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Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor  (Source: AirVenture Oshkosh)
The F-22 Raptor is now certified to strike anywhere in the world

News surrounding America's fifth generation fighter programs has come in at a furious pace in the past few weeks. The latest bit of news coming out of the Defense Department should delight many aviation enthusiasts around the world.

The United States Air Force (USAF) officially deemed that the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is suitable for Full Operational Capability (FOC) status. FOC means that the F-22 Raptor’s weapons systems and flight performance fully meet the Air Force's requirement and that the aircraft can be deployed anywhere around the world.

The F-22 Raptor has fully trained pilots and support crew to ensure its successful operations at home or abroad in wartime conditions. The Air Force declined to mention if the F-22 Raptor would be deployed to Iraq (like the high-profile V-22 Osprey) or Afghanistan.

"After years of collaborative effort, a key milestone for the F-22 has been reached," said General John Corley. "The Raptor's success at Langley with the integration of active duty and Guard airmen is the showcase example of ACC's shared vision with Air Force leadership for the Total Force Integration of tomorrow."

"This announcement means the F-22 is ready for world-wide operations, should it be called upon," added Larry Lawson, Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics executive vice president and F-22 general manager. "It's a great day for our nation and for the men and women who fly and maintain this incredible aircraft. They deserve the best our country can provide, and the F-22 will stand in the gap providing air dominance and air cover for those who defend us on the ground for the next four decades."

F-22 Raptors are currently deployed at Edwards AFB, Nellis AFB, Tyndall AFB, Langley AFB and Elmendorf AFB. Raptors will also soon find a home at Holloman AFB and Hickman AFB.

The news of the F-22 Raptor's FOC status comes just weeks after the Pentagon reportedly expressed interest in purchasing additional airframes. Concerns over structural fatigue in the 30-year-old F-15 lead to the grounding of the all 442 USAF F-15A, B, C and D air-superiority fighters.

The F-22 Raptor's sister ship, the F-35 Lightning II, recently took to the air again after a seven-month grounding. The F-35 Lightning II uses technology cribbed from the F-22 program and will supplant the F-16 Fighting Falcon, AV8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet and A-10 Warthog.





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