain could be reactivated after a two-year gap. Rand studied not only the availability of tooling, but also whether key suppliers could leave the industry within this period of time.
However, Rand concluded that restarting production after a two-year work stoppage would significantly increase costs.
Assuming a 75-aircraft production run over five years, it found the cost per aircraft would be $227 million. If production continued without interruption, the average unit cost would be $173 million.
Source: Flight International