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F-22 Raptor, The most advanced 5th-Generation fighter jet in the world

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 (Digital, Dominant, and Ready) 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.

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F-22 Raptor, Capabilities:

The F-22 Raptor is the USA’s single-seat, twin-engine fighter jet with the advanced ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence features. 

According to Lockheed Martin, the F-22 fighter jet has demonstrated precision attack capabilities. It can defeat any air and ground base threats with unmatched lethality and survivability. 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 jet fighter makes other coalition aircraft more survivable.

F-22 YouTube

Raptor’s Development History:

In 1981, the US Air Force started an Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, code name ‘Senior Sky’. In this program, the US Air Force decided to build an advanced, air-superiority fighter jet due to emerging worldwide threats especially from Soviet Russia and also to replace the F-15s—which then had been in service for just seven years.

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 the stealth technology, to counter its adversaries.

Two prime contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman were selected in 1986. These contractors presented the YF-22 and YF-23 aircraft models after 50-months of demonstration and validation phase. The prototype models were flown on 29 Sep 1990. 

YF-22 & YF-23
YF-22 and YF-23

Both these models were then tested with General Electric YF-120, and Pratt & Whitney YF-119 engines. Following a review of the Advanced Tactical Fighter Program, the US Air Force announced Lockheed Martin’s YF-22 with Pratt & Whitney engines as the competition winner and gave a green signal for full-scale engineering and manufacturing development (EMD), in April 1991.

PW-F119 Engine
PW-F119 Engine

After the rigorous testing which included nearly 44,000 wind tunnel test hours, 13000 material sample tests, six years of development and a trio of program re-phasing’s mandated by Congress, the F-22 jet was finally airborne.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor took its first flight in 1997. The extensive flight testing was then conducted and the Air Force declared the jet fighter operational in 2005.

Most of the F-22 Raptor’s airframe and weapon systems were built by Lockheed Martin. Boeing manufactured the enlarged delta wings, avionics integration, aft fuselage, and training systems. BAE Systems developed cutting-edge offensive and defensive Electronic Warfare suite for F-22 aircraft. The fighter plane has fixed air intakes to achieve the maximum speed during flight. While the final assembly has also been conducted by Lockheed Martin. 

On 2nd May-2012, Lockheed Martin CEO Robert J. Stevens said, “The very existence of this airplane—your airplane—has altered the strategic landscape forever”. That was the special occasion, when the last of 195 F-22s that Lockheed Martin had produced for the Air Force during the previous 15 years, represented the completion of the world’s only operational fifth generation stealth fighter aircraft fleet.

F-22
F-22

The aircraft has also been used for testing new technologies used in the F-35, the modern age successor of the F-22 jet under the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. Eventually the F-22’s ATF program will be replaced by the NGAD program fighter.

Initial Operational Problems (IOP):

In the early years of service, F-22 pilots encountered various health issues due to problems with the aircraft’s oxygen system. These issues included loss of consciousness, emotional instability, and neurological changes, as well as persistent respiratory problems and a chronic cough. In 2011, these concerns led to a four-month grounding of the aircraft and subsequent restrictions on altitude and distance flights. 

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Investigations revealed that the BRAG valve, responsible for inflating the pilot’s vest during high-g maneuvers, was defective, causing breathing restrictions. Additionally, the onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGS) unexpectedly reduced oxygen levels during high-g maneuvers. 

Recommendations made by the Raptor Aeromedical Working Group in 2005 regarding oxygen supply issues were initially overlooked but gained attention in 2012. Eventually, it was determined that breathing restrictions were the primary issue, leading to coughing symptoms attributed to high-g exposure and excessive oxygen levels at low altitudes. Modifications to the life-support equipment and oxygen system allowed for the lifting of flight restrictions on April 4, 2013.

Integrated Technologies:

The F-22 aircraft is a 5th-generation fighter jet, which is considered 4th-generation in stealth technology by the US Air Force. The key for this aircraft’s sustainment is its integration.

F-22 gateway to future tech
F-22 gateway to future tech

A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats. The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected.

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.

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/Washington House AN/APG-77 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, with TRW Communication/Navigation/Identification (CNI) suit. 

