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 . . .