Re-Opening F 22A Raptor Production Line
There is many officials in the US air force who repeatedly asks to reopen the F 22 A Raptor production line to produce more improved F 22 fighters for the US air force with possible export variant of F 22 to friendly countries, As latest the US Air force secretary Lee James too says the same in a seminar at Washington, However he didn't mentioned about the export variant of F 22 raptor.
The Raptor's production line was closed after seven years of serial production from two production lines, one is from Georgia another from Texas, Both of these plants produce more than 187 flying units with eight prototype variants, The Lockheed designed the Raptor to provide effective air superiority to the US air force for the next fifty years. Raptor accomplishes the Lockheed's and USAF's wish, The Raptor remain one of the best fighter jet in the world.
US initially planned to produce more than seven hundred Raptors to support the F 15 in air superiority mission in any contested zone, Due to budget issues, the orders are reduced by more than 50%, later the same once again reduced by another half, which brings the total F 22 numbers by just 187. USAF lost three of it's Raptors in crashes, which remains 184 currently in service.
Pratt&Whitney who produces the F 119 engines to the F 22 remain opens for spare part and additional engine production, they agreed to double the production if US government agreed to do so, Meanwhile production line in above mentioned plants is remains, the tooling and other machinery items couldn't be removed, They can run the production line within a year, If US orders to produce more Raptor's.
Total program cost of the Raptor is more than $67 billions, which include Research and Development and production of 195 flying units, Lockheed produced nearly 195 flying units for the above mentioned cost. Compared to other fighters the Raptor's operating cost is very high, For one hour of flying mission F 22 spends nearly $70,000 worth of resources, which is more than fifty lakh's rupees per hour, the amount is triple than the F 16 operating cost.
However the performance wise Raptor remains top, compared to all other fighters, The service availability rate of USAF F 22 remains some 80% which is one of the best known figure, Indian Su 30 MKI service availability rate is just below 55%,
The problem in the F 22 is, It has less number of sortie rate, most probably each F 22 can perform only two sorties per day, even that they required special base setups for housing the fighters, Due to it's golden canopy and the radar absorbent materials. So handling the fighters need huge manpower and special care.
That's the main reasons behind the early closure of F 22 production line, after F 22 US mulls into a multi national project of Joint strike fighter with increased ground strike capability and lesser air superiority capability, The F 35 gets serious comments from all over the world, which include many aviation experts, calling the F 35 could be a better option for strike not for air dominance.
The F 22 has been once offered to America's closest ally, Israel and Japan, Israeli defense official once openly said in a seminar that Israel negotiating to buy 24 F 22 A units for the price tag of $200 million per plane, Japan and Australia too express interest of buying F 22, however US didn't allowed to sell those fighters, later they all ended up with F 35, which is lesser in price compared to F 22 A.
More than five years after closure of F 22 production line, each from Russia, China, Japan builds their own fifth generation fighters, even performance wise the F 22 beat all other contenders. It's pretty good option for the US and Lockheed to reopening the F 22 production line and build a exported variant of F 22 to friendly countries, which include Israel, India, Japan and South Korea.
India not ready to invest another huge billions into Russian aviation industry, The PAK FA and FGFA program almost hits a roadblock, India has some alternate solutions for fifth generation fighter jets, The US made F 35 or joining with Japanese ATD-X program.
Also there is a huge opportunity for India to buy some three squadron of F 22 Raptors specially to counter Chinese air force J 20, J 31 and Su 35 S, The F 22 is a proven platform with it's performance over Arabian Gulf and over Syrian air space. The Pakistani's too get handful numbers of J 31 or Su 35 S near future. So the need of modern fighter in IAF remains very important.
Many military analysts thinks the export variant of F 22 could help the Indian Air force to counter balance the Chinese in Asian region, The Indian signature of CISMOA, LSA and BECA with US may easily open the doors of top end US arms to India. The Indian government soon will sign the above mentioned agreement to check China.