The United States along with Russia are the undoubted leaders in the field of defence innovation with reports of the Pentagon already secretly testing what could be the signature sixth-generation fighter aircraft.
However, while the status of the F-35 stealth aircraft remains unmatched and are being aggressively pitched for export to allies, there is a sense of wonder why the United States never let another nation get a mere whiff of the paint on its another stealth aircraft – the F-22 Raptors?
Considered to be one of the finest fighter aircraft in the world, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is an all-weather, fifth-generation, stealth, multi-role fighter.
While most of the F-22’s airframe and weapons systems were built by its prime contractor Lockheed Martin along with its distribution, the fighters’ wings, fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems have been provided by US aerospace giant Boeing.
The ultimate combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance is what gives the fighter jet unmatched fighting capabilities when compared to other aircraft.
According to defence writer Caleb Larson, writing for the National Interest – “The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is operated by the U.S. Air Force, and is arguably the world’s “most advanced manned combat aircraft.” It is stealthier than the F-35 Lightning II, which has been exported to a number of U.S. allies in both Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, most notably to Japan and Israel.”
Before the retirement of the $62 billion F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter program, it was the most-expensive and most-advanced fighter in the world, until it was overtaken by the fifth-generation F-35s.
A host of nations which was led by Israel and Japan were interested in being a part of the F-22 programme in a bid to acquire the fighters, with speculations made that South Korea along with Singapore and Australia wanted the aircraft to bolster their respective air fleets.
However, Congressman Dave Obey stamped his foot on any potential deals for the fighters after citing worries of its technologies being leaked to countries like Russia and China. The aircraft has a high-tech coating which has to be scraped off and re-applied even to fix a light, making it even stealthier than the F-35 Lightning II.
A former Air Force combat photographer, Blake Stilwell, while writing for “We are the Mighty”, said – “The Congressman worried that the stealth technology on the F-22 (which still makes a smaller radar cross-section than even the F-35) would end up in the hands of China or Russia if sold to allies – especially Israel.
It seems Congress was worried the Israelis would leak U.S. tech to China the way American intelligence believes Israel aided China in the development of its J-10 fighter.”
With the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) current standing in developing advanced stealth fighters of their own, such technology back in the 1990s would have been detrimental to the US interests.
As a result, the congressman added an amendment known as the “Obey Amendment” to the 1998 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, which very specifically prevents the sale of the F-22 Raptor to any foreign government.
The single-statement act says – “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.”
Moreover, even the US plans of initially purchasing a whopping 750 of the program’s fighters did not take off as it was thought with its Air Force only being delivered with 187 aircraft.
Eventually, the F-22 program proved to be too costly and with the need for an air-to-air fighter to counter Soviet fighters no longer being US’ top priority, the program was ended in 2019.