Top Fighter Jet Receives Major Upgrade

In recent years, many observers of American air power have expressed disappointment over the planned early retirement of the F-22 Raptor, which will be retired less than 30 years after its first deployment. This is particularly surprising given that modern American fighters such as the Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F-15 are capable of flying for 40 years or more with upgrades. The fact that the Air Force is eager to replace its best fighter suggests where and how USAF leaders anticipate future wars will unfold, particularly in the vast western Pacific Ocean during a potential Chinese attack on Taiwan.

The American air force is optimistic that the warplane being developed to replace the F-22 will be better suited for this type of conflict. The $300 million dollar F-22 had a long development process. It originated from the Advanced Tactical Fighter initiative in the 1980s, first flew in demonstrator form in 1990, completed development in 2005, was deployed to Japan in 2006, and production of just 195 planes was finished in 2012. The type engaged in combat for the first time during the air campaign against Islamic State in 2014 and is currently deployed to the Pacific region to deter China, as well as to Europe to deter Russia.

Despite its advanced design and exceptional performance, the F-22 is essentially a Cold War jet at its core. It was designed by Lockheed to confront the Soviet Union from bases in Europe, so limited endurance was not a major issue. An F-22 can fly only about 600 miles on internal fuel, which is sufficient for combat over Germany and Poland. However, as future conflicts may involve longer distances and require more advanced capabilities, it’s clear that USAF leaders see a need for an aircraft that can meet these demands.

By Sophia Gonzalez

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