F/A-22 Raptor Approved for Full Production
According to Lockheed-Martin, an acquisition decision information paper released by the Department of Defense on April 18, 2005 states “The Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) [Michael W. Wynne] approved the full rate production capability of the F/A-22.” This F/A-22 program milestone follows initial operational test findings in February and March by both the Air Force and the Department of Defense.
The F/A-22 Raptor, the world’s most advanced fighter, is built by Lockheed Martin in partnership with Boeing and Pratt & Whitney. Parts and subsystems are provided by approximately 1,000 suppliers in 42 states. F/A-22 production takes place at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics facilities in Palmdale, CA; Meridian, MS; Marietta, GA; and Fort Worth, TX, as well as at Boeing’s plant in Seattle, WA. Final assembly and initial flight testing of the Raptor occurs at the Marietta plant facilities. The Raptor is slated to reach initial operational capability in December 2005 at Langley Air Force Base, VA.
The Washington Post has an article that looks at the F/A-22′s capabilities, as well as the controversies related to the program. Some excerpts:
bq.. The question facing the Pentagon and Congress is whether the Raptor’s superior abilities, and the affection of pilots and Air Force leaders, is enough to justify a more than $70 billion investment at the same time the military is stretched thin by ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…
How many Raptors the Pentagon buys — no one expects the program to be killed — is part of a debate over what kind of wars the nation’s leaders should fear most: a large-scale battle with another industrial power, where the Raptor could dominate, or skirmishes in rogue states such as Iran or Syria, where ground forces would lead.
The Air Force and Lockheed Martin Corp., the main contractor, say the Raptor is essential in either scenario…”
p. Meanwhile, the F/A-22 is still experiencing some teething problems:
bq. “A recent Government Accountability Office report said test officials identified reliability and maintenance issues with the plane’s “critical low observable,” or stealth, characteristics. The Air Force said it has fixed those problems… While earlier versions of the software sometimes needed to be restarted every two hours, the Air Force says such problems can be expected in any new plane, and the latest version operates at least eight hours without glitches. The new software, expected to be in the Langley fighters soon, is more reliable, Hecker said later. “In two months, we’ll be really happy.”
Nor is the plane’s future entirely assured:
bq.. “…As the number of Raptors expected to be purchased drops — from 750 to as few as 178 — the price has escalated dramatically from the original price tag of $35 million. That has prompted some to advocate the continued purchase of F-15s.
The Air Force dismisses that option as uneconomical. But officials working on the Quadrennial Defense Review, a major rethinking of U.S. military strategy that will help determine how many Raptors are produced, have asked Boeing how much it would cost to build more than 100 new F-15s, according to sources familiar with the process.”
p. Even so, the F/A-22 program has had some benefits in the procurement sphere:
bq. [Gen.] Jumper acknowledges that the Air Force has made mistakes with the Raptor, including not setting aside enough funds for developing its software. “I think we’ve got to take these lessons and apply them to the Joint Strike Fighter, so we don’t make the same mistakes again,” he said. The Raptor and the strike fighter share elements of their avionics, engines and stealth capabilities.”