The Raptor is, quite simply, the most capable, most advanced and most deadly fighter jet ever built. It commands the skies and has the ability to knock other fighters out of the sky before they have even crossed the horizon, i.e., before they even realize the Raptors are there. It is a plane designed to sweep the skies of enemy aircraft and thereby make the battlefield a safer place for the infantry far below.
Unfortunately, the Raptor’s high cost made it a fat target for the Obama administration and many in Congress. And they have pulled the plug on the program after only 195 of the initially expected 1,300 copies were manufactured. The end of the Cold War meant, for many in Washington, that there was no need for such a plane, so they steadily began whittling away at the program year after year. And because so much of the plane’s built-in cost was accrued on the front end during the R&D phase, that meant that the average cost of each plane rose each time the overall number to be purchased was cut.
The final F-22 rolled out of the plant last December, and will be “delivered” to the Air Force in a ceremony at the plant on Tuesday. It then will be deployed to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage, Alaska, joining an F-22 squadron.
The F-22 program created thousands of well-paying jobs and put food on plenty of local tables for two decades. It also drew to Marietta hundreds of highly educated and superbly skilled engineers and technicians, and gave Lockheed an impetus to spend millions of dollars upgrading the vintage-World War II plant. Those upgrades, and the sterling performance by all involved in the F-22, were a big reason that Lockheed chose the plant to help build portions of its newest fighter, the F-35 Lightning II.
Raptors will still be seen overhead occasionally as they are returned to the plant for upgrades and repairs. But the F-22 line has been shut down and packed away.
Will we ever learn from our mistakes?