An F-15 flies alongside two F-22s  (Source: Aviation Explorer)
Structural failures in the F-15 leads officials to scramble for more F-22s

The last time DailyTech discussed the USAF's F-22 Raptor in detail, the fighter was in the news due to an International Date Line (IDL) bug. When a group of Raptors flying from Hawaii to Japan crossed the IDL, multiple computer systems crashed on the planes forcing them to rely on their accompanying tankers to guide them to safety.

Today, the Raptors are in the news again -- but this time it's not for something negative towards the plane itself. The Defense Department is reportedly making plans to extend the production of the F-22.

The original plan was to produce 183 F-22s at a cost of $132 million USD each. The last F-22 was to be delivered by the end of 2011.

The move to continue production of the F-22 beyond 2011 comes amid recent safety concerns over the 30+ year old F-15. A Missouri Air National Guard F-15C crashed on November 2 during a routine training mission. Early investigations suggested a structural failure as the direct cause of the crash.

As a result, USAF grounded the entire fleet of F-15s. "The whole fleet was already flying on flight restrictions due to metal fatigue," said Lexington Institute military analyst Loren Thompson in early November. "In this case, the planes that are grounded are supposed to be America's top-of-the line air superiority plane. These are the sinews of our global air dominance."

The planes were then put back into service on November 19 only to be recently grounded again. All 442 of the USAFs F-15A, B, C and D aircraft were grounded -- only the newest F-15E Strike Eagles remain cleared for regularly scheduled flights.

Thompson noted that money is being squirreled away into the fiscal 2009 budget to make room for additional F-22 aircraft after the last of the originally planned 183 planes is built in 2011. The Air Force has requested as many as 381 of the aircraft, but it's unlikely that the money being set aside will allow for anywhere near that number of aircraft.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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