Raptors Hit Flight Mark

The F-22 fleet surpassed more than 50,000 total flight hours in August, Lockheed Martin announced yesterday. “The fleet reliability measures are ahead of plan and the force-on-force exercises have shown Raptors provide the capability to dominate airspace today and in the future,” said Larry Lawson, the company’s F-22 general manager. Already the Air Force has taken delivery of 127 of the 183 F-22s on order, Lockheed F-22 spokesman Rob Fuller told the Daily Report yesterday. The Air Force wants more than 183 and, so far, Congress has supported that desire by adding funds to the Fiscal 2009 defense bills to cover advance procurement of parts for an additional lot of 20 that would be built starting in Fiscal 2010. But ultimately the next Administration will decide the aircraft’s fate, and with budget woes, the nation may not invest in many more, Richard Lardner of the Associated Press reported yesterday. The Air Force declared the first frontline Raptor unit, Langley’s 27th Fighter Squadron, ready for combat in December 2005. Since then a second combat-ready Raptor unit has stood up at Langley and the first of two at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. In fact, just last month, Elmendorf’s 90th FS reached the initial operational capability milestone. The Air Force is also standing up two more frontline squadrons at Holloman AFB, N.M., and, later, one at Hickam AFB, Hawaii.