Friday, December 16, 2011

Lockheed Martin rolls-out final F-22 Raptor

The final F-22 Raptor fighter jet to be produced for the Air Force is displayed before being rolled off the Lockheed Martin assembly line during a ceremony Dec. 13, 2011, in Marietta, Ga. The jet is the last of 187 F-22s produced for the Air Force completing its operational fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Danielle Purnell)

by Senior Airman Danielle Purnell, 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

MARIETTA, Ga. (AFNS) -- The final F-22 Raptor to be built for the U.S. Air Force, tail number 4195, rolled off the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics assembly line during a ceremony Dec. 13 at the company's Marietta plant.

The fighter jet is the last of 187 F-22s produced, marking a bittersweet moment for members of the F-22 team.

It has been a memorable journey, said Shan Cooper, the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics company vice president and Marietta site general manager. The first part was created here in 1994. The jet was placed on the assembly line in 1995 and then first rolled out in 1997. Today we mark a graduation of sorts as we roll the last F-22 off this assembly line and get it ready to go out and defend America.

"While the Raptor itself is eye-watering, the people on Team Raptor have made the F-22 what it is today," Cooper said.

Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics division employs about 2,000 people for the F-22 program at its Marietta facility. Together, the team built the first 5th generation fighter with world-class results.

"You reduced the labor hours by 300 percent," said Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin's F-22 program manager. "You've delivered 55 zero-defect jets to date, and you have had more than five years of on-time deliveries."

Tail No. 4195 is the culmination of all those successes. It is the 195th F-22 to roll off the line and into the Air Force fleet. Eight of those jets were built for developmental purposes.

The F-22 combines stealth, advanced sensors and advanced air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons that makes it possible for the aircraft to cruise faster than the speed of sound without being detected.

However, the $143 million price tag per aircraft, along with the current state of the economy and changes in the military requirements for post Cold-War challenges, lead government officials to the decision to officially cease production of the F-22 in 2009.

This is why we must create a more economical fighter aircraft, said Col. Sean Frisbee, the F-22 system program manager at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

While the ceremony marked the end of an era for the F-22, the shutdown of the production line also signified the beginning of a new chapter of sustaining and upgrading the Raptor.

"This is only the beginning," Frisbee said. "The next phase will include greater capability to an already incredible aircraft."

The final Raptor will enter a series of company and government flight tests, according to Lockheed Martin officials. Tail No. 4195 will then be delivered in May to the 3rd Wing's 525th Fighter Squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Paul Moga, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.