July 13: The Washington Post reports that the F-22A Raptor is proving unreliable in US Air Force service and is more costly to operate than expected.
The paper claims it has seen confidential Pentagon test results that say each F-22A requires more than 30 hours of maintenance for every flight hour, pushing the hourly cost of flying to more than $44,000, according to USAF information. It also says that fleet readiness is as low as 55%, which has become worse as the aircraft ages.
A major cause of the maintenance problems is quoted as being the radar-absorbing metallic skin, which requires careful preparation and is subject to damage from the weather and abrasions.
The report comes just before the Senate is due to vote on the 2010 Defense Bill, in which senior members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee inserted proposals to purchase more F-22As, against the will of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has called the programme a “niche silver-bullet solution” in today’s defence needs.