The plans of the U.S. Air Force to retire the older fleet of its F-22 Raptors have been halted by the U.S. Congress. The House Armed Services Committee has indulged in the matter in order to restrain the U.S. Air Force from eliminating the 33 older models of F-22 aircraft. The decision to retire these aircraft was presented in the 2023 budget proposal plan of the Air Force. It was written in the document that,
“This section would require the Secretary of the Air Force to maintain a minimum quantity of F-22 aircraft with common air superiority mission employment capabilities to meet Department of Defense combat air force training, testing, and operational steady-state and major contingency requirements in support of geographical combatant commanders’ planning and operations.”
Coupled with this, HASC has already accepted the decision to retire the fleet of A-10C aircraft from the 2023 budgetary plan proposed by the U.S. Air Force. However, to restrict the USAF from retiring its F-22 Raptors, HASC has released its written document regarding the matter, which states, “Prohibition of the retirement of F-22 Block 20 aircraft until submission of a detailed written plan for training F-22 aircrew while avoiding any degradation in readiness or reduction in combat capability.”
The U.S. Congress and HASC are making efforts to keep the old fleet of F-22s in service and call for their upgrade by equipping them with modern and state-of-the-art technologies. Part of the USAF’s proposal states that the retirement would reduce the fleet size of F-22 aircraft from 186 to 153 aircraft. The USAF considered it a good option as, according to them, the cost of maintaining these aircraft is soaring into the skies and they can only be used for training purposes. These aircraft cannot be used in combat activities. Therefore, the decision to retire them was taken.
On the other hand, if these aircraft were being updated to modern standards, then it would cost around $1.8 billion for the USAF for the next eight years. Considering these statistics, the service said that we can update the frontline Raptors and incorporate them with state-of-the-art technologies through these funds. Also, for the continuation of the “Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, the F-35 stealth fighters can be updated along with the F-22 Raptors.
Hence, the decision to reduce the size of F-22 Raptors to 153 aircraft in terms of completely retiring them was not regarded by Congress, which instead suggested the USAF upgrade the frontline fleet. The HASC has not only instructed the USAF to bring these 33 F-22 aircraft up to standard but also suggested incorporating them with the newest combat jet capabilities. According to the committee, “Bring all F-22s up to at least Block 30/35 mission systems, sensors, and weapon employment capabilities.”
The upgrades feature the system of “low drag tanks and pylons” as well as equipping them with “electronic warfare capabilities,” including the track sensors. Coupled with this, HASC is very much concerned about the on-time deliveries of the updated aircraft, and it has also raised concerns about the delay in the NGAD program. HASC stated, “We think there’s a significant risk in meeting future air superiority requirements. And so, we’re holding the Air Force accountable for their commitment to having the training-coded jets combat-capable. “