It might be on the artwork for this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo, but the US Air Force’s Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is not making a planned repeat appearance at the show, being staged at Royal Air Force base Fairford in Gloucestershire from 17-18 July.

Three of the USAF’s new stealth fighters made their first European appearance at the cancelled event last year, but with production of the Raptor expected to soon come an end, similar commitments for 2009 – also originally scheduled to have included June’s Paris air show – have been axed.

F-22 RIAT 2008 - Craig Hoyle 
© Craig Hoyle/Flight International

USAF F-22s appeared at last year's cancelled RIAT event

The fifth-generation F-22 remains the subject of massive debate on whether production should be extended, with president Barack Obama fighting still fighting a move by the US Congress to add further examples to a programme he wants to cap at 187 aircraft.

Its withdrawal from the European show circuit has added to a torrid few months experienced by F-22 officials. The programme is still recovering from its first fatal accident, with Lockheed test pilot David Cooley having been killed in a crash while operating from Edwards AFB, California in March. Japan’s attempts to gain permission to buy an export version of the Raptor have also been repeatedly blocked by Washington.