F-22 Raptors: After Years Of Wait — Can Top USAF Stealth Fighters Head To Israel Instead Of Junkyard?

Many US-origin fighter jets are playing a critical role in Israel’s defensive and offensive strategies against the terror groups, but not the F-22 Raptor.

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In 2024, the US Air Force (USAF) resolved to send its older group of F-22 Raptors to a junkyard, as upgrading them is expensive. But one of its staunch allies could consider it a steal deal to get the world’s first fifth-generation fighter jet despite upgrade costs upwards of two billion.

While the F-35 “Lightening II” has been sold to other NATO countries, the F-22 is only operated by the US. In the late 1990s, the US Congress amended the Department of Defense Appropriations Act to forbid the sale of F-22 Raptor to any country.

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The amendment read: “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to approve or license the sale of F-22 advanced tactical fighter to any foreign government.”

The rationale behind the export ban was that selling the F-22 could lead to its distinctive stealth technology finding its way to Russia or China.

Former US President Donald Trump was reportedly willing to sell the F-22 to Israel to help it maintain technological superiority after promising to sell the F-35 to the UAE.

This consideration arose following Israel’s reluctant consent for the US to sell F-35s to the UAE, a move that could erode Tel Aviv’s military dominance. The report highlighted Israel’s interest in the F-22 to uphold its “qualitative military edge,” a requirement that the US must uphold by law.

The US Air Force wants to retire the older group of F-22 Raptors to free funds for newer, more combat-capable versions of the stealth fighter jets. To date, only 195 Raptor airframes have been produced, and the Air Force is looking to retire some of them.

Phasing out the Block 20 F-22s will help redirect the billions of dollars to programs like hypersonic missile development and the advancement of the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter.

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The US Air Force intends to put 32 of its 185 F-22s into storage, even though these jets are not yet 30 years old. The planes’ annual operational cost is US $485 million, which translates to around US $15 million per jet annually. Experts feel that junking the plane is not the most fruitful option, and these old warbirds can be given to Israelis, facing a formidable foe in Iran, backed by Russia and China.

“As a third world war stalks us, and with America’s defense industrial base completely shattered, the US will not only need every ally it can get, but it will need those allies to be well-armed and ready to pick up the strategic slack. Selling F-22s to Israel will ensure that the US will have the capability to remain in a fight longer against its rivals and defeat them,” wrote national security analyst Brandon J Weichert in the National Interest.

The F-22’s advanced capabilities make it one of the most expensive fighter aircraft ever produced. Each unit costs $150 million, excluding research and development costs.

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The expert contends that the aircraft, even though it was not designed for allies, should be sold to Israel as it will help the US reopen the production lines, bring the costs down for the fighter jet, and keep the cost reasonable for the US. The same model was applied to keep the cost of the F-35 down.

“Another possibility is that if the idea proves popular in Israel, the tiny threatened Jewish democracy with a robust technology base might be able to restart the production line of this key warplane in cooperation with the Americans,” Weichert adds.

Israel has long sought to purchase the F-22. Despite being one of America’s closest allies, the US has denied the request, even though doing so could have probably saved the F-22 production line and ensured its continued use long after it is currently slated to be decommissioned.

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Even now, this could be a good move. The small fleet size of F-22 in the USAF means high operating costs. And bringing Israel in would help in this regard. Also, the F-22 is still unparalleled. In every wargame that it has gone up against other fighter jets, the F-22 has tipped the scales in favor of the US.

F-22 Raptor- The Fighter Ahead Of Time

F-22 was designed to replace the aging fleet of F-15 and F-16s in the USAF fleet. On June 17, Lockheed Martin announced that the USAF’s F-22 Raptors had reached the landmark of 500,000 flight hours.

As the EurAsian Times earlier reported, one notable instance is Exercise Northern Edge 2006, where the F-22 demonstrated its prowess against as many as 40 “enemy aircraft” during simulated battles. Raptor pilots achieved an astounding 108-to-zero “kill” ratio against the best F-15, F-16, and F/A-18 jets, showcasing their dominance in the sky.

In addition to its aerial combat capabilities, the stealthy F-22A has shown its ability to evade and destroy enemy surface-to-air missiles, boasting an impressive 97 percent mission capability rate.

F-22 Raptor
File: F-22 Raptor

The F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft. Designed as an air superiority fighter, it also has splendid ground attack, electronic warfare, and intelligence capabilities. It was developed under the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program. The prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built most of the F-22’s airframe and weapons systems and conducted the final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.

The Raptor has a smaller radar cross-section than the F-35, making it invisible to enemy aircraft. When it comes to speed, the F-22 can beat the F-35. While the Raptor can fly at speeds reaching Mach-2.2 (2.2 times the speed of sound) powered by its Pratt & Whitney F119 engines, the F-35 can comparably only reach speeds of Mach-1.6 powered by its single Pratt & Whitney F-125 engine.

The F-22 is not without limitations, though. One is its relatively short range — only 1,850 nautical miles with two external fuel tanks — and its weapons magazine is small and lacks depth and range.

The USAF had initially planned to buy 750 fighters. But in 2009, the program was scaled down to get 187 as many of the Chinese and Russian fighter programs were running behind schedule, and a more advanced F-35 came through. The last F-22 was delivered in 2012. The US Navy never opted for the fighter jet.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • The author can be reached at ritu.sharma (at) mail.com
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