Iran’s weekend saber-rattling with its splashy Shahab 3 missile is a big reminder that in world politics, you just never know. It’s always nice to have the upper hand: specifically, an ability to contain Iran, and threaten back if needed.
Enter the much-maligned F-22 Raptor. Yes, the very glamour jet denounced by Newsweek as the pagan symbol of a dying aviation cult.
It’s conceivable that if big trouble starts with Iran in the next few years, the F-22 will be central to the fight. Iran’s air defenses already are too much for “aluminum” jets like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 and the F-22 is the only stealth fighter in operation. About 100 are currently in Air Force squadrons.
A bellicose Iran is a good reminder that the Air Force and the Pentagon need to put on their thinking caps about how they will manage the small F-22 fleet and make sure every possible F-22 is available for war plans overseas or at home if crises pop up.
Here are some of the key goals. First, make sure sustainment is done in the most effective way possible, which probably means extensive partnering with manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Second, take a basic precaution and keep enough of the production tooling so that the Air Force can extend the service life of the F-22s down the road if needed. Third, decide what to do about the first few dozen F-22s, which were produced without full capabilities. That move was intentional, and it’s normal in an aircraft buy of hundreds or thousands to keep it simple on the first lots of aircraft. But with a fleet of just 186, all the aircraft may need to be up to the same wartime standards – called a common configuration.
Recently some of the best American aircraft excelled in wars no one anticipated. Just consider the B-2 in Kosovo in 1999 or the Navy Super Hornet in Afghanistan today. With all that’s been invested in the F-22, the Raptor needs to be ready, whether that is tomorrow or a decade hence.
Find Archived Articles: