Why Does the US Export the F-35 Lightning but Not the Older F-22?

Wes O'Donnell
5 min readFeb 1, 2024
US Air Force Maj. Paul Lopez, F-22 Demo Team commander, performs aerial maneuvers July 14, 2019, at the “Mission Over Malmstrom” open house event on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Public domain

Doesn’t the F-35 incorporate stealth technology that was originally developed for the F-22? Well, yes… and no. Let’s dive into the highly classified world of top-secret fighter aircraft.

The F-35 is in the news again — this time regarding NATO member Turkey’s adoption of Russian S-400s — a surface-to-air missile that could pose a risk to NATO systems. In 2019, the US kicked Ankara out of the F-35 club. (Although that might be changing soon.)

But for the rest of America’s allies, the F-35 Lightning II has been selling like snow cones on a hot Texas day.

Everyone wants to get their hands on the new hotness.

But the F-22 is a much older aircraft, first entering service in 2005 as a replacement for the legendary F-15 Eagle. So why does the US sell its newest stealth aircraft but keep the old one exclusive to the US Air Force?

The United States’ approach to exporting military technology, particularly combat aircraft, offers a fascinating insight into its technological and diplomatic priorities.

The F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter aircraft, renowned for its stealth capabilities, advanced avionics, and superior performance characteristics. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter.

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Wes O'Donnell

US Army & US Air Force Veteran | Global Security guy at War is Boring, GEN, OneZero | Intel Forecaster | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | +Democracy | +Human Rights