The renamed Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22A Raptor formally entered service on 15 December, even as US Air Force officials worked behind the scenes to secure a proposal to extend the production line by two years to 2012 and add four aircraft to the procurement total.
USAF leaders felt comfortable enough about the chances of their proposal to publicly discuss previously closely-guarded details.
“There has been some receipt of the intention to maintain a warm F-22 line at least until we get a [full-rate Lockheed F-35] Joint Strike Fighter [JSF] line” after 2013, says secretary of the air force Michael Wynne. “What that means in terms of rate is still being determined, but I have a feeling the rate will diminish so as to allow an extension.”
The four additional aircraft raise the total planned procurement to 183, or almost 300 fewer aircraft than the USAF had stated as a requirement just a few months ago. However, newly installed chief of staff Gen Michael Moseley supports the new plan.
“The 183 number still gives me an opportunity to field seven squadrons,” says Moseley. “And with those seven squadrons of the finest air dominance fighters ever built, we can get at the theatre tasking and we can respond to that tasking.”
The slower production rate could dramatically impact the F-22’s per-unit cost, perhaps raising unit acquisition cost from $133.3 million to about $150 million, says Moseley.
The USAF plans to offset some of that extra expense by freezing the configuration at the current design and limiting planned spiral upgrades for the Raptor.
STEPHEN TRIMBLE/WASHINGTON DC