The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center has awarded Lockheed Martin a $10.8 billion contract for the modernization of the F-22 fleet.
The project that will be carried out under the contract will be referred to as advanced raptor enhancement & sustainment (ARES).
According to the Pentagon contract announcement, Lockheed will provide necessary supplies and services to sustain and modernize the F-22 Raptor, including modernization hardware kit procurement and services such as upgrades, enhancements and fixes, as well as performance-based logistics services.
Lockheed received the contract after the service completed the F-22 structural repair program earlier this year, which has been generating aircraft for the last 14 years.
The deadline for the completion of the ARES work is October 2031. It is worth noting that air force officials previously indicated that the service plans to start phasing out first F-22s in around 2030. It is unclear whether this large contract and the scope of work to be carried out will affect that timeline.
The service has previously said that the retirement of the F-F-22 will be closely linked with the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, which apparently already performed its first flight in 2020.
Speaking to Defense News in May this year, Lt. Gen. Clinton Hinote, US Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration and requirements, said the F-22 is being treated “as the bridge to the NGAD capability.”
“By about the 2030 timeframe, you’re talking about a 40-year-old platform [in the F-22], and it’s just not going to be the right tool for the job, especially when we’re talking about defending our friends like Taiwan and Japan and the Philippines against a Chinese threat that grows and grows,” Hinote said in the interview.