I've come across several articles touting the F-22 as the most formidable air-to-air killing machine to date, such as this one:


However, this article and others are also quick to point out there are too few of them.

It is not clear to me what the problem with restarting F-22 production is. The cited article appears to state that the USAF will focus on the sixth generation of aircraft, and integrate the F-22 into that.

Doesn't this seem like a huge gamble? When will sixth generation aircraft be ready in massive numbers?

There are new F-15's and F-16's being built, even today, and they still comprise the bulk of the entire USAF inventory. I don't buy the argument that they can simply "skip" the fifth generation in terms of air superiority fighters and wait for the sixth generation.

With the F-35 being in full production, is it really that hard to restart F-22 production as well? I'm aware that probably nothing at all on the F-35 can be just bolted on to an F-22 airframe -- but shouldn't advances in avionics on the F-35 (if any) only compliment a restarted F-22 production?

It seems at least plausible that the personnel and facilities involved in making F-35 would be able to be adapted to build new F-22's.

However, I'm sure it isn't as plausible as I imagine, and I'm just curious what are the reasons.

  • $\begingroup$ "It seems at least plausible that the personnel and facilities involved in making F-35 would be able to be adapted to build new F-22's." Why? They're busy building '35s. Your argument seems to be similar to the child who says, "Daddy, you can afford a new car for yourself, so why do you say you can't afford [expensive toy] for me?" And the answer is that it's precisely because he bought the new car that he can't afford to buy any other expensive things. $\endgroup$ May 23 '19 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ So your answer is that they simply can't afford it, even though there is a strong need for it? The F-35 is not an air superiority fighter so I'm not sure I see the logic there. $\endgroup$ May 23 '19 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ For one thing, the Air Force does not build airplanes. They order them from civilian companies - Lockheed-Martin, in the case of the F-22. So the Air Force would have to decide they want more, request a bid from the company, then go to Congress to get the money appropriated. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    May 23 '19 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Fair point. I've updated the title of the question. $\endgroup$ May 24 '19 at 12:09

Aside from Juan's point about the F-22 being fairly outdated by now (it's an 80's era design), it is also not possible to just restart production of it.

First, it would cost ~$10Bn to simply get to a place where you can produce the an F-22 again. That doesn't include the actual cost of a single plane, just the money required to re-equip factories, train workers, produce a new engine since the old one is end-of-life, etc. Source

This estimate is assuming that the project was left off in the state Lockheed claimed it was. There is reason to believe that some of the tooling for the F-22 no longer exists at all. Source

Finally, the F-35 program has, in my opinion, shown that there is not so much to be saved by re-using components if the overall process is not efficient.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm accepting this answer as it is cited with two sources. $\endgroup$ May 24 '19 at 13:48

Cost and relevance. The aircraft are very expensive to produce and the Air Force doesn't get enough budget to build more. In addition, the need changed. The F-22 is not as relevant in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where air superiority was not as much an issue as the need for other types of aircraft such as bombers and ground support birds. With the changes in the landscape from new Russian and Chinese aircraft, there was discussion about restarting the F-22 production line, ordering new aircraft and upgrading the existing fleet, but the price was considered highly prohibitive. There are upgrades to the fleet scheduled to begin in 2024 (mid-life upgrade program) though, so the aircraft will be in service for a while.

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    $\begingroup$ The article addresses this too, I believe. The threat during the cold war disappeared, the need for the F-22 disappeared. However, now there is a need for it again, with threats from other fifth generation fighters from other nations. $\endgroup$ May 23 '19 at 15:28

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