F-22 production was capped at 187 aircraft by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates after a fierce battle with senior U.S. Air Force leadership and members of Congress. (Lockheed Martin)
Lockheed Martin delivered the final production F-22A Raptor to the U.S. Air Force on May 2 during a ceremony in Marietta, Ga., filled with pomp and circumstance.
The aircraft delivered this week was the 195th built by Lockheed, which also received help on the project from Boeing and engine-maker Pratt & Whitney. Lockheed delivered the first aircraft in 1997.
The Raptor is the “standard by which all fighters will be judged” and an “icon of American airpower and ingenuity,” Larry Lawson, Lockheed’s executive vice president of Aeronautics, said at the ceremony. Lawson began working on the program in 1986 and led the F-22A program for six years.
The jet can fly at supersonic speeds without using its afterburners and attack both air and ground targets. It also has numerous intelligence gathering sensors.
But like many Pentagon weapon programs, the F-22A never reached its original production goals. Air Force officials envisioned a fleet of more than 700 Raptors. Production was eventually capped at 187 aircraft by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates after a fierce battle with senior Air Force leadership and members of Congress.
Still, the F-22A is considered the most advanced tactical fighter in the world. This has prompted Russia and China to race to build an aircraft of similar capabilities.
On top of that, the Raptor has experienced numerous issues since it was declared battle ready. Most recently, pilots flying the powerful twin-engine jet have experienced hypoxia, or lack of oxygen.
Air Force investigators have been unable to identify the cause of the problem, which contributed to the crash of an F-22A last year that killed the pilot.