UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


IB87111: F-22 Aircraft Program

March 21, 2000

Christopher Bolkcom
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division



The F-22 Raptor is a next-generation fighter/attack aircraft using the latest stealth technology to reduce detection by radar. Equipped with more advanced engines and avionics than the current F-15 Eagle, the F-22 is expected to maintain U.S. Air Force capabilities against more sophisticated aircraft and missiles in the 21st century.

In 1986 two contractors were selected to build competing prototypes: Lockheed's YF-22 and Northrop's YF-23, which were flight tested in late 1990. In April 1991, the Air Force selected Lockheed's YF-22 design for full-scale development, now termed "Engineering & Manufacturing Development" (EMD). The aircraft is powered by Pratt & Whitney's F119 engine, selected in competition with General Electric's F120 engine. If produced as now projected, F-22s could begin replacing F-15s after 2005.

The Administration's FY2001 budget requested almost $4 billion for the F-22 program in procurement and development funds, compared to some $2.5 billion appropriated for the program in FY2000. Through FY2000, Congress provided some $22.8 billion for the F-22. A 341-aircraft program was estimated in September 1999 to cost about $62.7 billion in actual prior-year and projected out-year expenditures.

The F-22 program raises questions about its cost and the need for this aircraft, the capabilities it would have, and the number of these planes needed to meet military requirements. The F-22 has had strong congressional support, although some have criticized the program on grounds of cost, requirements, and coordination with other tactical aircraft programs. Deletion of procurement funds in the FY2000 defense appropriation bill passed by the House made the future of the program a major issue for House and Senate conferees in 1999.

Some question the urgency of beginning production of the F-22 when production of comparable or better aircraft by other countries appears unlikely. Others argue that the F-22 should enter production as early as possible to cope with future threats from more advanced air defenses of potential enemies and to maintain the U.S. position in aviation technology and production. The airframe will be produced by Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA, and Ft. Worth, TX, and by Boeing in Seattle, WA, with engines by Pratt & Whitney in West Palm Beach, FL.


The Administration's FY2001 defense budget, submitted on February 7, 2000, requested $3,957.9 million in procurement and research-development (R&D) funding for the F-22.


Major Developments

Air Force officials regard the F-22 program as the service's highest aviation priority. Designed as a fighter with attack capability, the F-22 Raptor uses the latest developments in stealth technology to reduce detection by enemy radar as well as thrust-vectoring engines for more maneuverability and integrated avionics for rapid fusion and display of target data. The first prototype of this next-generation stealth fighter/attack plane was first flown on September 7, 1997, followed by test flights by two development aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, where 184 test-flight hours were completed by November 23, 1998. The first F-22s could be in service after 2005, as projected in early 1999, with deliveries expected to continue into the 2010s. The major contractors are Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA, and Fort Worth, TX, and Boeing in Seattle, WA, for the airframe, with engines made by Pratt & Whitney in West Palm Beach, FL.

During the early 1980s, the Air Force began development of a stealth aircraft called the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), then expected to enter service in the 1990s to replace F-15 fighter planes developed in the early 1970s. The ATF was viewed as a necessary response to expected advances in the Soviet Union's development and production of combat aircraft in the 1990s. A naval variant of the ATF that could operate from aircraft carriers (the NATF) was expected to replace the Navy's F-14 fighter; however, funding for the NATF was not requested by the Defense Department after 1990, and development of a naval variant has not been pursued.

In hopes of reducing costs, the Defense Department emphasized competitive prototypes for airframes, engines, and avionics. The Air Force selected two teams of airframe contractors to develop ATF prototypes: Lockheed teamed with Boeing and General Dynamics; and Northrop teamed with McDonnell Douglas. On October 31, 1986, the Air Force awarded each team a $691-million fixed-price contract to build two prototypes, Lockheed's YF-22 and Northrop's YF-23, powered by new engines -- one using Pratt & Whitney's F119 and one using General Electric's F120 powerplant. The Air Force announced in 1989 that the full-scale development phase would be delayed to allow more time for development of engines and avionics. Each contractor team reportedly spent over $1 billion in company funds to develop competing prototypes, two YF-22s and two YF-23s, which were flight-tested and evaluated in late 1990.

On April 23, 1991, the Air Force selected the Lockheed team's YF-22 design for development as the F-22, powered by Pratt & Whitney's new F119 engines. Secretary of the Air Force Donald B. Rice stated that the choice was based on confidence in the ability of the Lockheed team and Pratt & Whitney to produce the aircraft and its engine at projected costs. Emphasizing the importance of the Lockheed team's management and production plans, he stated that the F-22 offered better reliability and maintainability and denied that either prototype was significantly more maneuverable or stealthy. On August 2, 1991, contracts totaling $11 billion were awarded to Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney for engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) of the F-22, then including 11 development/prototype aircraft.

