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This Might Be Why America Never Sold the F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter

F-22 Cost
Image Credit: Raytheon.

One word: cost. 

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor—an American single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft—long has been debated regarding its potential sale to other countries.

Perhaps smartly, those who are against selling the F-22 fear that sensitive parts and next-generation technologies could land in the hands of enemies.

“The Collier Award-winning F-22 Raptor has delivered on its promise to provide unprecedented air dominance,” Lockheed Martin says on its website.

“The 5th Generation F-22’s unique combination of stealth, speed, agility, and situational awareness, combined with lethal long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, makes it the best air dominance fighter in the world,” it continues.

Potential Export Plan

According to the War Zone, “the matter of exporting the jets still stirs strong opinions more than a decade after Congress made it impossible to do so for fear of the secrets of the aircraft’s many sensitive components and capabilities leaking out. However, lawmakers did also ask the U.S. Air Force to look into exactly what it might take to make an export version of the F-22.”

The site, which was able to obtain a declassified copy of a heavily redacted briefing titled “F-22 Export Configuration Study” that was dated March 2010, noted that “the Air Force had been required to conduct this study into the feasibility of an export-configured F-22 through a provision in the ‘SAP Annex of the 2009 Appropriations Bill.’”

It continued: “The document also says that service requested and got approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense for more time to complete this report, work on which only started in December 2009. The Air Force had already conducted one F-22 export study, together with Lockheed Martin, in 1998, and a Red Team from the service had also reexamined security concerns around transfers of sensitive technologies associated with the Raptor in 2006. Lockheed Martin had carried out its own internal export feasibility review in March 2009, as well.”

Cost Estimates

In the end, the study outlined that there were two cost estimates. Option one, “which factored in a two-year pause in Raptor production, would cost approximately $11.6 billion, overall, including a production run of forty aircraft, each with an average unit cost of $232.5 million.”

Under this particular plan, the Air Force estimated that the first Raptor could be delivered between six and seven years after the award of a formal contract.

For option number two, the estimated cost came in at more than $8 billion. This “was based on the possibility of work on FMS F-22s beginning immediately after the end of production of the jets for the Air Force. The potential cost savings came from not needing to spend any more on restarting the Raptor line, as well as lower expected unit costs, only $165 million per jet, or close to $184 million in today’s dollars, which would have come from various efficiencies gained from continuous production,” the site added.

F-22 Raptor

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev.– The lights of the Las Vegas Strip serve as the backdrop for an F-22 Raptor from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., during Red Flag 10-2. Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise involving the air forces of the United States and its allies. The exercise is conducted on the 15,000-square-mile Nevada Test and Training Range, north of Las Vegas.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Bucky Parrish)

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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