F-22A Production Restart
Production of the F-22 fifth-generation tactical aircraft concluded in 2009, after 187 aircraft were produced, far short of the initial program objective of 749 aircraft, as well as the Air Combat Command's stated requirement of 381 aircraft. The Air Force selected retention of the tooling primarily for program sustainment. As a result, primary production tooling is in storage at Sierra Army Depot, retained to produce spare parts if required in the future.
The F-22 is currently the United States Air Force's premier capability for gaining and maintaining air superiority and its primary role is conducting counterair missions in a contested environment. However, moving closer to 2030, it is impo1tant to acknowledge that threat capabilities have and will continue to evolve at a rapid rate, creating highly contested environments. The threat drives what capabilities are needed to achieve air superiority in the future, and the rate of threat evolution drives the timelines for the needed capability.
There had been interest within the Department of the Air Force, Department of Defense, and Congress in potentially restarting production of the F-22 aircraft in light of growing threats to U.S. air superiority as a result of adversaries closing the technology gap and increasing demand from allies and partners for high-pe1formance, multi-role aircraft to meet evolving and worsening global security threats.
An analysis of future air superiority capability requirements was conducted by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF) chattered Air Superiority 2030 (AS 2030) Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team (ECCT). Following the analysis, the CSAF signed the AS 2030 Flight Plan in May 2016. The AS 2030 ECCT was chartered to develop capability options to enable joint force air superiority in the highly contested environments of 2030 and beyond.
The Air Force prepared the 2017 assessment in response to House Report 114-537 direction to conduct an F-22 Production Resta1t Assessment. It builds upon a 2011 RAND study, "Retaining F-22A Tooling, Options and Costs," that addressed options for F-22 production tooling retention with respect to expected future requirements, to include production resta1t. The RAND study also provided a summary of past Congressionally directed reports.
Five major cost factors would make restarting the F-22 production line challenging:
- restoring production lines,
- re·establishing and re-qualifying the manufacturing and supplier network,
- procuring critical long lead raw materials,
- restoring and re-training a skilled production workforce,
- anticipated re-design of major subsystems, and
- government costs.
These non-recuring restart costs could range between $7-$12 billion base year 2016 dollars (BYl6$). The RAND study researched and provided re-start costs for three scenarios: Hypothetical, Transition, and Future. The Hypothetical scenario assumed no production break, the Transition scenario a two-year break, and the Future scenario a three-year break. With a longer production break the exact status of the production industrial base and extent of required requalification remains uncertain.
The Air Force estimated procurement unit costs could range between $206 and $216 million (BY16$) for 194 aircraft (Fiscal Year (FY) 2025-2034). A 2011 RAND study estimatead procurement unit cost - adjustect to Base Year 2016, was $206 million (BYt6$), but only assumed an additional 75 aircraft. Assuming a buy of 194 aircraft, the total procurement cost is estimated to be between $40 and $42 billion (BY16$). When the total procurement cost is combined with the non-recurring restatt estimated costs of $9,869 million (BY16$), the total restart cost is estimated to be $50,306 million (BY16$). Further fidelity to build an official cost estimate for budgetary planning purposes would require an additional nine to twelve months and contractual engagement with industry.
As reported in 2010, F-22 Foreign Military Sales (PMS) are technically feasible. The cost estimate to develop an export version of the F-22 was reported as $ l.94B (BYl6$) for non-recurring development and $684 million (BY16$) for estimated production restart, for a total $2.62 billion (BY16$). Adjusting to Base Year 2016 and estimating additional procurement expenses, the estimated procurement unit cost for an PMS variant is $330 million (BYl 6$), assuming a quantity of 40 aircraft and first delivery of an operational aircraft would occur ~6.5 years from the beginning of a developmental contract. If accomplished today, it is anticipated additional development costs above the 2010 estimate would be necessary due to the rapid rate of change in technologies and the growing cyber threat to Air Force Weapon Systems.
The timeline associated with pursuing F-22 production resta1t would see new F-22 deliveries starting in the mid-to-late 2020s. While the F-22 continues to remain the premier air superiority solution against the current threat, new production deliveries would start at a point where the F-22's capabilities will begin to be challenged by the advancing threats in the 2030 and beyond timeframe.
The major driver of non-recurring costs is the redesign (to include DMSMS updates) of major subsystems. The F-22 radar, engine, and software will need some redesign and this assessment assumed one other as yet undetermined subsystem will need redesign, such as Electronic Warfare or Communication/ Navigation/ Identification. This adds $5.8 billion (BY16$) additional non-recurring engineering costs. F-22 procurement estimate also assumes that aircraft would be produced in a configuration close or equal to the modernized combat-coded fleet at the time of delivery.
While export is technically feasible, the complete Air System contains significant technology transfer and security concerns that must be addressed in any future FMS efforts, No F-22 export configuration currently exists; it was not incorporated into the initial design. In contrast, the F-35 was developed from the ground up as an export aircraft. An F-22 export configuration could leverage F-35 programs and processes from the F-35 making compliance with export control requirements more attainable. Even if the 1998 prohibition on export of F-22 is removed, there are several agencies that would need to approve export of the F-22.
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