Tuesday, December 13, 2011

End of the (production) line for the F-22 Raptor

I'm sad to see that the last F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter ordered for the USAF has left the production line at Lockheed Martin. The DEW Line reports:

Lockheed Martin confirms that F-22 tail number 4195 rolled off the assembly line earlier this morning. The last of the 185 operational F-22s has now moved to the flight line, with final delivery to the US Air Force early in the second quarter.

Lockheed rolled out F-22 tail number 4001 in April 1997, the first of nine flight test aircraft. Development delays and cost overruns forced the USAF to reduce the original 750-aircraft programme to about 330 by 2000. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld trimmed the final number in 2006 to 187, and two aircraft have since been lost to crashes.

There's more at the link.

The production line will now be shut down. I believe it's unwise to terminate production of the only true fifth-generation fighter aircraft in the world, particularly when newer fifth-generation challengers such as the Russian Sukhoi PAK FA and the Chinese Chengdu J-20 are in flight-test right now. Unfortunately, the F-22's enormous program cost (about $62 billion, which works out to a program cost of about $339 million per aircraft) meant that the aircraft was simply unaffordable in larger numbers, no matter how technologically superior it might be.

I hope the 185 F-22's in USAF service will provide many years of sterling performance. I trust we won't need any more of them - because when the production line is shut down, those already built are on their own . . .



Dirk said...

I live in the Atlanta area, and was fortunate enough to take my cub scout den on a tour of the Lockheed facility last month. Lockheed does this a great program Lockheed every few months, where they invite a few hundred cub scouts, and spend the day teaching them the things they need for their engineering or scientist activity badges. We saw this plane, actually being worked on. It was the only one on the production floor. We weren't allowed to take pictures, unfortunately.

The Raving Prophet said...

Can they fly the things over 10,000 feet yet? For that much money per aircraft I'd expect one with fewer oxygen troubles. I don't know if they've solved that yet.

Anonymous said...

The fewer the number of planes that were built the higher the cost per plane; ie if only one plane was built, the cost would have been $62 billion for that plane.
So cutting the number of aircraft built by a factor of two-thirds increased the cost per aircraft by roughly 60%.
The Russians and Chinese really appreciate this move as that leaves the US with only the F-35 (a slower, shorter-ranged lower payload) as the only on-going new aircraft build in the US.

Anonymous said...

Aren't manned fighters becoming obsolete?


Anonymous said...

"Aren't manned fighters becoming obsolete?
IMHO the jury is still out on that, most likely, yes, but then that was what they said back in the '50s about guns on aircraft and the UK thought that manned fighters were going to become obsolete and useless back in the '50s.

The recent loss of 2 drones show that not all the bugs are worked out yet.