The two-month long grounding of the F-22 Raptor fleet is not only preventing the Air Force from flying its premier fighter but it’s keeping the service from getting any new ones.
Raptor-maker, Lockheed Martin, and government test pilots can’t perform the check-flights necessary to accept new jets into USAF service, as a result of the grounding. The entire F-22 fleet was on altitude restrictions for months after the December crash of an F-22 in Alaska was suspected of being caused by the failiure of the craft’s oxygen generating system. On May 3, that flight restriction was replaced with an all-out grounding of the fleet. At this point, it’s unkown when the fleet will take to the skies again. All this will probably create a backlog in deliveries of the final Raptors, according to Defense News:
Technically, four aircraft have been delivered to the Air Force, but are being stored at Marietta pending the lifting of the flight restrictions. When the Air Force resumes F-22 flight operations, those aircraft will be flown to Langley Air Force Base (AFB), Va.
Two further aircraft, 4182 and 4183, have been completed, but the company and DCMA can’t do required flight testing on those jets, Stinn said. The aircraft are being stored in a near-flight-ready status, she said.
Aircraft “4182 and 4183 were scheduled to deliver in July, but they’re not in a position to do any sort of test flights, so we can’t deliver,” Stinn said. “Maybe early August, but we don’t have a definitive date.”
Aircraft 4182 and onwards, which have not undergone any of their acceptance flights, have yet to receive their final stealth coatings. The coatings are applied only after a number of flight tests have been completed, and as a result, a backlog is slowly building up.
Before the stealth coatings are applied, the aircraft fly coated only with a primer.
Let’s hope something like this doesn’t happen to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet when it makes up the vast majority of U.S. tactical fighters.