Congress May Block Air Force F-22 Retirement Plan


The Drive says Congress may block the Air Force’s plan to scrap 33 F-22s to save money and begin the process of retiring the entire fleet of 186 sometime in the 2030s. The Air Force says the planes in question are early models and used mostly for training and other non-combat roles. They cost a lot to maintain and that money would be better spent on new F-35s. Also, the scrapped F-22s would be a source of pricey parts for the rest of the fleet, the Air Force argues.

Instead of retiring the planes, the House Armed Services Committee wants the 33 planes upgraded to the same standard as the rest of the fleet at a cost of $1.8 billion. That figure could grow because the Pentagon also wants to add more capabilities to the frontline fighters and the committee says the 33 older planes should get those upgrades too. There are already plans for successors to the Raptor, including a crewed aircraft and a crew-optional fighter.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Our national debt is $30T and rising. It stood at $6T when W took office in 2001. Unfunded liabilities stand at $300T. The government must stop living beyond its means and must pay off this debt. Otherwise we become another Weimar Republic amd the entire military is scrapped.

    • Uh, there’s ample pork in the budget, bloated bureaucracies, handouts to buy votes, …..

      Do you want to be defended against initiation of force?

      The world is still full of Putins, Maos, Kims, …..

  2. Wow. I must be getting old. I thought F22s were new! Re-engine B52s and keep the Warthog flying but scrap the F22s? Something screwy going on!

    • Don’t forget we just spent a butt-ton of money on upgrading the F-15 another very old airframe. F-22 were going to be the thing just a few years ago. We better have something much better hidden among the stacks of dollar bills.

  3. The Raptor is the most capable fighter we’ve ever had, so of course this Administration wants to get rid of it. But at least West Point graduates will know what pronouns to use.

    • @ . (whoever this might be): If you studied the history of the F22 you’d see that THIS administration is not the opponent of the F22…. The F22 has had it’s detractors in the Republican party of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Warner, and McCain.

    • The air force and current administration has realised the mistakes they’ve made with the F-22 project.
      1. Curtailing and shutting down the production of the aircraft has resulted in the air forrce not having a war capable frontline fighter. This is because at any given point, the F22 maintains ~50% combat readiness. So around 75 aircraft in total. That, coupled with the high maintainance and turnaround timeframe means it’s almost impossible to use the F22 in a sustained engagement that is closely fought (SU35, J20 etc.).
      2. Preventing the export of the F22 to close allies means the US bears all of the considerable costs to build the aircraft, and numbers of super capable aircraft in NATO are restricted onlyt to the US.

      They’ve realised that they can’t restart the factories to build the aircraft because it’s too expensive. The new fighter program will only START to introduce the aircraft in mid 2030s, so combat ready capability in 2040s.

      China has emerged as a proper threat, and they wish they had the F22 at the numbers they’d originally envisioned to replace the F15 instead of supporting it (They’ve ordered a new version of the F15 because they can’t get the F22 numbers up).

      All in all, they’ve spent 15 years messing this program up, and now that it’s in the shape that they wanted in 2008, they now realise they massively need the plane, and they’re trying everything to get as much as they can out of it.

      • Thanks for relevant information instead of emotional blabbing.

        Do you mean 75 aircraft NET of unserviceabilities at any time? Russ says 186 of which 33 are proposed for scrapping.

        What are the prospects for improving serviceable rate of the F-22s?

        What does it do that the F-15 cannot?

          • Thanks.

            What does the F-15 do that the F-22 cannot?

            (The F-22 does have high-bandwidth datalink, a motivation for Canada to buy the F-35. Being able to exchange radar data reduces the number of fighters each country has to scramble for an incursion, as each country’s fighter backs the others up, giving broader coverage when both are in the air.

        • 50% of the current F22 aircraft are not immediately available for combat missions. This is standard that not all aircraft arre ready, but for the F22 it’s quite high – reasons explained by others in this thread. Prospects for improving the serviceable rates are not high unfortunately.

          The main thing the F15 can do that the F22 cannot is to be built for affordable pricing.

          The guys at Skunworks did think ahead, but the rate of advancement in technology means that some things are not foreseeable. There is plenty of room in the plane for more add-ons for example. But the core software and systems are not old and can only integrate with the F35 to a certain extent.

          At the end of the day, the F22 was the right plane at the wrong time.

      • You have to remember it’s been 30 years since the fall of the Soviet Union and after that event it seemed hard to find a reason for the F-22. China and North Korea weren’t even a second thought.

        Then 9/11 came and we spent the next 20 years chasing guys with AK-47’s.

        It was only in the late Obama administation that we ever-so-slowly started to move toward facing across the Pacific and then, Russia was still not even an asterisk.

        What a difference a couple of years, or a couple of months makes.

    • A couple of things.

      The F-22 is more maintenance intensive than the F-35, partly because its “stealthy skin” requires more attention.

      But the biggest reason the Pentagon want to “move it along” is the same reason its been trying to get rid of the A-10 for 30 years.

      It doesn’t have the networking capability with, well, pretty much everything that the F-35 does.

      Moreover, the core operating software is interwoven with the the systems software, so it’s combat software can’t easily upgraded without re-doing everything. The F-35 has the parts separated so software updates to its subsystems can be done “modularly” , hopefully for the next 50 years.

      • Thanks.

        Sounds like an example of not thinking ahead on software architecture.

        But it seems there are failures of physical components, which USAF hopes to cannibalize from scrapping older airplanes.

        I am advised by CAF people that the F-22 has significant datalink capability.