While U.S. Air Force officials have recently said reconstituting the F-22 Raptor production line would be a non-starter, the U.S. House of Representatives has ordered the service to conduct a study on total coasts associated with building at least 194 additional examples of the USAF’s 5th-Generation fighter. While that is potentially good news, it’s far too soon to start celebrating.
Almost five years after Lockheed Martin shut down production of its F-22 stealth fighter jet, House legislation released Tuesday would direct the Air Force to look into restarting the assembly line.
At the direction of then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Lockheed terminated F-22 production at its Marietta, Georgia, and Fort Worth, Texas, facilities after producing just 187 aircraft — far short of the original requirement for 749 jets. But in light of the growing perception that the US military is losing its technological edge to adversaries like Russia and China, Congress has expressed keen interest throughout this year’s budget season in restarting the line. The F-22 has also drawn attention recently from several high-profile deployments to Europe and the Middle East.
However, Air Force officials have consistently dubbed reviving the Raptor line as a nonstarter, citing the enormous cost of the project. A 2010 RAND study commissioned by the Air Force placed the cost to buy just 75 more F-22s at $17 billion in 2008 dollars.
The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee’s markup for its section of the 2017 defense policy bill directs the Air Force secretary to conduct a study of the costs associated with procuring at least another 194 F-22s. The legislation would require a report on the study to the congressional defense committees no later than Jan. 1, 2017.
“In light of growing threats to U.S. air superiority as a result of adversaries closing the technology gap and increasing demand from allies and partners for high performance, multi-role aircraft to meet evolving and worsening global security threats, the committee believes that such proposals are worthy of further exploration,” according to the bill.