The Defense Department's Selected Acquisition Report (SAR) of September 30, 1999, estimated the development and production cost of a 341-aircraft program at $62,740.1 million then-year dollars (actual funding in prior years and projected funding in future years). The quantity of aircraft in the program was reduced from 750 to 648 in 1991, then to 442 in late 1993, and later to 341(339 production and 2 development aircraft) in 1997. The F-22's development/production schedule has also been delayed. Citing budgetary constraints, reduced threats in Europe, and the F-15's longer service life as reasons for deferring production, Secretary of Defense Cheney told Congress in April 1990 that production of the aircraft could be delayed two years instead of beginning in FY1994 as originally planned, with annual production peaking at 48 aircraft in 2001 instead of increasing to 72 by FY1999 as previously planned. These 1990 projections of the F-22's development and production schedules were further revised later, when the development program was extended and the number of prototypes was reduced.

The Defense Department's 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR) resulted in the program's reduction to 442 aircraft -- 438 production and four pre-production versions (later reduced to two) -- which would support four fighter wings in a force structure of 20 wings (13 active; seven Reserve/National Guard). The Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) released on May 19, 1997, recommended a further reduction of the projected buy from 438 to 339 production aircraft, which would support three fighter wings in a 20-wing force structure of 12 active and 8 Reserve/National Guard wings. The QDR also recommended reducing the maximum production rate from 48 to 36 planes per year as a more affordable rate of production.

The FY1997 budget projected procurement of 40 aircraft in FY1998-FY2001 (versus the 76 projected in 1994 to be bought in these years), costing $11 billion in development and procurement funds. The FY1999 budget projected procurement of 18 aircraft in FY1998-FY2001 (versus the 40 projected in 1996 to be bought in these years) and 40 in FY2002-FY2003, costing $18.6 billion for development and procurement of 58 aircraft. As projected in 1998, two aircraft, termed "Production Representative Test Vehicles," would be procured in FY1999, followed by 6 (FY2000), 10 (FY2001), 16 (FY2002), and 24 (FY2003). These

annual buys were also in the FY2000 budget, which projected 36-plane buys in FY2004 and FY2005. Procurement of six production aircraft in FY2000 as projected in early 1999 was later changed by Congress to procurement of six test aircraft in FY2000.

The F-22 has been a defense budget issue since 1990, when reassessments of Soviet threats and capabilities have called into question the need to replace current fighters with next-generation aircraft. Critics of the program argue that since the Soviet Union is unlikely to continue producing the kinds of aircraft the F-22 stealth fighter/attack plane is designed to combat, it would be more cost-effective to upgrade fighter/attack planes currently in production (e.g., F-15Es and F-16s), which these critics think would be adequate for the most probable threats. Some critics argue that production of the F-22 should at least be delayed, pending the emergence of a credible military threat. Others argue that fewer F-22s would be needed because of the greater combat capability the aircraft is expected to provide. Defense Secretary William Cohen, for example, cited the F-22's superior combat capability as a reason for the QDR's proposed reduction to 339 production aircraft. Some believe that fewer than 339 F-22s will be bought. Rep. John Murtha, ranking Democratic member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, has reportedly stated that, depending on the threat and budget constraints, "the Air Force will be lucky" to get 140 F-22s. ("Rep. Lewis: F-22, JSF Numbers to be Set in Two to Three Years." Aerospace Daily, Oct. 8, 1999:43,46.)

Proponents of the F-22 argue that fighters with its stealth (low radar-observability) features and advanced combat capabilities would be needed in conflicts involving sophisticated air defenses in the hands of competent enemies equipped with advanced versions of Russian or European aircraft and missiles; e.g., the Russian Su-35 and the Eurofighter EF-2000 and Russian SA-10 and SA-12 surface-to-air missiles. Its advocates argue that the F-22 will be the first stealthy fighter/attack aircraft that combines supersonic speed without resort to afterburners (requiring additional fuel), maneuverability via thrust-vectoring engines, and fusion of multi-sensor avionics data via computers, and this will enable pilots to destroy enemy aircraft and ground-based air defenses at greater standoff ranges. They also believe the F-22 is needed as a hedge against a revived Russian threat as well as unpredictable third-world dangers in the years ahead, and they see the program as necessary to maintain U.S. industrial capabilities for development and production of advanced aircraft. With some 30 major subcontractors and some 4,500 suppliers in 48 states, the F-22 program is expected to generate up to 28,000 jobs at peak production, with indirect employment adding up to 112,000 jobs, according to contractor estimates in 1999.

