The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation supermaneuverable fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is the prime contractor and is responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems and final assembly of the F-22. Program partner Boeing Defense, Space & Security provides the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.
The F-22 won the Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter contest over the Northrop YF-23 in April 1991. While the aircraft’s primary mission remains air superiority, for which it can carry up to 8 air-to-air missiles internally, a secondary ground-attack role has also been developed. This capability was highlighted when the Raptor was briefly renamed the F/A-22 in late 2002, though it has again been designated as the F-22 since December 2005. The F-22 was designed primarily to supplement and replace the F-15 by incorporating new stealth features and propulsion technology. These advances include its angular design, use of radar-absorbent composite materials, and the ability to “super-cruise” at supersonic speeds without using an afterburner. The F-22 also emphasizes agility through the use of thrust vectoring nozzles and a sophisticated fly-by-wire control system.
Despite a protracted and costly development period, the United States Air Force considers the F-22 a critical component of U.S. tactical air power, and claims that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter. Lockheed Martin claims that the Raptor’s combination of stealth, speed, agility, precision and situational awareness, combined with air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, makes it the best overall fighter in the world today. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, former Chief of the Australian Defense Force, said in 2004 that the “F-22 will be the most outstanding fighter plane ever built.”
The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air combat missions because of delays in the Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter programs, a U.S. ban on Raptor exports, and the ongoing development of the planned cheaper and more versatile F-35 resulted in calls to end F-22 production.By late 2008, some 130 F-22 Raptors had been delivered to the Air Force. In April 2009, the U.S. Department of Defense proposed to cease placing new orders, subject to Congressional approval, for a final procurement tally of 187 operational aircraft. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 lacked funding for further F-22 production. The final F-22 rolled off the assembly line on 13 December 2011 during a ceremony at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
Since 2010 the F-22 has been plagued by unresolved problems with its pilot oxygen systems which contributed to one crash and death of a pilot. In 2011 the fleet was grounded for four months before resuming flight operations, but reports of oxygen systems issues have continued. In July 2012, the Air Force announced that the hypoxia-like symptoms experienced were caused by a faulty valve in the pilots’ pressure vest; the valve was replaced and changes to the filtration system were also made.
The Raptor program was set back by numerous delays in manufacturing, software development, and flight testing that pushed service entry back by several years. Operational Testing finally commenced at Nellis and Edwards AFB in October 2003, and a pilot training squadron was established at Tyndall AFB. The first operational squadron was the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB that reached initial operational capability in December 2005. Upon entering service, the Raptor has been cleared to carry the AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missile, the AIM-9M Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile, and the GBU-32 JDAM 1,000-lb GPS-guided bomb. Other weapons being integrated aboard the F-22 include the GBU-39 SDB GPS-guided bomb and the latest AIM-9X variant of Sidewinder.
The US Congress has so far voted to deny export of the F-22 to foreign countries, but Japan and Israel have expressed strong interest in purchasing the plane. Australia also made a bid but has instead chosen to buy the F-35.
First Flight (YF-22) 29 September 1990
(F-22A) 7 September 1997
Service Entry 15 December 2005
CREW: one: pilot
ESTIMATED COST: USD $150 million (flyaway cost for FY2009)
NUMBER BUILT: 195 AIRCRAFT (eight test and 187 operational)
Length 62.08 ft (18.92 m)
Wingspan 44.50 ft (13.56 m)
Height 16.42 ft (5.00 m)
Wing Area 838 ft² (78.0 m²)
Empty 43,340 lb (19,660 kg)
Normal Takeoff 60,000 lb (27,215 kg)
Powerplant two Pratt & Whitney F119-100 afterburning turbofans
Thrust 70,000 lb (310 kN)
Max Level Speed at altitude: 1,355 mph (2,180 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,150 m), Mach 2 [afterburner]
1,070 mph (1,725 km/h) at 30,000 ft (9,150 m), Mach 1.6 [supercruise]
at sea level: 920 mph (1,480 km/h), Mach 1.2
Initial Climb Rate unknown
Service Ceiling 50,000 ft (15,240 m)
Range typical: 2,000 nm (3,700 km)
g-Limits +9.0 / -3.0
Gun one 20-mm M61A2 Vulcan cannon (480 rds)
Stations four internal weapons bays and four external hardpoints
Air-to-Air Missile AIM-9M Sidewinder, AIM-120A/C AMRAAM
AIM-9X Sidewinder planned
Air-to-Surface Missile none
Bomb GBU-32 JDAM
GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb planned
- YF-22 Prototype evaluated under the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition; 2 built
- F-22A Production model with a slightly shorter fuselage, reduced wing sweep, and the cockpit shifted forward to improve visibilty; 187 to be built
- F/A-22A Designation given to the F-22A in 2002 to highlight the plane’s air-to-ground combat capabilities, but dropped upon service entry in 2005 when the model was again called the F-22A
- F-22B Proposed two-seat combat-capable trainer; cancelled
- F/A-22X or F-22X Proposed advanced variant that would add a synthetic aperture radar (SAR), moving target indicator (MTI), and additional ground attack capability within the same sized bay as the F-22A but modified to carry up to two Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers (WCMD) or two 1,000-lb JDAMs or eight SDBs
- F-22E Lockheed proposal for an upgraded version based on the F-22A with improved ground attack capability by adding a 40-inch insert so internal weapons carriage could be increased to four 2,000-lb JDAMs, 16 SDBs, or four WCMDs and incorporating an internal Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and targeting system as well as SAR and MTI modes to the radar, the changes would increasing empty weight by 4,000 to 8,000 lb and increase range by adding fuel capacity
- F-22N Proposed navalized variant with variable-sweep wings for operation from US Navy aircraft carriers; not developed
- FB-22 Lockheed concept for a long-range high-altitude bomber based on the F-22; design would eliminate all tail surfaces, incorporate a new delta wing with increased fuel capacity, and employ a longer fuselage with room for stretched weapons bays carrying two AIM-120 missiles and up to 24 small diameter bombs; the Air Force has indicated that it will not order the design
KNOWN COMBAT RECORD:
US Homeland Security – Operation Noble Eagle (USAF, 2006-present)
United States (US Air Force)