F-22 Raptor to end production in favor of the F-35 JSF

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has proposed cuts to US defense programs, including ending production of the F-22 Raptor and canceling an order for 28 new VH-71 presidential helicopters.

Gates said that the changes will “profoundly reform” the way the Pentagon buys weapons, and that new programs must be delivered at a “sustainable cost.” Instead of the F-22, the US Government will invest more money in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, increasing the total budget for the program to $11.2 billion, up from $6.8 billion. 513 F-35s will be manufactured over the next five years and 2,443 over the course of the program.

The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor entered service in 2005, and is regarded by some experts as being the best aircraft ever deployed by the United States. The problem with the Raptor is cost: each plane costs $140 million vs the F-35 at the cheaper $83 million per aircraft. The F-35 JSF is also being sold to US allies, bringing an economy of scale that the US only Raptor couldn’t match.

Gates also said that the defense budget for 2010 would increase intelligence and surveillance capabilities and production of the unmanned Predator drone.