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The US Air Force Just Gave Lockheed $11 Billion to Upgrade the F-22 Raptor

The decades-old fighter jet will act as a bridge to the next generation of warplanes.

The F-22 Raptor was first built in 1997 and it cost a whopping $335 million to produce. At the time, the powerful jet was something out of the future. It combined supercruise functionality, supermaneuverability, and sensor fusion in a single weapons platform. 

The F-22 was also designed to be incredibly stealthy, with wings that aligned perfectly with its horizontal stabilizer, helping to reduce its radar signature. It was engineered to have decreased radio emissions, infrared signature, acoustic signature, and be less visible to the naked eye. This made it far superior to conventional jets.

It was also equipped with an integrated avionics system that combined sensor fusion, data from the radar, and other external sensors to enhance pilots’ situational awareness.

A fair amount of time has passed since its initial design, however, and the jet isn't as unparalleled as it used to be. That's why, on Friday, the US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $10.9 billion contract to upgrade the fighter jet, according to Defense News.

The deal will be called the Advanced Raptor Enhancement and Sustainment program (ARES) and will take into account up to a decade’s worth of sustainment and modernization of the jet fighter that will include upgrades, enhancements and other fixes as well as logistics services and modernization hardware kit procurement.

Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration, and requirements, said in a May interview with Defense News that the enhanced Raptors, which in 2030 will be 40 years old, will simply serve as a “bridge” until the Next Generation Air Dominance program is ready to go.

“It’s just not going to be the right tool for the job, especially when we’re talking about defending our friends like Taiwan and Japan and the Philippines against a Chinese threat that grows and grows,” Hinote concluded. 

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