With Russia and China deploying advanced new fighters and surface-to-air missiles (SAM), the task of gaining and maintaining air superiority over an increasingly more lethal battle space falls to a small and elite group of U.S. Air Force pilots flying the mighty Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. Conceived during the waning years of the Cold War, the stealthy high-flying supersonically cruising Raptor was designed to defeat the most fearsome weapons that the Soviet Union could hurl at the United States and NATO during a third world war in Europe. However, with the end of the Cold War and subsequent 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, the F-22 was left without a mission, or so it was thought.
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Indeed, the Obama administration as well as the second Bush administration cancelled the F-22 program because they made the assumption that high-end state-on-state conflicts were a relic of the past. However, as it is becoming increasingly apparent, they were wrong. Now, the U.S. Congress’ House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has requested that the U.S. Air Force begin a study on the possibilities of restarting production of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fifth generation fighter in the FY 2017 defense authorization bill. Production of the F-22 was halted in 2009 at 187 aircraft, well short of the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command’s (ACC) stated requirement of 381 aircraft—let alone the original 749 aircraft originally planned.
The question seems to be now, with an operationally deployed F-35 at full production capacity, is there any room left fiscally for more F-22?