What it means.
How the Stealth F-35A Just Surpassed the F-22A In One Key Metric
Lockheed Martin on May 23, 2019 delivered to the U.S. Air Force the service’s 196th F-35A Lightning II.
The May 2019 delivery means the number of F-35As in Air Force service “is one more than the total number of F-22As built,” journalist Steve Trimble tweeted.
Three years after the Air Force declared initial operating capability with the F-35A, the single-engine stealth fighter continues to suffer low reliability and still is missing key systems.
But the fighter indisputably is becoming an important part of the Air Force’s force structure. It flew its first combat sortie in April 2019 over Iraq. It played a major role in a large-scale exercise with Air Force F-16s. The flying branch plans to establish an aggressor squadron that will fly early-production F-35s in order to simulate enemy stealth fighters for training purposes.
All of these milestones are possible only because the Air Force is purchasing large numbers of F-35s. The service, by contrast, spent more than $60 billion buying just 195 twin-engine F-22 Raptor stealth fighters from Lockheed before production ended in 2011. That’s around half as many F-22s as the Air Force said it needed.