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The F-22 Raptor is the United States' fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter developed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing for the United States Air Force (USAF). The aircraft has been specifically developed to be an air superiority aircraft. The Raptor's job is to seize and maintain control of an airspace. Consequently, the F-22 operates primarily in air-to-air regimes.
The Raptor's special abilities lie in how it combines its various capabilities. Its unique stealth characteristics make it difficult to see on radars. The plane's two engines give it very high speeds, so it can catch up to and cut off threats quickly. At the same time, the F-22's agility and maneuverability give it many advantages in combat.
The F-22 Raptor is the first operational aircraft to combine supercruise, stealth, and high maneuverability. The F-22 is so advanced that it cannot be exported to other countries and the jet comes at a high price. The high costs are one of several reasons why Lockheed Martin did not build very many Raptors.
But how many F-22 Raptors have actually been built?
How many F-22 Raptors were built?
In total, Lockheed Martin built 195 F-22 Raptors. Eight of them are prototypes and test versions. The remaining 187 are operational aircraft delivered to the United States Air Force as part of the fleet.
The final F-22 left the assembly line in 2011. The Raptor was designed to replace the F-15 Eagle as the USAF's primary air superiority fighter and was first flown in 1997 and entered service in 2005.
The F-22 Raptors have been used in a variety of military operations, including Operation Inherent Resolve, which was the US-led intervention in Syria in 2014. It has also been used in training exercises and deployed to various locations worldwide. The Raptor is also a frequent visitor in air shows, displays, and flyovers at major national sporting events.
The advanced jet has proven to be an effective and reliable aircraft for the USAF. Its advanced capabilities have enabled it to dominate the airspace in combat and training scenarios.
Why Were Only so Few Built?
Military aircraft are often built in large numbers. For example, many experts estimate that Lockheed Martin will build around 3,100 F-35 Lightning II fighter jets in total for all the participating nations in the JSF program.
There are several reasons why the US only built 195 Raptors.
One of the biggest reasons for the relatively low number of F-22 Raptors was the aircraft's high production and development costs. The estimated cost per aircraft is about $377 million when you include development, production, and upgrades. That is significantly higher than any other fighter aircraft in production at the time. The advanced technologies that the F-22 needed were expensive to develop and manufacture. The cost exceeded the USAF budget, and it was deemed impossible to continue the program.
The high costs associated with the F-22 program brought political opposition from members of Congress. Several members argued that the massive costs associated with the F-22 program could be better spent on other defense projects, such as the multi-role F-35 Lightning II.
Another reason was the changing needs of the USAF. The USAF realized that they needed aircraft that could fill multiple roles, not just one. The F-22 was designed as an air superiority fighter with the sole objective of establishing dominance. The Raptor is, therefore, less effective in carrying out other tasks, such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. In addition, the international security threats had changed significantly from when the Raptor was designed. The US was, in other words, engaged in other types of conflict - the War on Terror did not need advanced fifth-generation stealth aircraft like the F-22.
How Many F-22 Raptors Were Originally Planned?
The F-22 has its roots back to 1981 when the US Air Force identified several requirements for what they called an Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), which was supposed to replace the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. The ATF program and USAF requirements were influenced by the threats at the time - Emerging worldwide threats and new developments in the Soviet Air Force.
The first prototype of what later became the F-22 - the YF-22 test aircraft - first flew in 1990. Lockheed Martin and Boeing, who had collaborated to develop the YF-22, competed against Northrop and McDonnell Douglas and their YF-23 plane. After a thorough evaluation, the US Air Force announced Lockheed and Boeing's bid as the winner in 1991, and the program entered full-scale development.
When the Cold War ended in 1991 and the Soviet Union dissolved, the threat landscape changed. So did the US Department of Defense's focus on the development of new weapons systems and aircraft. As a result, the F-22 program was moved and postponed several times.
Originally, the US Air Force envisioned purchasing 750 ATF aircraft (which later became the F-22). As early as 1990, this number was reduced to 648 aircraft. After the end of the Cold War, the number was first reduced to 442, and later to 381, which was the number of aircraft that the USAF deemed necessary. Challenges in funding further cut numbers to 339 in 1997 and again to 277 aircraft in 2003. In 2004, the US was focused on asymmetric counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, which did not require advanced air superiority fighters. This led to a further reduction down to 183 aircraft. Congress settled on the final number of 187 in 2008 when it approved a new defense spending bill.
Lockheed Martin built 187 operational F-22 Raptors and 8 test variants. Originally, the US Air Force envisioned purchasing 750 Advanced Tactical Fighters, but high production and development costs led to several cuts. A changing focus on other military tasks and related material did not help either.
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