Lockheed Martin hopes to boost sales of F-22 Raptors to the Pentagon by proposing a long-range interdiction version to replace the USAF's F-15E Strike Eagle and F-117 Stealth Fighters.
Micky Blackwell, president and chief operating officer of the company's Aeronautics sector, says the USAF is looking at clawing back the 'two wings' worth of F-22s that would be cut from the programme in the Pentagon's quadrennial defence review process by buying a 'strike' Raptor.
Some 100 aircraft were cut from the projected 438 aircraft order in the Pentagon's major strategic review which is still under consideration by an independent panel of defence experts.
"We will have a long run of aircraft for many years to come," he says. "At least the number prior to the QDR and much larger."
The company says the Raptor's inherent "first day of war attack capability" makes the newly-proposed role a natural progression.
"When we saw the air supremacy F-15 Eagles sitting on the ground during Desert Storm after they had defeated the Iraqis, we decided to put ground attack features into the aircraft," says Blackwell.
Currently the USAF is doing a study into the F-15E and F-117 replacement which will report in a year.
The Raptor can carry two of the new precision-guided joint direct attack munitions (JDAM) in stealth mode inside the aircraft's weapons bay.
The majority of changes will be to software in the aircraft's 'information architecture'. The strike version would come on line from 2010.
Blackwell stresses the cost of the programme is being contained. "It will cost just what we said it would and we will build it with a production cost of less than we proposed in 1990."
The restoration of the aircraft lost in the QDR would not be required to keep to within the proposed price, he says.