A scary thought.
Don't Ask the Air Force This Question: What if the F-22 Raptor Never Happened?
The Air Force could have continued to pursue improvements to its legacy fleet. Boeing has demonstrated that the F-15 design still has some life in it, having proposed both a stealthy version and a “missile truck” version. The IDF Air Force has doubled down on the F-15, supplemented but not replaced by F-35s, and it is hard to argue that the Israelis don’t value air superiority. Similarly, even before Russia gave up on the Su-57, it invested heavily in improving legacy platforms, especially the Su-27 family of fighters.
The F-22 has been the world’s most formidable air superiority fighter since it first entered service in 2005. Although the Raptor has yet to kill a target in anger, aviation specialists almost unanimously agree that it can outclass any opponent, foreign or domestic. The only hard limitation on its ability to kill appears to be the number of missiles that it can carry.
(This first appeared last year.)
But what if the F-22 had never been? Like all advanced technological systems, the Raptor has suffered from hiccups; in 2009 these hiccups were severe enough to excuse the ending of the production line. What if those hiccups had been more severe, or if the United States had decided earlier that the Raptor simply wasn’t in its strategic interest?