The Air Force will receive an F-22 Raptor, tail number 4195, and it will be the last of the stealthy, 5th generation air superiority fighter jet produced. At least for now.
In total, the Air Force will have 185 operational F-22. That’s a small production run for the jet, that was supposed to help replace earlier aging fighters. But the last to roll off will be substantially different than the first. “When you see the airplane on the line, it appears to be this very impressive, fine piece of workmanship,” says Jeff Babione, who is the F-22 program manager at Lockheed. “You just get this stark contrast from when we started to build them and now.” There was an amazing 78 percent learning curve, says Babione, which means that it was substantially upgraded and manufacturing improved. You might think that means production would continue, but economic realities have intervened. Given the financial constraints created by the Iraq and Afghan wars and the coming defense budget cuts, the jets are too pricy.
But the F-22 could reemerge. As Defense News reports, Lockheed and the Air Force are storing the production-line tooling and manufacturing knowledge just in case the plane may be needed in the future. Like the C-5 or the B-1, it could be reborn.