The F-22 Raptor s without a doubt the most sophisticated and stealthy fighter that has ever been developed. With the ability to be invisible to radar and at the same time, to cruise at supersonic speeds to the battlespace, it is an incredible aircraft. But do we need it, and can we afford it? Obama is apparently thinking of canceling the program, although if I remember right, there already is an operational wing in service. The people who are building the airplane are calling on Obama to keep the aircraft production line open in order to preserve 90,000 jobs.
If you look at any potential threat aircraft that can challenge the USAF's ability for air supremacy, the most likely candidates are the Mig-31 and the Su-27 and their Chinese clones. But even then, it ignores the human factor of the pilot and training that make the Air Force pilots so darned good. Chuck Yaeger, who broke the sound barrier for the first time was an excellent pilot. He observed that in the Korean war if the planes on each side had been swapped, the Americans still would have maintained air superiority because of their better piloting skills.
So maybe, the trick is not more airplanes, but more air time for the pilots who fly the F-15 and -16. Cheaper, and just as effective against the presently perceived threats.
Of course, it would be even better if we went with unmanned stealthy aircraft piloted by E-4s who have at least 3000 hours on Playstation 3. Now, there would be a formidable force.