In December 1993, a General Accounting Office (GAO) report ("Tactical Air: Planned F-15 Replacement Is Premature") recommended that the F-22's initial operational capability (IOC) be delayed until 2010, arguing that current F-15s can defeat expected threats until 2015 or later. GAO also noted a contradiction between development of the F-22 as a highly specialized aircraft to be used by only one service for a single mission and the Defense Department's current emphasis on developing joint-service, multi-mission aircraft. Critics of GAO's position argue that the proliferation of advanced European and Soviet aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, and radar capabilities in the Third World could pose threats that would require the capabilities of the F-22, even if F-15s remain in service longer than earlier expected. They argue that Russian Su-27s and MIG-29 fighters are technologically equal to the F-15 and could defeat an F-15 force in a scenario where these U.S. fighters might be outnumbered. F-22 supporters cite its low radar-observability, superior fuel efficiency at sustained supersonic speed, and greater range and maneuverability than the F-15.

Concerns about the cost of the F-22 were expressed in 1996 during Senate debate on the FY1997 defense budget (see below in Congressional Action). In late 1996, the Air Force began negotiating with the contractors to control cost overruns in development and production that some thought might reduce the number of aircraft procured. Cost-reduction measures included eliminating two of the four pre-production aircraft between the prototypes and production aircraft.

In 1997, the cost of the F-22 program was a major issue in Senate deliberations and action on the FY1998 defense budget. The Senate Armed Services Committee's Air-Land Subcommittee hearing on April 16, 1997, focused on different estimates of the F-22's cost by Defense Department and Air Force officials, and the FY1998 authorizations bill imposed caps on development cost at $18.7 billion and production cost at $43.4 billion. (In early 2000 these caps were adjusted to $20.4 billion and $37.6 billion, respectively, to reflect inflation and a congressionally mandated change in procurement and development funding for FY2000.) In 1998, the program was again discussed in Senate Armed Services Committee hearings, where Air Force plans to begin production of the aircraft in FY1999 were criticized. Despite such criticism, Congress appropriated $2,346.7 million of the $2,367.5 million requested for the F-22 in the FY1999 defense budget.

In discussions with members of congressional defense committees, it was agreed that at least 183 hours of flight testing would be completed before awarding contracts for procurement of two aircraft termed "production representative test vehicles" and for advance procurement funding of 6 production aircraft to be funded in FY2000. This flight-testing goal and several other requirements for initial production were met by November 23, 1998, clearing the way for contract awards.

The cost of the program again became an issue in late 1998, when it was reported that cuts in production of Lockheed Martin's C-130J cargo/transport planes would increase the F-22's overhead cost, since both aircraft are produced at the contractor's Marietta, GA, facility. (See CRS Issue Brief IB93041, C-17 Cargo Aircraft Program, pp. 7-8 for references to the C-120J.) In a December 1, 1998, letter to Defense Secretary Cohen, Representative Obey expressed concerns about this matter, asking whether the F-22 contract will be tied to C-120J purchases and whether there is precedent for such linkage between the overhead costs of different programs. (Representative Obey Questions C-130J/F-22 Linkage. Aerospace Daily, December 7, 1998: 380.) Similar concerns about the F-22's cost were voiced in March 1999 during budget hearings by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and in July 1999 the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee recommended only the $1.2 billion requested in development funding, with no procurement funding for the program in FY2000. This opposition to procurement funding was sustained by the House and in the conference report on FY2000 defense appropriations (H.Rept. 106-371).

Congressional Action

The ATF/F-22 program has had strong support in Congress, which has generally authorized funding for the program as requested, although in some years Congress has appropriated less than the amounts requested and authorized, usually reflecting opposition to the program in the House. The House Appropriations Committee's FY1990 report (H.Rept. 101-208) stated that the F-22 program "combines both an unacceptable degree of concurrence between development and production with a highly unrealistic assumption of substantial outyear funding levels." For FY1991, Congress authorized $963.9 million in Air Force R&D and $65.7 million in Navy R&D funds while denying authorization of funds for full-scale development. The FY1991 defense appropriations act provided $763.9 million for ATF prototypes and $200 million for full-scale development. For FY1992, the Administration requested $1,637 million in Air Force R&D funds for the F-22 ATF, with no Navy funding of the program. The House and Senate authorized FY1992 funding as requested. The House version of the FY1992 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2521, passed June 7, 1991) provided funding as requested and added $50 million for the NATF that was not requested. Conferees on the FY1992 defense appropriations bill (P.L. 102-172, November 26, 1991) provided $2 million to maintain "a Navy presence in the Air Force program."

The Administration's FY1993 defense budget request included $2.2 billion in Air Force R&D funding to continue development of the F-22. Congress authorized FY1993 funding for the program as requested but appropriated $200 million less than was requested and authorized. In January 1993, the outgoing Bush Administration's proposed FY1994 defense budget included $2,347 million for the F-22. The Clinton Administration's proposed FY1994 defense budget of March 27, 1993, requested $2,251 million for the program, which the House and Senate armed services committees recommended be authorized. The Senate Armed Services Committee also recommended authorization of $50 million to begin development of a naval version of the F-22, but this provision was not included in the conference report on FY1994 defense authorizations agreed to by Congress on November 10, 1993. On November 17, 1993, Congress appropriated $2,088 million of the $2,251 million requested and authorized for the F-22 in FY1994.

