If USAF’s oldest F-22 Raptors are scrapped, it would be the first time a significant number of stealth aircraft have gone through that process.
Air Combat Command (ACC) told Air & Space Forces Magazine, that if Congress agrees with the US Air Force (USAF) ’s request to retire 32 Block 20 F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets as part of its fiscal 2024 budget, the aircraft will be used as trainers a while longer, then stored for an undetermined period at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base’s Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) “Boneyard” in Arizona.
Eventually, USAF personnel and contractors experienced in stealth materials disposal they’ll scrap them.
An ACC spokesperson explained;
“Specific plans for disposition are being developed. However, if Congress approves the divestment there are several possibilities for the retired aircraft, including long-term storage at the AMARG. Until that final divestment decision is made, Air Combat Command is bringing the aircraft to Joint Base Langley-Eustis [Va.] where they will continue executing the F-22 formal training mission.”
Although not official yet, the USAF expects some of the aircraft will make their way to museums or possibly as “gate guards” mounted for display. The service did not say whether it could use some of the aircraft as maintenance trainers, although it has used some wrecked aircraft for this purpose in the past.
Even though the USAF is storing its F-117 stealth attack fighters in the hangars from which they originally operated at Tonopah Test Range, Nev., ACC said the F-22s will not require storage in a climate-controlled facility and will be stored at AMARG “using preservation processes very similar to legacy aircraft.”
As explained by Air & Space Forces Magazine, “removing any explosive devices, such as ejection seat motors; running a preservative oil through fluid lines; closing off openings so animals and birds don’t nest in the aircraft; and covering the cockpit, intakes and exhaust with a spray-on latex preservative to diminish the effects of sun and heat” are involved in those processes.
If the F-22s are scrapped, it would be the first time a significant number of stealth aircraft have gone through that process.
The process for the F-22s will also set a precedent for the B-2 bomber when that aircraft retires circa 2030, and the rest of the F-22 fleet, also retiring around that year.
F-22 program office requested funds in its Weapon System Sustainment accounts under “Centralized Asset Management” to “induct the F-22s into long-term storage at AMARG,” ACC said. These funding requests are not included in USAF’s budget justification books, and ACC could not say how much funding has been requested for this purpose.
The command said that plans are in place to “train and equip AMARG personnel to successfully preserve and store” the retired F-22s.
After Congress blocked a similar request in FY23, the Air Force is trying again to retire 32 older block 20 F-22s the service emphasizes are not combat-coded. Spending money to sustain the F-22 fleet — which costs about $2.3 billion every year, according to a June 2022 report from the Government Accountability Office — would be better used to further efforts like developing its NGAD successor, officials argue.
Congress last year blocked the USAF’s first attempt at retiring 33 of those F-22s.
Actually, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) moved instead to mandate the service maintain the full Raptor fleet and upgrade the older planes to the newest configuration.
The HASC chairman’s mark not only blocked plans to retire the aircraft, but also directed the service to upgrade all its F-22s to at least “Block 30/35 mission systems, sensors, and weapon employment capabilities.”
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Emerson Nuñez / U.S. Air Force