Stealth Is The Best And The Least

Stealth Is The Best And The Least, by Jim Dunnigan.

While the F-22 fighter is the most advanced and capable fighter aircraft in the world, it is also the most difficult to keep flying. It is also the most expensive, which is why only 195 were built. …

The cost per flight hour for maintenance is about $70,000. That’s about three times what it costs for the F-16. … The air force has been unable to get the readiness rate to 70 percent (which is the low range for other fighters) and currently F-22s have a hard time maintaining a 60 percent rate. …

F-35 Lightning II (to) and F-22 Raptor

The air force currently has 183 F-22s in service and the aircraft is not exported because of the risk of some of the tech being stolen. …

While it requires 19 man hours of maintenance for each F-16 flight hour, the F-22 requires 34 hours. The manufacturer originally said it would be less than ten hours. Most of this additional F-22 expense (and man-hours) is for special materials and labor needed to keep the aircraft invisible to radar. The main problem is the radar absorbent material used on the aircraft. …

In 2010 the Department of Defense decided to terminate F-22 production at 187 aircraft. This resulted in each aircraft costing (including development and production spending), $332 million. …

The F-22 was always a superb aircraft, probably the most capable fighter in the world. But the development and manufacturing costs kept rising until it became too expensive for the media, voters and politicians. …

Jet fighter generations:

American warplanes like the F-22 and F-35 are often called “5th generation” fighters. …

The first generation was developed during and right after World War II (German Me-262, British Meteor, U.S. F-80, and Russian MiG-15). These aircraft were, even by the standards of the time, difficult to fly and unreliable (especially the engines).

The 2nd generation (1950s) included more reliable but still dangerous to operate aircraft like the F-104 and MiG-21.

The 3rd generation (1960s) included F-4 and MiG-23.

The 4th generation (1970s) included F-16 and MiG-29.

Each generation has been about twice as expensive (on average, in constant dollars) as the previous one. But each generation is also about twice as safe to fly and cheaper to operate. Naturally, each generation is more than twice as effective as the previous one.

Increasingly it looks like the 6th generation will come without pilots. That’s because producing fifth generation fighters has proved difficult as well as very expensive.

So far only the United States has managed to get 5th gen fighters (F-22 and F-35) into service. The Russians are still trying as are the Chinese, even though one of their stealth fighter designs (J-20) is technically in service (even though production has been suspended after less than a dozen were produced). …

One of the reasons the Soviet Union collapsed was the realization that they could not afford to develop 5th generation warplanes to stay competitive with America. … At the moment the Russians are thinking of making a run for the 6th generation warplanes, which will likely be unmanned and largely robotic. As of 2018 they don’t have much choice because their answer to the F-22, work on the Su-57 was canceled (“indefinitely paused”.)