For FY1995, the Administration requested $2.5 billion to continue development of the F-22 ($2,461 million in R&D and $4.6 million in military construction funds). This funding was authorized by the House in the FY1995 defense authorizations bill (H.R. 4301, passed June 9, 1994). The Senate version of the FY1995 authorizations bill (S. 2182, passed July 1, 1994) also authorized funding as requested for the F-22 but would suspend obligation of more than 80% of FY1995 funding for the F-22 and the F/A-18E/F programs pending a Department of Defense report on the best way to develop a carrier-suitable F-22 for procurement by the Navy and the Air Force. The Senate bill directed the Department to "establish a joint Air Force, Navy, and Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) program office to design a Navy variant of the F-22," for which the Senate authorized $10 million "to fund the first year of this effort." (S.Rept. 103-282, p. 83.)

The House version of the FY1995 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 4650, passed June 29, 1994) included $2,443 million of the $2,461.4 million requested and authorized for F-22 development. The Senate version of H.R. 4650 (passed August 11, 1994) included $2,400 million for the F-22. The conference report, passed September 29, 1994, appropriated $2,351 billion for F-22 development in FY1995. Funding for a naval F-22 variant was not authorized by Congress and was not included in House or Senate versions of the FY1995 defense appropriations bill.

On January 5, 1995, Senators Bumpers, Bradley, Feingold, Harkin, Kerry, Kohl, Pryor, Simon, and Wellstone introduced a bill (S. 151) "To reduce Federal spending by restructuring the Air Force's F-22 program to achieve initial operating capability in 2010 and a total inventory of no more than 42 aircraft in 2015." The Administration's FY1996 budget requested $2,150.8 million for the F-22 program ($2,138.7 million in Air Force R&D funding and $12.1 million in military construction funds). The Air Force request was about $200 million less than previously planned for the program, reflecting Defense Secretary Perry's December 1994 announcement of reductions in funding for several new weapon systems.

The House version of the FY1996 defense authorizations bill (H.R. 1530, passed June 15, 1995) authorized Air Force funding for the F-22 program as requested by the Administration and recommended by the House National Security Committee. The Senate version of the FY1996 defense authorizations bill (S. 1026, passed September 6, 1995) also authorized funding for the program as requested. The Senate Armed Services Committee directed the Secretary of Defense to submit a report by September 1, 1995, answering a number of specific questions about concurrent development and production of the aircraft, its projected weight, and its projected engine performance and fuel consumption. (See S.Rept. 104-112, p. 159-160.) These questions reflected congressional concerns about the validity of recent criticism of the F-22 by the General Accounting Office as well as more positive assessments of the program by the Air Force and the Defense Science Board.

Both House and Senate versions of the FY1996 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2126, passed September 7, 1995; S. 1087, passed September 5, 1995) provided $200 million more than was requested and authorized by the House and Senate in Air Force R&D funds -- thus restoring Defense Secretary Perry's December 1994 reduction in program funds. Funding for the F-22 was challenged during the House debate on H.R. 2126, when Representative Obey offered an amendment to reduce funding from $2.3 billion to $1.3 billion, which was defeated 293 to 126. (See Congressional Record, September 7, 1995: H8621-H8624.) Although House and Senate versions of the appropriations bill provided $2.3 billion for the F-22, its funding was reduced to $2.2 billion in the conference report on FY1996 defense appropriations (H.Rept. 104-344), which on September 29, 1995, was rejected by the House for reasons unrelated to the F-22. On November 16, 1995, the House and Senate passed a modified version of the conference report (H.Rept. 104-344) that provided funding for the F-22 as stated in the earlier conference report -- $2,238.7 million in Air Force R&D funds. The FY1996 Defense Appropriations Act (P.L. 104-61, December 1, 1995) was enacted without the President's signature, since Congress was in session during the 10 days following its presentation to the President. A revised conference report on the FY1996 defense authorizations bill (H.Rept. 104-450), passed by the House (January 24, 1996) and the Senate (January 26, 1996), authorized $2,138,7 million in Air Force R&D funds for the F-22 program.

The Administration's FY1997 defense budget, submitted March 4, 1996, requested $2,003 million in Air Force development funds for the F-22 program (plus $4.4 million in military construction funds). The House authorized funding as requested for the F-22 in its FY1997 defense authorizations bill (H.R. 3230, passed May 15, 1996) as did the Senate in its authorizations bill (S. 1745, passed July 10, 1996). The Senate Armed Services Committee expressed concern over the cost of the program, however. Noting that the last independent cost estimate was in 1991 when Lockheed's YF-22 design was selected for full-scale development, the Committee called for an updated estimate by DOD's Cost Analysis Improvement Group (CAIG) to be submitted to Congress by March 30, 1997, with eight percent of the program's FY1997 funding (about $160 million) to be withheld until receipt of this cost estimate (Sec. 218 of S. 1745). A floor amendment to Sec. 218 by Senator Grassley specified the use of a July 1991 CAIG estimate as the baseline for cost comparisons and called for a description and cost assessment of changes since July 1991 in the program schedule, aircraft quantities, and projected production rates. (See Congressional Record, June 27, 1996: S7158-S7159.) Section 219 of S. 1745 called for additional reports to Congress on major events and upcoming decisions affecting the development and production of the F-22. These Senate provisions were included in the conference report (H.Rept. 104-724), which was passed by the House on August 1, 1996, by the Senate on September 10, and signed into law (P.L. 104-201) on September 23, 1996, by the President.

