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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 October, 2004, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
US rolls out most expensive jet
By David Bamford
BBC Defence and Security correspondent

The FA-22 Raptor
The FA-22 Raptor jet was designed in the 1980s to fight the USSR
The first of a fleet of the world's most expensive fighter jet, the FA-22 Raptor, is being commissioned into the United States Air Force.

The US military has ordered 277 planes, the first of which was due to roll out onto the tarmac at its manufacturing base in Georgia on Wednesday.

It is to join a fighter squadron based close to the capital, Washington DC.

The FA-22 stealth fighter can fly at 1500 km/h and still remain undetected by radar.

It fires precisely targeted smart bombs and can engage hostile aircraft far beyond the pilot's vision.

That is the impressive part of the story.

Irrelevant?

The other part is that, at a cost of about $260m (142m) each, the Raptor is designed to fight a potential Soviet enemy that no longer exists, and a Third World War that - if it ever happens - will be very different from what could have been imagined in 1981.

Some years ago there was a serious attempt in the Congress to scrap the whole project, especially as the revised cost exceeded four times the original estimate.

It failed largely because of pressure from military contractors and labour unions in states that will directly benefit from this multi-billion dollar programme.

The introduction of the new fighter jet comes in the same week that its manufacturer, Lockheed-Martin, announced a 40% rise in profits as it processes orders for its next generation of fighter aircraft, the F-35.


SEE ALSO:
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