Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the planes have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed to dominate the air against rival, sophisticated air forces or air defenses, not a small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.
The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said as of now does not exist.
"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."
Dozens of supporters of the F-22 program in the House and the Senate wrote letters to President Obama ahead of the 2009 budget decision, arguing a full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like China and Russia that are also developing fifth generation fighters and new, high-tech air defense systems. Gates dismissed these claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters, both the F-22 and the newer F-35, would greatly outnumber any adversaries for the next 15 years at least.
But the new J-20 video showed, according to Lockheed Martin, the "emerging threats" that prove the F-22s necessity.
"This [J-20] flight shows that other nations are seeking to develop the capability to challenge the F-22, and by extension, our capacity to attain air superiority in future conflict," a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said.
Jeff Babione, the vice president and project manager for the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin, told ABC News last month China and Russia's fighter programs were a consideration in the F-22's development, but also said the F-22 could find a home in strike missions against rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.
"[The F-22s] are in an area where they would be solely or more suited for a sophisticated adversary like North Korea," Babione told ABC News. "In particular, its ability to penetrate highly defended locations -- such as North Korea -- only the Raptor would be able to get in there and prosecute the missions."
In the meantime, Babione said the F-22 was "absolutely" a prudent investment for its value as a deterrent to potential foes and said he hopes the Raptors never do go to war.
"The best weapon is the one that's never used," he said.
News of the stand-down order for the F-22s was first reported by the aviation website FlightGlobal.com.