The House Appropriations Committee recommended $1,982 million ($20.5 million less than the $2 billion requested and authorized by the House and Senate and appropriated by the Senate), which was appropriated in the House version of the FY1997 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3610, passed June 13, 1996). The committee report described this minor reduction as being "... without prejudice, noting that historically the Air Force has only awarded 84 percent of the funds budgeted for award fees for the F-22 in a given fiscal year." The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended funding as requested and authorized for FY1997. House and Senate conferees agreed in the FY1997 omnibus appropriations bill (H.R. 3610, P.L. 104-208, September 30, 1996) to appropriate $1,987 million of the $2,003 million requested and authorized for the F-22.

The Administration's FY1998 defense budget requested $2,152.1 million for the F-22 program ($2,071.2 million in R&D and $80.9 million in advanced procurement funds), while projecting procurement of 70 aircraft in FY1999-FY2003 at a cost of $18.2 billion in development and procurement funds. The previous year's budget had projected procurement of 40 F-22s in FY1998-FY2001 at a cost of $11.1 billion. In 1997, the cost of the F-22 program and the need for as many aircraft as projected became matters of more serious concern in Congress. The Defense Department's QDR, released in May 1997, called for procurement to be reduced from 438 to 339 production aircraft.

On June 25, 1997, the House authorized FY1998 funding as requested for the F-22 ($2,152.1 million in R&D and advance procurement funds), while the Senate on July 11, 1997, authorized only $1,651.2 million in R&D funding -- a reduction of $420 million in R&D funds and no advance procurement funds. The Senate version of the FY1998 defense authorization bill (S. 936) included language (Sec. 212) limiting the F-22's development cost to $18.7 billion and production cost to $43.4 billion and requiring annual GAO reports on the cost and status of the program, via amendments by Senators Coats and Bumpers. (See Congressional Record, July 11, 1997: S7244.)

The Senate Armed Services Committee stated that "Considering the disparities in the statements of official witnesses on the cost estimates for F-22 production and the lack of explanation of the program's $2.2 billion overrun in EMD, failure to provide reports on the substance of the program [as requested by Congress in 1996] does little to foster confidence in the program's management or cost estimates....There is currently a lack of confidence due to recently disclosed overruns and estimates of large overruns yet to come in the production....Increased development costs tend to imply increased procurement costs throughout a program." The committee denied advance procurement funds on grounds that "... the F-22 program has $81.3 million from FY1997 advance procurement funds that could be used to protect the schedule for the FY1999 production, thus ensuring that there is no break in the early production of the F-22." (S.Rept. 105-29: 100, 102.)

On July 15, 1997, the Senate appropriated $1,858.2 million in R&D funds but also without advance procurement funds. The Senate Appropriations Committee was less critical of the F-22, noting that the Senate version of the FY1998 defense appropriation bill (S. 1005) recommended deletion of advance procurement funds "to ensure the program stays focused on completion of the EMD program." The Committee reduced the F-22's EMD funds only by the $213 million budgeted for termination liability in FY1998, stating it "does not expect the F-22 program to be terminated in FY1998" and expects this reduction to have "no impact on the F-22 EMD program." (S.Rept. 105-45: 115.)

The House version of the FY1998 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 2266, passed July 29, 1997) funded the F-22 program essentially as requested, with $6 million of the $80.9 million requested for advance procurement provided as R&D funding. An amendment by Representative Nadler to reduce funding by $420 million was defeated by voice vote; an amendment by Representative Obey forbidding the sale of F-22s to foreign governments (Sec. 8104) was agreed to by voice vote. (See Congressional Record, July 29, 1997: H5953-H5956, H5966-H5968.) The House version of H.R. 2266 in regard to the F-22 program was accepted by the conferees. The conference report on FY1998 defense appropriations (H.R. 2266, passed by Congress September 25, 1997, and enacted as P.L. 105-56 October 8, 1997) provided F-22 funding at the total level requested -- $2,152.1 million ($2,077.2 million in R&D and $74.9 million in advance procurement funding).

This funding was authorized in the conference report (H.Rept. 105-340) on the FY1998 defense authorizations bill (H.R. 1119), which was approved by the House on October 28 and by the Senate on November 6, 1997. The authorizations bill included in Sec. 217 the Senate's restrictions on the aircraft's EMD costs (capped at $18.7 billion) and productions costs (capped at $43.4 billion), with these caps in FY1997 dollars that would be adjusted annually to account for inflation.

