When Lockheed shut down the production line for the F-22 Raptor, they kept much of the equipment and machinery necessary to reopen the line, should the prospect materialize. There have been a few studies on doing exactly this and Congress actually ordered just such a study in April, 2016. However, in spite of the moth-balled machinery & equipment, it was still deemed too expensive to restart the program.
Now, in the wake of the current geopolitical environment, it’s looking like it might be more of a possibility. One of the original issues, though, is that Congress specifically legislated that the F-22 could not be exported, even to our closest allies like Great Britain or Israel. Japan, for its part, really wanted the Raptor–and still does–and, given Chinese ambitions in the local area, Japan clearly has a need for an advanced fighter. Japan has already ordered more than 40 of the F-35s but is still looking at the F-22 or a hybrid thereof. More importantly, though, it sounds like they might even be willing to pony up some serious money to get an F-22-like program going – $40 billion dollars worth of capital for what Lockheed describes as an F-22/F-35 hybrid combining the best capabilities of each thereby making the new F-22 better than either of its parent designs.
Obviously, if Japan is willing to put up this type of money, the startup costs for the US for an improved F-22 is dramatically reduced. In addition, an expanded F-22 fleet in the US inventory would be a very welcome enhancement, given that the Air Force only bought about 180 of the original F-22’s roughly a decade ago. With the F-15 and the F-16 fleet aging–who’s designs are 40 years old–an expanded F-22 fleet could only complement the F-35. Obviously, Congress will need to get involved but with President Trump actively supporting exporting US arms to allied nations I think the time is right to actively pursue the F-22 once again. (See Tyler Rogoway’s excellent article from The War Zone here, from which much of the information above was used.)