On 15 December 2005 the USAF announced that the Raptor had reached its Initial Operational Capability (IOC).
During Exercise Northern Edge in Alaska in June 2006, 12 F-22s of the 94th FS downed 108 adversaries with no losses in simulated combat exercises. In two weeks of exercises, the Raptor-led Blue Force amassed 241 kills against two losses in air-to-air combat, and neither Blue Force loss was an F-22.
An F-22 observes as an F-15 Eaglebanks left. The F-22 is slated to replace the F-15C/D
This was followed with the Raptor's first participation in a Red Flag exercise. Fourteen F-22s of the 94th FS supported attacking Blue Force strike packages as well as engaging in close air support sorties themselves in Red Flag 07-1 between 3 February and 16 February 2007. Against designed superior numbers of Red Force Aggressor F-15s and F-16s, it established air dominance using eight aircraft during day missions and six at night, reportedly defeating the Aggressors quickly and efficiently, even though the exercise rules of engagement allowed for four to five Red Force regenerations of losses but none to Blue Force. Further, no sorties were missed because of maintenance or other failures, and only one Raptor was adjudged lost against the virtual annihilation of the defending force. When their ordnance was expended, the F-22s remained in the exercise area providing electronic surveillance to the Blue Forces.
While attempting its first overseas deployment to the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on 11 February 2007, a group of six Raptors flying from Hickam AFB, Hawaii experienced multiple computer crashes coincident with their crossing of the 180th meridian of longitude (the International Date Line). The computer failures included at least navigation (completely lost) and communication. The fighters were able to return to Hawaii by following their tankers in good weather. The error was fixed within 48 hours and the F-22s continued their journey to Kadena.
F-22A Raptors of the 90th Fighter Squadron performed their first intercept of two Russian Tu-95MS 'Bear-H' bombers in Alaska, on 22 November 2007. This was the first time that F-22s had been called to support a NORAD mission. Raptors have also shadowed Tu-160 'Blackjack' strategic bombers.
On 28 August 2008, an F-22 from the 411th Flight Test Squadron performed in the first ever air-to-air refueling of an aircraft using synthetic jet fuel. The test was a part of the wider USAF effort to qualify all of its aircraft to use the fuel, a 50/50 mix of JP-8 and aFischer-Tropsch process-produced, natural gas-based fuel. For the tests, no modifications were made to the F-22 or the KC-135 Stratotanker which performed the refueling.
On 22 July 2009, the United States Senate voted to end F-22 production at 187 fighters. The extreme economic burden of the Raptor was cited, with arguments that since it is not used in Iraq or Afghanistan, the further costs are unnecessary. Defense SecretaryRobert Gates announced in April that the military would shift more funding towards intelligence and personnel, rather than hardware only suitable for fighting major wars like the F-22, specifically stating that it is too expensive and does not have sufficient multi-mission capability for current military operations.
In February 2010 the entire fleet was grounded due to rusting ejection seat rods.