The Administration's FY1999 defense budget requested $2,367.5 million for the F-22 program ($1,582.2 million in R&D and $785.3 million in procurement funds), with projected procurement of 58 aircraft in FY1998-FY2003 costing $18.6 billion in development and procurement funding. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 25, 1998, the General Accounting Office (GAO) recommended delaying award of the F-22's first production contract until October 1999, since only 4% of the development flight test program would be completed by December 1998, when the Air Force planned to contract for the first two production aircraft. Air Force officials stated that the flight tests were generating more data than expected and argued that delaying the contract as recommended by GAO would delay delivery of the aircraft, cause the program to exceed the cost caps imposed in 1997, and weaken subcontractor commitment to the program. In response to concerns about inadequate flight testing prior to the first production contract, the Air Force decided in April 1998 that the two aircraft procured in December 1998 would be designated "production representative test vehicles" instead of production aircraft, although they would be bought with procurement funds and could later be used as production planes.

In May 1998, the House National Security Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee recommended authorization of FY1999 funding for the F-22 as requested, with Sec. 133 of the Senate authorizations bill (S. 2057) requiring certifications by DOD of "sufficient testing prior to committing to production." The House authorized F-22 funds as requested in H.R. 3616, passed on May 21, 1998. The Senate also authorized F-22 funds as requested when it passed S. 2057 on June 25, 1998, after an amendment by Senators Dale Bumpers and Russell Feingold to prevent the release of advance procurement funds for the F-22 before completion of 601 hours of flight tests was defeated 73 to 19. (See Congressional Record, June 25, 1998: S7106-S7110, S7151.) The House version of the FY1999 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 4103), passed on June 24, 1998, provided $70 million less than the $2,367.5 million requested for the F-22 program. The Senate version (S. 2132), passed on June 24, 1998, funded the program as requested and authorized by the House and Senate. The conferees on the FY1999 defense authorizations bill (H.R. 3616/S. 2057) approved $2,353.5 million for the F-22 ($14 million less that requested). The conferees on the FY1999 defense appropriations bill (H.R. 4103) agreed in H.Rept. 105-746, passed by the House on September 28 and the Senate on September 29, 1998, to provide $2,346.7 million for the program ($20.8 million less than requested).

The Administration's FY2000 budget requested $3,074.3 million for the F-22 program -- $1,852.1 million in procurement and $1,222.2 million in R&D funding for 6 low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft. The F-22's increasing development cost was a major issue in Congressional hearings and deliberations on the FY2000 defense budget (March 3, 10, and 17, 1999). GAO and CBO analysts noted that the program's costs are higher than projected earlier, with the Administration request for FY2000 including $312 million to cover "procurement cost growth."

The Senate version of the FY2000 defense authorization bill (S. 1059) as reported by the Senate Armed Services Committee (S.Rept. 106-50) and passed by the Senate on May 27, 1999, funded the program as requested. Section 131 of S. 1059 required "the Secretary of Defense to certify, before commencing low rate initial production of the F-22, that the test program is adequate to determine its operational effectiveness and suitability, and that the development and production programs are executable within the cost caps [imposed in the FY1998 defense authorization act, P.L. 105-85]." The Senate version of the FY2000 defense appropriation bill (S. 1122) as reported by the Senate Appropriations Committee (S.Rept. 106-53) and passed by the Senate on June 8, 1999, also included funding for the F-22 program as requested.

The House version of the FY2000 defense authorization bill (H.R. 1401) as reported by the House Armed Services Committee (H.Rept. 106-162) and passed by the House on July 10, 1999, also funded the F-22 program as requested. The committee directed the Secretary of the Air Force to certify by February 1, 2000, that F-22 development and production aircraft "can remain within the cost limits and that testing of the aircraft will be performed in accordance with test plans that were in place when the cost limits were established [1997]," adding that "If the Secretary is unable to make such certification, he shall inform the committees of the reasons therefor and present a revised plan, including new cost estimates, for the acquisition of this aircraft." This language was included by House and Senate conferees in the conference report on FY2000 defense authorizations, which was agreed to on August 5, 1999 (H.Rept. 106-301, Sec. 131).

On July 22, 1999, the House passed its version of the FY2000 defense appropriation bill (H.R. 2561), which provided for the F-22 program only the $1,222.2 million requested in R&D funding. The $1,852.1 million requested for procurement of 6 "low-rate initial production" (LRIP) F-22s would instead be used to buy other aircraft ( 8 F-15s, 5 F-16s, 8 KC-130Js, and 2 E-8s) as well as for pilot retention and various readiness programs. After citing the F-22's technical problems and cost growth, the House Appropriations Committee report noted that "current threat projections for 2010 indicate that the United States will have a 5 to 1 numerical advantage of advanced fighters against our most challenging adversaries without the F-22." (H.Rept. 106-244: 17-21). Calling for a "production pause," the report denied funding for procurement of 6 LRIP F-22s in FY2000. Supporters of the F-22 argued that denying procurement funds in FY2000 could delay delivery of the plane by two years and add $6.5 billion to the cost of the program. (See House debate in Congressional Record, July 22, 1999: H6250-H6254, H6258-H6262, H6267-H6279.)

