Preserving the F-22 Credible Via 2030 Will Price At Least $9 Billion, USAF Leaders Say

Preserving the F-22 Raptor‘s skill to prevail in air fight by the top of the last decade will value greater than $9 billion, and that determine is dependent upon lawmakers permitting the Air Pressure to divest 32 of the oldest fighters, in accordance with funds paperwork, service spokespersons and USAF management’s Congressional testimony.

But when Congress doesn’t permit the retirements—an motion took in final 12 months’s funds—the Air Pressure must rethink not solely its F-22 plans however the Subsequent-Era Air Dominance program as properly, since all of the financial savings the service expects to reap from not working, sustaining, or upgrading these 32 plane went into the NGAD account, senior officers mentioned.

“Our funds assumes the success of that proposal” to retire the oldest F-22s, Air Pressure acquisition govt Andrew Hunter advised the Home Armed Providers Committee’s tactical aviation panel in March 29 testimony.

The Air Pressure’s proposed fiscal 12 months 2024-2028 spending on the F-22 quantities to $4.2 billion in procurement—with one other $1.74 billion “to completion,” circa 2030—and $3.2 billion in analysis, improvement, check, and analysis, for a complete of $9.06 billion by the top of the last decade. That determine doesn’t embrace operations and upkeep.

The most important objects are for “sensor enhancement”—requested at $4.13 billion—and reliability and maintainability upgrades, requested at $2.43 billion.

Different main procurement efforts embrace Hyperlink 16 modifications, identification, good friend or foe methods, coach and simulator modifications, anti-jam/anti-spoofing place, navigation, and timing enhancements and modifications to the F-22’s Pratt & Whitney F119 engines.

The Air Pressure additionally desires to spend $553 million on stealthy long-range gas tanks and pylons. Price range paperwork name for 326 tanks and 286 pylons, which might give every plane at the very least two full units of every. The F-22 can fly at speeds as much as Mach 1.2 with the tanks and pylons, funds paperwork say.

The tanks and pylons, in addition to stealthy-looking pods with an obvious dielectric front-end aperture, have been seen in flight check photographs of F-22s captured round Lockheed’s Palmdale, Calif., services. They had been additionally proven in an artist’s idea launched by Air Fight Command final 12 months, with out a proof of what the underwing shops are.

Air Fight Command’s Gen. Mark Kelly posted this conceptual picture of an F-22 firing the AIM-260 Joint Superior Tactical Missile on Instagram in 2022, providing the primary official glimpse of the brand new weapon. USAF illustration

Aviation consultants speculate that the slender pods comprise infrared search-and-track methods (IRST) and should produce other sensors, as properly. A former Lockheed program official has beforehand advised Air & House Forces Journal that there’s inadequate “actual property” throughout the F-22’s fuselage to host an IRST, an alternate methodology of detecting an adversary plane constructed with low radar cross part, like China’s J-20 fighter.

USAF spending plans would see F-22 procurement funding ramp as much as over $1 billion a 12 months in fiscal 2026 and 2027, dropping off sharply in 2028 to $426.8 billion. RDT&E on the fighter ends in 2028.

Counting earlier spending going again to fiscal 2018, the Air Pressure is projecting the whole value of retaining the F-22 succesful towards present and future threats at $16.2 billion, in accordance with an Air Pressure spokesperson. That involves greater than $100 million for every of the 148 or so F-22s the Air Pressure plans to retain.

The jets the Air Pressure desires to divest have been used for fundamental expertise coaching and never been stored to the identical configuration because the frontline fleet. Air Pressure Secretary Frank Kendall has mentioned he estimates it will value $50 million apiece to improve the them to the present operational fleet configuration, and significantly extra to maintain them per the remainder of the fleet on high of the price of flying and sustaining them.

Although Air Fight Command has thought-about requesting funding to improve the previous F-22s yearly for at the very least eight years, the proposal has at all times misplaced out to increased priorities, former ACC commanders have mentioned.

The Air Pressure requested Congress final 12 months to retire the identical 32 F-22s however was rebuffed. It’s asking once more this 12 months not solely as a result of these plane are “now not operationally consultant,” however the associated fee to deliver them as much as full functionality can be “prohibitive,” Lt. Gen. Richard G. Moore, deputy chief of employees for plans and applications, advised the HASC tactical aviation panel. They’re additionally now not aggressive with China’s greatest stealth fighters, he mentioned.

“Upgrading the Block 20s to a fight configuration is cost-prohibitive and really time intensive,” Moore testified. “Primarily based on essentially the most superior weapons that an F-22 Block 20 can carry now, it’s not aggressive with the [Shenyang] J-20, with essentially the most superior weapons the Chinese language can placed on it.”

And whereas the Air Pressure sometimes doesn’t specify which cost-saving strikes pay for which new applications, “on this case, the entire assets that got here from the Block 20 went on to NGAD, and we consider that we should get to NGAD so as to have the ability to proceed confronting Chinese language aggression into the ‘30s,” Moore mentioned. “And in order that, to us, was a commerce that was price making.”

Opponents of the F-22 divestment argue the Air Pressure can proceed to make use of the jets for coaching, however Moore mentioned the configuration of the cockpit is so completely different from that of frontline plane that “there’s detrimental studying that happens.” Pilots must “unlearn a number of the issues that they realized within the Block 20 once they go to an operational plane.”

Pressed by panel members on what the Air Pressure will do if not permitted to retire the oldest F-22s, Moore mentioned the reply will depend upon the extent of funding appropriated for the F-22 program

As for what would occur to the NGAD account—since that’s the place the F-22 financial savings are presupposed to go—Moore replied, “I couldn’t say. … We’ll must we’ll must work with the Congress and decide how we’ll make the F-22 program make it to the top of the 12 months, within the occasion that divestiture is prohibited however continued operations aren’t appropriated.”

In any occasion, an Air Pressure spokesperson advised Air & House Forces Journal the service “doesn’t plan to modernize these plane to a comparable configuration to obtain nearly all of the deliberate F-22 upgrades.”

Neither the F-22 nor NGAD accounts embrace funding for the AIM-260 Joint Superior Tactical Missile (JATM), which is to be their major weapon.