The US House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has moved to introduce legislation that would see 33 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors operated by the US Air Force upgraded to the latest Block 30/35 configuration.
The move goes against plans to withdraw the aircraft from service because they were not ‘combat-coded’ with the latest Block 30/35 enhancements common to the rest of the fleet, and the USAF didn’t consider it economical to upgrade them.
The aircraft had been relegated to training units rather than to frontline combat squadrons. But the HASC has added about US$1bn (A$1.45bn) to bring the aircraft up to a configuration common with the rest of the fleet.
A total of just 195 F-22As were built from an original requirement for some 750 aircraft. Nine of these aircraft were prototypes and engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) aircraft, most of which have been retired, while three of the 187 operational F-22As have been lost in accidents. The USAF had proposed to reduce the fleet to 151 aircraft, and assign some of those to training units, further reducing the number of airframes available for operations.
“When we let the Air Force curtail the program back in 2010 at 187 airplanes at the time, they told us that the training capacity would always be available to meet contingency requirements, if and when needed, along with the 234 F-15Cs,” an HASC staff member told media on background in mid-June.
“Now that the Air Force is retiring all their F-15Cs, they’ve cut the buy in half for F-15EX, the NGAD (the Next Generation Air Dominance program) has slid further to the right than what they originally told us, and now they want to reduce their F-22 capacity,” they added. “We think there’s significant risk in meeting future air superiority requirements. And so we’re holding the Air Force accountable to their commitment to have the training-coded jets combat capable.”
The Block 30/35 upgrade has been introduced through several increments over the past six years, and include an upgrade of the F-222’s AN/APG-77 AESA radar with greater air-to-ground capabilities, electronic warfare enhancements, communications and IFF upgrades including the addition of Link-16, the integration of the AIM-9X and AIM-120D air-to-air missiles, the addition of an automatic ground collision avoidance system (GCAS) like that on the F-35A, and a new open- mission system (OMS) processor.