The US may restart production of the world's most lethal combat plane

US Air Force General

F-22 f22 raptor inherent resolve arabian seaUS Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey HookA US Air Force F-22 Raptor flies over the Arabian Sea in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Jan. 27, 2016.

Mark Welsh made comments at an Air Force Association event that were uncharacteristically bullish on the prospect of restarting the F-22 program.

Almost five years ago, Lockheed Martin shuttered the F-22 program. Since then, the top Air Force Brass have been focused on the troubled F-35 program as well as looking decades forward to the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.

However, as Ohio’s Representative Mike Turner said in congress, “in light of growing threats from a resurgent Russia and an aggressive China, further exploration into restarting the F-22 line is deserved.”

Gen Welsh’s comments on Thursday represent a shift in the Air Force’s official attitude towards reviving the F-22, where they had previously stated it would not be cost effective.

“I don’t think it’s a wild idea, I mean the success of the F-22 and the capability of the aeroplane and the crews that fly it are pretty exceptional. I think it’s proven that the aeroplane is exactly what everybody hoped it would be,” Welsh said, as notes.

“We’re using it in new and different ways and it’s been spectacularly successful and its potential is really, really remarkable. And so going back and looking and certainly raising the idea well, could you build more? It’s not a crazy idea,” Welsh continued.

The Air Force could not only reboot the F-22, but improve on it as well. The jet’s thrust vectoring could stand to be revisited, which would give the plane an edge in engagements that occur within visual range.

Also, a helmet mounted display, like the kind found in the F-35, could increase the fighter’s abilities.

As Jamie Hunter, editor of Combat Aircraft Monthly, wrote in 2015: “How about a risk-reduced approach for NGAD? Take the almost perfect Raptor and put it back into production, albeit this time with the tweaks that make it truly the best fighter ever it can be. That approach may just help mitigate against the early cost over — runs and delays — and provide capability faster and when it’s needed.”

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