Conceived in the ’80s, born in the ’90s, is the F-22 that millennial kid who can’t get a job because of the recession? On the other hand, the F-35 is that Gen Z kid who has never used a hand-crank to roll up a window but tells you how things ought to be done. So, will the millennial or the Gen Z kid come out on top in this F-22 vs F-35 showdown? 


The F-22 Raptor

When the idea for an advanced tactical fighter was conceived, Jimmy Carter was still in the White House, East and West Germany were a thing, and al-Qaeda had not been created. Back in 1981, the Air Force was already looking to replace the F-16 and F-15, both children of the ’70s.

In 1985, a request for proposal was issued for an advanced tactical fighter to counter emerging Soviet threats. Stealth and supercruise speed were the emphasized characteristics, and Lockheed and Northrop were the two companies chosen to compete. In 1990, the first YF-22 flew, and Lockheed’s design was chosen in 1991.


The First F-22s and Their Problems

It wasn’t until 1997 that the first actual F-22 was delivered to the Air Force. Flight testing began at Edwards AFB, CA, and the Combined Test Force received, in total, eight more F-22s to wring out. After the wring-out phase, Nellis AFB, NV received the first of what were supposed to be 750 Advanced Tactical Fighters (ATFs). In the end, however, only 187 ATFs were delivered.

F-22 vs F-35
An F-22 Raptor from the 94th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, VA, is ready for take-off for an integrated training mission on Eglin Air Force Base, FL, November 6, 2014. The F-35s and F-22s flew offensive counter-air, defensive counter-air, and interdiction missions, maximizing effects by employing fifth-generation capabilities together. (Photo by Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo/USAF)

The biggest problem faced by the F-22 program was not deficiencies in the design or emerging threats: it was the money. The original price for 750 new F-22s was projected to be around $44 billion in 1985 dollars. When production ended in 2011, the estimated cost for 187 of the jets was around $67 billion. I am not smart enough to figure out that math, but $44 billion for 750 sounds a lot better than a 50 percent increase in cost for a quarter of the jets.