The F-22 imperative

By: David A. Deptula and Douglas Birkey, Mitchell Institute

The loss of an F-22 Raptor during a training flight on May 15 serves as a wake-up call regarding the size of the Raptor inventory.

Tunnel vision over a decade ago related to counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq saw the nation buy too few F-22s, with just 187 purchased versus the 381 official military requirement. Now, with those wars largely in the rear-view mirror and a new National Defense Strategy, the capability attributes afforded by the F-22 are more important than ever.

These 5th generation stealth aircraft are the crown jewels in the nation’s military arsenal. The recent crash reinforces the need to double down on the F-22 force by fully funding necessary upgrades. No other capability — U.S. or foreign — will come close to the F-22 for years into the future. It is important that budget and inventory management decisions mirror that reality.

The F-22’s primary mission is to secure air superiority — a condition vital for any successful military operation. While the aircraft can also strike targets on the ground with great precision, and conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance inside contested airspace, at its heart the Raptor will remain an air-to-air champion. Because of its vast array of capabilities — not all known — the F-22 is our nation’s greatest conventional deterrent. While the current force size is small relative to other fighter forces, the F-22 has — at a minimum — an order of magnitude greater effect than any other fighter in the world.

The F-22 is a fundamentally unique airplane due to the unparalleled integration of stealth, sensor technology, processing power, and unrivaled flight performance. While many fighters have some elements of this mix, none possess the total package afforded by the F-22. Stealth makes it exceedingly difficult for an enemy to close the kill chain. Sensors and processing power allow it to understand the battlespace with tremendous acumen — allowing F-22s to be at the right place and time to achieve desired effects while minimizing vulnerabilities. Its flight characteristics of speed and maneuverability are simply unequaled by any other aircraft. Anyone questioning the value of the F-22 should consider why friends and foes alike are all pursuing options to develop like-capabilities — they are game-changing.

The fact that the nation needs more F-22s is not rocket science. However, since the F-22 production line closed years ago, this is not a feasible option. Ensuring the F-35 — a plane designed to complement the F-22 with a greater focus on ground attack — does not repeat this same mistake is certainly an important lesson. That aircraft is also an essential investment in our aerial arsenal. In fact, a greater F-35 annual buy-rate becomes more important given the small F-22 force. Future next generation air dominance concepts must also proceed. However, COVID-19-related budget pressures are likely going to delay meaningful advancement in this regard. Plans that exist at the PowerPoint level and theoretical operational concepts must not be confused with concrete capabilities that are able to meet current and future challenges. Further investments in aging designs like the F-16 and F-15, originally designed a half a century ago, simply fail to meet modern requirements. While these aircraft will remain an important part of the inventory out of necessity, their operational utility will diminish given they do not address the challenges that will increasingly dominate the security environment.

This leaves the F-22 as the nation’s keystone air superiority capability. Adversaries respect the aircraft and that is precisely why they are regularly deployed as a signal of resolve. If conflict erupts, F-22s will be at the forefront of operations. This places an extreme imperative upon funding Raptor upgrades to ensure they remain viable for years into the future. The most cost-effective way to increase the capacity of the F-22 force is to upgrade the 33 older block 20 F-22s used for training and test to full combat capability. This effects-based option would result in an additional squadron of F-22s for a minuscule fraction of the cost of attaining 5th generation fighter capacity any other way. For those who focus on cost, are they prepared to pay the price of not having the entire F-22 force at its peak potential? That bill would be measured in strategic objectives surrendered, significant force attrition, and lives lost.

Canceling the F-22’s production with half the military requirement unmet was a tragedy whose impact will be felt for years. However, that is runway behind us. What matters now is how we make the most of the F-22s we do have. Upgrading the older block 20 force of F-22s to full combat capability will deliver a very clear message to potential adversaries. It all comes down to real capability and capacity with the F-22s we possess. Let’s optimize that number. The security challenges of today and tomorrow demand nothing less.

Source: Defense News “The F-22 imperative”

Note: This is Defense News’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

14 Comments on “The F-22 imperative”

  1. Jorge says:

    Would the well paid military experts advise to cancel producing a plane that offered such supposedly superiority?


  2. komonsense says:

    The stupidity of this post’s author is stupendous. It’s not worth my time to dignify it with a comment.

    The idiot sounds like a desperate salesman for the long dead f22.


  3. johnleecan says:

    Sounds of desperation and pleading for upgrades yet glorifying how the F-22 is years ahead in technology. Pathetic!


    • bcat1943 says:

      US is searching the graveyards for minor elements of moral boosters. F 22 is decades old technology before the Iphone.


  4. Steve says:

    Got tired of reading recycled crap, like watching a movie with 22 repeats in 22 months ….. Imperative.? What utter nonsense. The f22 is NOT imperative to the success of f35 – it’s a total failure ….. ‘US 5th gen stealth aircraft are the crown jewels of America’s arsenal.?’ It’s a crown turkey … ‘f22 is a fundamentally unique airplane due to the unparallel integration of stealth, sensor technology’ …. It’s a sunburnt Turkey, the stealth coating blisters in the atmosphere N
    the f22s35s needed to be stored in a humidifier hangar, the stealth paint rots under the sun … what sensor technology.? Easily detected on Chinese radar. Sell it to India, the Indians love sunburnt airplanes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fre Okin says:

      “.. Easily detected on Chinese radar.”

      If that is so then why is the J-20 hiding and afraid to come out and meet the F-22 OR the F-35 in the skies over the SCS?

      Could it be the J-20 is still underpowered and afraid to let the world know that it cannot supercruise?

      J-20 does not have to come out and engage in air-to-air combat. All that the J-20 has to do is come out and play.

      Why is that so hard?


      • Steve says:

        Go to your room N play with yourself. Bring along a toy f22/35 N shaft it up.


      • komonsense says:

        Another retarded comment from the cowardly freak d.o.r.kin
        Since when are stealth planes tasked with patrolling in peacetime, you stupid dipstick???
        If u had pulled your head out of your ass in the past few months, then u would have known that the j20’s engines had indeed been upgraded . The p.l.a.a.f. didn’t announce it at the parade, but military observers noted that the cobra and other moves would only have been attempted with thrust vectoring engines.
        Could it be that you, freak d.o.r.k.i.n., is under-couraged and still hiding and afraid to come out let the world know how I will bitchslap you a.g.a.i.n.???
        All that the freak has to do is come out and play.

        Why is that so hard???

        Liked by 2 people

        • Manchukuo says:

          “”If u had pulled your head out of your ass in the past few months, then u would have known that the j20’s engines had indeed been upgraded .”

          Yet there are still NO examples of J-20 super cruising. Remember IF J-20 was capable of supercrusing that capability could be easily verified by the many radar stations and ships able to track the J-20 in the South China Sea.

          J-20 is still deficient in engine hardware. China talks a big game but still unable to follow through. After years of talk the J-20 still is not fully operational.


          • Steve says:

            Idiotian vs indiots vs indiotian
            Which one U prefer. These R beautiful new collection of words.

            Go checkout WS-15C engine & report back.


          • komonsense says:

            After wasting my time reading your drivel, it’s apparent that the only thing still not fully functional is your mind.


      • Joseph says:

        Just because it is so hard for you, doesn’t mean it is hard for anyone else. But it is understandable, since reading hurts your head. It is an early symptom of Alzheimer. How old are you?