The amount of F-22 procurement funding in FY2000 was the most contentious issue before the conferees, who reached an agreement in late September whereby some $2.5 billion of the $3 billion requested and authorized for the program would be appropriated ($1,923 million for R&D and testing and evaluation of the aircraft, $277.1 million in advance procurement funds for 6 test aircraft, and $300 million as a reserve fund for contract termination liability), with production to be delayed from 2000 to 2001. Rep. Jerry Lewis, Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, stated on October 6, 1999, that the "agreement precludes initiation of production in 2001 until the critical Block 3.0 software is successfully flown in an F-22 aircraft." He added that "we hope the national attention to the debate over the future of the F-22 program will lead to a heightened awareness in Congress and the Defense Department to the need for intense scrutiny and prioritization of all national defense programs, no matter how much we have already spent on research and development or how vital they seemed when the process began." (See H.Rept. 106-371: Sec. 8146, Sec. 8147.)

The Administration's FY2001 budget, submitted on February 7, 2000, requested $3,957.9 million for the F-22 program - $2,546.1 million for procurement of ten low-rate initial production (LRIP) aircraft and $1,411.8 million in R&D funding.

Program Details

Program Acquisition Cost. The Defense Department's Selective Acquisition Report (SAR) of September 30, 1999, estimated the total program cost of 341 aircraft (339 production and two development aircraft) at $62,740.1 million then-year dollars (actual amounts spent in prior years and estimated expenditures in future years, based on current assumptions about inflation rates and annual production rates in the out-years). As projected in 1997, the F-22's program cost was $70.9 billion then-year dollars for development and production of 440 aircraft.

Planned Procurement Quantity. As currently projected, the Air Force plans to procure 339 production aircraft. When the F-22 design was selected (April 23, 1991), the service projected procurement of 648 aircraft instead of the 750 previously projected. In late 1993, the Air Force announced plans to procure 442 aircraft ( 438 production aircraft and four development aircraft). The 1997 QDR called for further reduction to 339 production aircraft.

Unit Cost. $184 million then-year dollars per plane in a 341- aircraft program (2 development and 339 production aircraft as currently projected by the Air Force) estimated in September 1999 to cost $62,740.1 million then-year dollars.

Funded through FY2000. Some $22.8 billion (then-year $), mainly in R&D funding, including $2.5 billion in FY2000. Through FY1992, the program received about $165 million in Navy R&D funds for a naval variant that was not developed. Funding of the ATF/F-22 began in the early 1980s and is projected to continue into the FY2010s.

System Description

The production version of the F-22 will have a wingspan of 44.5 ft, length of 62 ft, and height of 16.5 ft. The aircraft's maximum takeoff weight is estimated to be about 60,000 lb, with a projected empty weight of about 32,000 lb (without fuel and munitions). Powered by two Pratt & Whitney F-119 turbofan engines with afterburners and thrust-vectoring nozzles, the F-22 is expected to have a supersonic level speed of about Mach 1.7 using afterburners, and a supersonic cruise speed of about Mach 1.5 without afterburners. The F-22's armaments include a 20-mm M61 gun and various loadings of air-to-air missiles (visual-range AIM-9 Sidewinders and medium-range AIM-120 AMRAAMs) and air-to-surface ordnance (e.g., Joint Direct Attack Munitions), which can be carried internally or on underwing pylons. The F-22's reduced radar-cross-section and stealth features of low radar-observability are achieved through the use of radar-absorbing composite materials and the reduction of infrared and radar signatures by shaping and blending of structures.

Key Issues

Does the United States need to develop new tactical fighter aircraft at this time?

Main arguments of those favoring development of a new fighter. The United States must develop a next-generation fighter if we are to maintain a technological lead in the development and production of combat aircraft. Soviet Mig 29s and Su 27s are roughly comparable to current U.S. fighters in combat capabilities, and European aerospace industries are likely to produce more advanced aircraft in the years ahead. These aircraft could pose serious threats in regional conflicts in the next century, when we would also face serious threats from more advanced air defenses. When the F-22 enters service after 2005, many U.S. Air Force and Navy fighters (developed in the mid-1970s) will be about 30 years old. Moreover, they may be outnumbered by comparable or better foreign aircraft, given recent procurement trends and projected force reductions. Currently operational fighters cannot be further modified to provide the stealth and other combat capabilities needed to cope with the air defenses many Third World countries may possess in the 2000s, when arms reductions in the West and economic conditions in the former Soviet bloc may result in a proliferation of sophisticated military technology, particularly in surface-to-air missiles and air defenses. The F-15 will be unable to provide that measure of air superiority required in the post-2005 world.

