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The way I understood it, given the very limited number of F-22s, their status of perpetual prototypes and white elephants (IIRC, $700 millions apiece is the most optimistic price range, over 1 billion probable), they will never be used in anything that qualifies as "combat" (bombing from 30000 ft some remote areas of tightly-controlled airspace doesn't really count IMO).

They're expensive, but effective right? They seem like the sort of plane we don't need until we are at war with a near-peer and they are the only thing giving us air superiority. The drop in production was due to the lack of foreign 5th gen fighters to fight against, not because the platform itself doesn't do its job well (AFAIK).

F-22 is not a "perpetual prototype", you're probably thinking of the F-35. And F-22 is optimized for Beyond Visual Range (BVR) detection and destruction of their adversaries before those adversaries even know they're in combat, both via A2G smart bombs or A2A med-long range missiles. If that's the only kind of "combat-not-combat" it ever sees, it will have been worth it - less planes and pilots lost.

That said, it's also one of the best dogfighters in the world in case it ever comes to that, but that kind of combat will be deliberately rare.

F-22s were roughly $200M apiece. Any links to support your $1B pricetag? That's the price of a B2, IIRC.

The B-2 cost $1 billion more than 25 years ago. Adjusted for inflation, it's probably much more. Apparently the F-22 cost something between 150 and 700 millions apiece: https://www.wired.com/2011/12/f-22-real-cost/

Even if you factor in the development costs (which isn't really useful since the purchase was truncated very early), the F-22 isn't close to having cost $1B.

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