Last month’s factory rollout of the Air Force’s last F-22 on order marked the end of the sophisticated stealth fighter’s production run, but also heralded the service’s shifting focus to modernizing the Raptor fleet. “This is only the beginning. The next phase will include [adding] greater capability to an already incredible aircraft,” said then Col. Sean Frisbee, the F-22 system program manager at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, at the time of the rollout. He has since retired from the Air Force. Aircraft 4195, the final Lockheed Martin-built Raptor, will be in a combat-ready configuration, like 148 other F-22s in the fleet, allowing it eventually, with planned upgrades, to employ the service’s most sophisticated air-to-air missiles and surface-attack munitions. The Air Force will utilize its remaining 37 Raptors in training or as dedicated test assets. For more on aircraft 4195 and the way ahead for the F-22 fleet, click here to read Marc Schanz’s complete coverage.
Reports of production troubles on the SpaceX rocket that could contend for military cargo deliveries happened to coincide with a different company’s concept receiving an early nod—one that might not require a rocket at all.