Warplanes: September 16, 2001


The Air Force has settled its dispute with Congress over the cost of the F-22 Raptor fighter by agreeing to cut the planned buy from 331 aircraft to only 295, reducing annual production from 38 aircraft to 32. This was, in a sense, good news since it stabilizes the program, begins low-rate production, and gives contractors confidence that it will not be cancelled. It does, however, drive up the program cost of the aircraft to $170 million each (counting the $104 million cost of each aircraft and a pro-rata share of the development cost). The Air Force says it will need 380 F-22s in order to field ten squadrons of 24 (allowing for attrition reserves and aircraft sent to maintenance) and really wants 750 (including a new bomber variant). The Air Force wants to extend the F-22 buy to replace the F-15E and F-117 fleets. The key to this effort is the Small Diameter Bomb, a 200-pound GPS-guided bomb that, due to its superb accuracy, can destroy targets which now require a much larger bomb that lands somewhere near the target.--Stephen V Cole


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