The last F-22 Raptor scheduled to be built for the US Air Force has rolled off Lockheed Martin’s production line in Georgia.
The fighter, tail number 4195, is the 187th built under the F-22 program, which began in 1988. Two have been lost, leaving the USAF with an operational fleet of 185 of the jets. Tail 4195 is scheduled to join the 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
The twin engine F-22 was conceived during the closing stages of the Cold War as a stealthy air superiority fighter that would be faster and more manoeuvrable than anything else in the sky. With a top speed of roughly Mach 2.2 and a turning rate about twice that of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the pure flight performance of the F-22 is unlikely to be rivalled anytime soon, especially as fighter design turns to favour more advanced sensors and longer range weapons over close-in flight capabilities.
But the F-22’s price tag of roughly US$150 million each ran afoul of the belt tightening atmosphere in Washington, and the program was scuttled in 2009 in favour of the F-35. The US is scheduled to buy 2443 F-35s over the coming years, which are expected to cost about $65 million each once the JSF program reaches full production.
Still, a series of upgrades to the F-22’s sensors and weapons carrying capabilities are scheduled to go forward in the next few years, and Lockheed said it will preserve production line tooling and manufacturing know-how in case the Air Force decides to restart production in the future.
Below is a Lockheed Martin video commemorating the milestone.