The Future of America’s F-22 Raptors: Retirement and Beyond

Christian Baghai
2 min readFeb 26, 2024

As the United States Air Force (USAF) looks towards the horizon of aerial combat, the question of what to do with its fleet of F-22 Raptors, particularly the Block 20 models, has become a subject of intense debate. The F-22 Raptor, a symbol of American air superiority, faces a crossroads as the USAF plans for its next-generation successors.

The Block 20 Raptors: A Legacy to Preserve or a Cost to Cut? The Block 20 F-22 Raptors have been earmarked for retirement by the USAF. These jets, while part of the fifth-generation fighter lineage, are not combat-worthy without significant upgrades. They lack the modern communications, weaponry, and electronic warfare capabilities necessary for today’s battlefields.

Congressional Resistance and the Debate Over Utility Despite the USAF’s stance, Congress has pushed back against the retirement plans. Some members argue that the Block 20 Raptors still hold value and should be maintained and upgraded to the latest configurations. This opposition is rooted in the belief that these aircraft could still serve a strategic purpose, even as the USAF shifts focus to future technologies.

The Financial Equation: Savings vs. Upgrade Costs Retiring the Block 20 jets would save the USAF an estimated $485 million annually, contributing to the funding of the Next…