Give Israel the F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter

F-22 Raptor
April 18, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: F-22F-22 RaptorMilitaryDefenseF-22AStealthF-35Israel

Give Israel the F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter

Selling the F-22 Raptor to Israel will ensure that the U.S. will have the capability to remain in a fight longer against its rivals and defeat them.

The F-22A Raptor is hands down the best warplane to fly the unfriendly skies today.

The F-22 was originally designed in the 1980s as a next-level, fifth-generation air superiority fighter, intended to replace the F-15.

An Air Force project, there was some discussion about creating a naval variant of this great warbird. But the Navy never opted to purchase such a plane. 

The F-22 remained an exclusive Air Force project. 

An insanely maneuverable and stealthy warbird, this system was designed to wage the third world war over the skies of the Fulda Gap in Europe against the menacing, nuclear-armed Soviet Red Army. 

Once the USSR fell, the Air Force viewed the F-22 as a chance to get—and stay ahead—of any potential new rivals. The US military believed that the F-22, along with a coterie of other new systems that had been designed in the closing days of the Cold War, would ensure that the United States retained its hard-won dominant position in the world. 

The F-22 Cost is High

The F-22A Raptor is a very expensive program

Originally, the Air Force intended to build a total of 750 units, completely replacing its fleet of fourth-generation warplanes. Yet, due to budgetary concerns stemming from the 2008 Financial Crisis, the Obama Administration terminated the production line of the F-22, leaving the Air Force with only 187 planes of this model. 

Still, the F-22 is a mighty bird that is unparalleled. In fact, whenever the F-22 is deployed during wargames, it completely tips the balance in favor of the US side. 

So, although the USAF lacks the numbers of the F-22 that it had wished for, even the few units it has can be decisive in any future conflict.

Despite the awesomeness of the F-22, though, there remains much talk about retiring the earliest models of this bird to make way in the Air Force’s budget for their sixth-generation warplane (the Next Generation Air Dominance, or NGAD, program). Congress has stopped the Air Force from doing this, recognizing the advantages that the F-22 confers upon the Air Force—even if it is a 30-year-old design. 

But the real problem the F-22 has always faced was one of cost. As in, how can the US Air Force afford to build a robust fleet of these birds, as well as to maintain these complex systems?

America’s other fifth-generation warplane, the F-35 Lightning II, is nearly as complex and expensive as the F-22 Raptor. Yet, the US military was able to balance the high costs of this complex system by making the F-35 a multi-service plane (the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps all operate versions of the F-35). 

The US government was further able to reduce the costs by involving the militaries of multiple allies. Thus, it is not only the US Air Force, Marines, and Navy that will operate the F-35. It is the militaries of multiple American allies.

No such attempt was made by the Pentagon to make the F-22A Raptor exportable. Specifically, Israel has long sought to purchase the F-22. Despite being one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, the Pentagon for years refused to countenance their request—even though doing so would have probably saved the F-22 production line and ensured its continued use long after it is currently slated to be decommissioned. 

Trump Wanted to Sell F-22s to Israel

Interestingly, for the first time in the F-22’s long history, former President Donald J. Trump had approved of the sale of the F-22 to Israel in the closing months of his presidency in 2020. Even though this was a presidential order, the Pentagon never fulfilled that command, which would have been hard to accomplish as no new F-22 Raptors had been built in years. President Joe Biden since taking office in January 2021 has never reversed that Trump order. 

Yet, the Pentagon has never made good on it, but for clear reasons--and not just production issues.

That’s because of a 1998 congressional law forbidding the United States from selling the F-22 Raptor to any foreign actor, even an ally as close as Israel. And because the F-22 was never designed to be sold to foreign militaries, unlike the F-35, the F-22 possesses a coterie of proprietary American defense technologies—as well as certain capabilities that are not fully understood by the public—and the concern about proliferating such capabilities to foreign actors is too much of a threat to American operational security.

Former President Trump’s instincts, though, were right. 

First, the F-22, we are told, is an aging program in need of retiring so that an entirely new generation of warplanes can be built and deployed. If this is the case, as the Air Force argues, then the United States should be offloading these pricey planes as quickly—and for the most amount of money—as possible. 

And who better to give these warbirds to than the Israelis, who are currently facing an implacable ideological foe in Iran (which is also China and Russia-backed). 

Whatever Secrets We Have, the Chinese Have Already Stolen

Further, what export controls are there to be preserved? 

China has already pilfered and reverse-engineered its own version of the F-22A Raptor called the J-20.

Plus, the Russians have their own near-peer variant of the F-22. These birds may not be as sophisticated as the F-22. But they are good enough—especially because, unlike the American F-22, the Russian and Chinese defense industrial bases continue building their version of the F-22 whereas the Americans have killed their own production line. 

The reason behind the Trump Administration order had to do with the fact that the F-35 Lightning II was sold to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Israel, which operates a fleet of its own F-35s, prefers to remain ahead of its regional competition (this explains why Israel built and maintains the region’s only indigenous nuclear weapons arsenal). 

And with the Iranians running roughshod over the region, Israel will need every conventional military advantage they can get. 

Sell the F-22 to the Israelis

While the F-22 was not designed to be sold to allies, the time is now for Israel to be sold this system, provided that U.S. production lines can be reopened and costs can be made reasonable. Another possibility is that if the idea proves popular in Israel, the tiny threatened Jewish democracy with a robust technology base might be able to restart the production line of this key warplane in cooperation with the Americans. 


As a third world war stalks us, and with America’s defense industrial base completely shattered, the US will not only need every ally it can get, but it will need those allies to be well-armed and ready to pick up the strategic slack. 

Selling F-22s to Israel will ensure that the US will have the capability to remain in a fight longer against its rivals and defeat them.

About the Author 

Brandon J. Weichert, a National Interest national security analyst, is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, the Asia Times, and The-Pipeline. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. His next book, A Disaster of Our Own Making: How the West Lost Ukraine, is due October 22 from Encounter Books. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.