Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor is the most advanced, 5th-generation, stealth, super maneuverable, highly capable, air superiority, and tactical fighter aircraft. It has unmatched capabilities.
According to Lockheed Martin (the prime contractor of the fighter jet), the F-22 Raptor defines air dominance. The 5th-Generation F-22’s unique combination of stealth, speed, agility, and situational awareness, combined with lethal long-range, air-to-air, and air-to-ground weaponry, makes it the best air dominance fighter in the world.
The F-22 Raptor is the USA’s single-seat, twin-engine fighter jet with the advanced ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence capabilities.
The F-22 has demonstrated precision attack capabilities. It can defeat any air and ground base threats with unmatched lethality and survivability. Lockheed Martin wrote on its website. The F-22 jet has the ability to collect and share tactical information with friendly assets, enabling the US and its allied forces to engage targets with unmatched battlespace awareness. This fighter jet makes other coalition aircraft more survivable.
Most of the F-22 Raptor’s airframe and weapon systems were built by Lockheed Martin. Boeing manufactured the wings, avionics integration, aft fuselage, and training systems. While the final assembly has also been conducted by Lockheed Martin.
In 1981, the US Air Force started the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, code name ‘Senior Sky’. In this program, the US Air Force decided to build the advanced, air-superiority fighter jet due to emerging worldwide threats.
In the ATF program, the US wanted to make a completely new fighter jet using advanced technologies including composite materials, lightweight alloys, powerful propulsion system, advanced flight control systems, and most importantly stealth technology.
The F-22 took its first flight in 1997 and it was inducted into the US Air Force in December 2005.
Finances & Production:
In 1985, the US Air Force intended ordering 750 ATFs at the total cost of about $44 billion, with the procurement cost of around $26 billion and the production would start in 1994.
The total number of fighter jets production reduced from 750 to 648 in 1990 due to the increasing cost of the program. Raptors production was further reduced to 339 in 1997, to 277 in 2003 and finally to 183 in 2004. The reduction in the number of aircrafts production is due to funding instability and an overall increase in the cost of the program.
In 2006, the US government implemented the multi-year procurement plan to save the amount of $15 billion and the total program cost projected to be $62 billion for 183 F-22s. These 183 jets were distributed to seven combat squadrons. In 2008, the US Congress increased the total aircraft production to 187 by passing the defense spending bill. In 2009 the incremental cost for an additional F-22s was estimated at around $138 million.
In 2011, the total program cost was estimated at around $67.3 billion, with the $33.4 billion spent on Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation (RDT&E). While $34.9 billion was spent on procurement and military construction (MILCON).
The F-22 has a total of 3 internal weapons bays. Two smaller bays on the side of the fuselage, while a large bay on the bottom of the fuselage.
The main weapons bay can carry up to six LAU-142/A launchers for beyond-visual-range missiles. While two-side bays, each can carry a single LAU-141/A launcher for short-range missiles. Four of the launchers in the main bay can be replaced with two bomb racks that each can carry 450 kg (1000 lb) or four 110 kg ( 250 lb) bombs. Internal air-to-surface ordnance is limited to 910 kg (2000 lb).
One rotary cannon (M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm) is embedded in the airplane’s right-wing root with the muzzle covered by a retractable door to maintain stealth.
The F-22 can also carry air-to-surface weapons which include bombs with Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance and small diameter bombs.
The F-22 is a 5th-generation fighter jet, which is considered 4th-generation in stealth technology by the US Air Force.
The first combat-ready F-22 Raptor was of Block 3.0 software, which flew in 2001. The first upgrade program enabled the employment of JDAM. Upgradation to 3.1 software Block 30, provides improved ground-attack capability through synthetic aperture radar mapping and radio emitter direction finding, electronic attack, and Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) integration.
Increment 3.2 of the Raptor is a two-part (3.2A & 3.2B) upgrade process. 3.2A upgrade focuses on electronic warfare, communication, and identification. While 3.2B includes upgradation related to geolocation improvements and a new store management system to fully integrate the AIM-9X and AIM-120D.
The F-22 uses the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) as a gateway to enable two-way communication with other platforms. The Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL) integration was cut due to development delays. A Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Joint (MIDS-J) radio replaces the Link-16, which became operational in recent times. The fighter jet has been upgraded to integrate the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (GCAS). The mid-life upgrade (MLU) is projected to be started in 2024.
The F-22 Raptor uses dual Prat & Whitney F119-PW-100 augmented turbofan engines, which incorporate pitch-axis thrust vectoring nozzles with a range of +20,-20 degrees. Each engine delivers maximum thrust in 156 kN (35000 lbf). Engines are designed for supercruise, meaning it can sustain a supercruise speed of up to Mach 1.8 without using an afterburner. Raptor has a maximum speed of more than Mach 2.0 when it uses an afterburner.
Sensor technology in Raptor includes General Electric/Sanders An/ALR-94 electronic warfare system. Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAR-56 infrared and ultraviolet Missile Launcher Detector (MLD). And Texas Instruments/Washingtonhouse AN/APG-77 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, with TRW Communication/Navigation/Identification (CNI) suit.
The APG-77 radar has an active-aperture and low-observability. Radar can track multiple targets in any weather condition. Radar emissions can overload enemy sensors and have an electronic attack capability. The AESA radar used in F-22 can change frequencies more than 1000 times in a second to lower interception probability.
Technologically most complex equipment on the aircraft is the ALR-94 system. It is a passive radar detector. It uses more than 30 antennas distributed into the wings and fuselage for all-around Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) coverage. It has a range of about 250+ nmi. The defensive system can prompt the pilot to release countermeasures such as flares or chaff, depending on the detected threat.
The F-22’s radar and other sensor information are processed by two Huges (an American Electronics company) Common Integrated Processor (CNI). These processors are very powerful, such that each processor is capable of processing the 10.5 billion instructions per second.
The F-22 has software written in 1.7 million lines of code.
The Raptor has all-digital flight instruments with a glass cockpit. It has a monochrome head-up display. Information is displayed on a six-color LCD panel.
The F-22 was designed in such a way so it is highly difficult to detect and track by radars. Maximum measures have taken to reduce radar cross-section (RCS) include airframe shaping, fixed geometry serpentine inlets, and curved vanes that prevent line-of-sight of the engine faces and turbines from any external view. With the use of Radar Absorbing Material (RAM), it is very difficult for radars to detect and produce a threat alert against the Raptor. From certain angles, the Raptor has an RCS of 0.0001 m2 or – 40 dBsm (it is equivalent to the radar reflection of a steel marble).
The F-22 fighter aircraft is a very expensive fighter jet as compared to other 5th generation jets of the same generation. It is also difficult to maintain even the small fleet of a Raptor by the USA (the economic giant) in terms of its cost.
After analyzing the specs and technologies integrated into the F-22 Raptor, we can say that it is an excellent fighting machine and it may put the USA one step ahead of its adversaries.
Due to the Raptor capabilities and its advanced technology, it cannot be exported to any country in the world. US federal law protects its classified features and stealth technology.