Main arguments of those favoring improvement of present systems. The United States should concentrate on programs to upgrade and modernize existing U.S. fighter and attack aircraft while improving their air-intercept missiles and avionics to counter future advances in the aircraft and air defense capabilities of potential enemies. Production of a new generation of fighter planes cannot be justified in light of the collapse of the Soviet Union and recent Persian Gulf experience in which current U.S. aircraft operated effectively. These factors raise serious doubts about the military threats the F-22 is designed to oppose. Development of the F-22 might be continued as a hedge against long-term threats, but there are too many uncertainties about the need for this aircraft to warrant major funding commitments to the program over the near term, which may jeopardize funding of other critical weapon systems, such as tactical and strategic missile defenses. Our limited defense funds could be more prudently invested in improving fighter aircraft now in production, while developing more lethal munitions of greater range and accuracy, as well as better electronic warfare capabilities to counter the air defenses of likely enemies.


U.S. Congress. House Armed Services Committee. FY2000 National Defense Authorization Act, FY2000; report on H.R. 1401. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1999. (106th Congress, 1st session. H.Rept. 106-162)

U.S. Congress. House Appropriations Committee. Department of Defense Appropriations Bill, 2000; report on H.R. 2561. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1999. (106th Congress, 1st session. H.Rept. 106-244)

U.S. Congress. Senate Appropriations Committee. Department of Defense Appropriation Bill, 2000; report on S. 1122. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1999. (106th Congress, 1st session. S.Rept. 106-53)

U.S. Congress. Senate Armed Services Committee. FY2000 Department of Defense Authorization Act; report on S. 1059. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1999. (106th Congress, 1st session. S.Rept. 106-50)


Aboulafia, Richard L. "Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22" in World Military & Civil Aircraft Briefing. Teal Group Corp., October 1999: 9 p.

Atkinson, David. "F-22 Cut Could Cost $6.5 Billion, Slip IOC Two Years." Defense Week, July 14, 1999: 1.

Crawley, Vince. "Avionics Delays Forcing F-22 over Budget." Defense Week, March 15, 1999: 1,13.

Foote, Sheila. "Air Force Says Delay in F-22 Would Cause Industrial Base Problems." Defense Daily, March 27, 1998: 1-2.

Goodman, Glenn W., Jr. "Ruling the Skies -- F-22 and Joint Strike Fighter Development Programs Fight To Avoid the Recalcitrant Cost-Growth Bogie." Armed Forces Journal International, June 1999: 30, 32-34.

Hebert, Adam. "F-22 Cost Estimates Continue to Rise as Testing Lags Behind Schedule." Inside the Air Force, March 19, 1999: 1, 10-12.

Kandebo, Stanley W., and Hughes, David. "F-22 to Counter 21st Century Threats." Aviation Week & Space Technology, July 24, 1995: 38-39, 42. [This article introduced a series of articles on various aspects of the F-22 in a special report on the program.]

Kosiak, Steven M. Options for U.S. Fighter Modernization. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington. September 1999: 32 p.

Morrison, David C. "Under Fire [Status and Prospects of F-22 Program]." National Journal, July 1995: 1818-1823.

Scott, William B. "F-22 Team Gears up for Avionics Flight Tests." Aviation Week & Space Technology, February 21, 2000: 114, 117.

Schneider, Greg. "Red-Hot Fighter, Trail of Deception" (Part 1); "The World's Most Ambitious Fighter" (Part 2); "F-22 Has Already Doubled in Price -- and Costs Are Going Up" (Part 3). Baltimore Sun, July 18, 19, 20, 1999: 1.

Tirpak, John A. "Can the Fighter Force Hold Its Edge?" Air Force Magazine, January 2000: 24-31.

Towell, Pat. "Air War with the Pentagon: Jerry Lewis and the F-22." Congressional Quarterly Weekly, August 14, 1999: 1992-1996.

"USAF Plan to Award F-22 Contract on 4% of Tests Rattles Panel." Aerospace Daily, March 26, 1998: 451, 452B.

U.S. Congressional Budget Office. A Look at Tomorrow's Tactical Air Forces by Lane Pierrot and Jo Ann Vines. January 1997: 116 p. [Released February 13, 1997, by Representative Curt Weldon]

U.S. General Accounting Office. Tactical Aircraft, F-15 Replacement is Premature as Currently Planned. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1994: 9 p. (GAO/NSIAD-94-118)

---- F-22 Aircraft, Development Cost Goal Achievable If Major Problems Are Avoided. Washington, U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 2000: 26 p. (GAO/NSIAD-00- 68)

Warwick, Graham. F-22 Production Restructured as Overruns Slow Development. Flight International, January 1-7, 1997: 4.

Return to CONTENTS section of this Issue Brief.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list