F-22 Integrated Technologies
F-22 Integrated Technologies

Technologically the 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. 

AN-APG-77 AESA Radar by Northrop Grumman
AN-APG-77 AESA Radar by Northrop Grumman

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 F-22 jet was designed in such a way so it is highly difficult to detect and track by radars. Maximum measures have been taken to reduce radar cross-section (RCS) include airframe shaping, durable stealth/mirror coating, 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 m^2 or – 40 dBsm (it is equivalent to the radar reflection of a steel marble). Even the helmet of the pilot is designed in a way so that it returns very less radar signatures.

The new helmet mounted cueing system developed by Thales was also tested back in 2013. But due to skyrocketed cost of the F-22 per aircraft, the development of the new helmet was not entered production. The helmet cost already used by the pilot of the Raptor is around $400,000. Now in 2023, the US Air Force is testing the new helmet for fixed wing pilots under the “Next Generation Fixed Wing Helmet” (NGFWH) program. This new helmet is first of its kind, very light weight, comfortable, and accommodates helmet-mounted devices. It is also fitted with different configurations according to the need of the mission such as Night Vision Goggles (NVG), and nuclear flash protective goggles, the feature lacking in the old helmet system.

F-22 Flight Helmet USAF
F-22 Flight Helmet USAF

The Integrated Maintenance Information System (IMIS) empowers maintenance personnel to connect their laptops directly to the jet. They can log completed maintenance tasks and then sync their computers with the system, instantly updating a global database. This ensures that accurate and comprehensive maintenance records are maintained, regardless of the F-22’s deployment location worldwide.

Efficient and cost-effective maintenance of the F-22 relies on seamless integration. Collaborating closely with the U.S. Air Force Lockheed Martin streamline complex sustainment tasks into a cohesive operation. This unified approach boosts efficiency, reduces costs, and enables quicker responses to the demands of pilots and maintenance crews in the field.

Advanced Cockpit:

Significant advances in Raptor’s cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness. The Raptor has all-digital flight instruments with a glass cockpit. It has a monochrome head-up display. Information is displayed on six color LCD panels.

The monochrome head-up display offers a wide field of view and serves as a primary flight instrument. The integrated control panel (ICP) is a keypad system for entering communications, navigation, and instructions related to autopilot flights. Around the ICP, two 3 by 4 inch up-front displays are utilized to show integrated caution advisory warning (ICAW), and CNI data. They also act as a backup flight instrumentation group and a redundancy fuel quantity indicator. Underneath the ICP is a primary multi-function display (PMFD), which measures 8 by 8 inches and is utilized for situation evaluation and navigation. Around the PMFD, there are three 6.25 by 6.25 inches secondary multi-function displays used for store management and tactical information.

F-22 Cockpit
F-22 Cockpit

The onboard oxygen generating system (OBOGS), protective pilot clothes, and a breathing regulator anti-g (BRAG) valve that regulates flow and pressure to the pilot’s mask and clothes are all parts of the complex life support system of the F-22 aircraft.

The gold tint canopy of the Raptor redesigned because the initial version fell short of the expected durability, lasting only about 331 hours instead of the necessary 800 hours. The gold canopy also blocks sun glare to some extent to provide better visibility during day-time missions. Initially the F-22 canopy measures around 140 inches in length, 45 inches in width, and 27 inches in height (equivalent to 355 cm × 115 cm × 69 cm), with a weight of 360 pounds.

The Raptor uses an enhanced version of McDonnell Douglas ACES II ejection seat and the requirements for a fresh design was dropped.

McDonnell Douglas ACES II ejection seat
McDonnell Douglas ACES II ejection seat

New Generation Radar:

The APG 77 radar has an active-aperture and low-observability. Developed by Northrop Grumman, the AN APG 77 AESA fire control radar allows the pilot to track and shoot at multiple targets in any weather condition before the adversary’s radar detects the Raptor. 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 a second to lower interception probability. According to Northrop Grumman, it is a solid state-of-the-art technology which enables the AN APG 77 to leap ahead of standards for system reliability and field sustainability.

AN-APG-81 AESA Fire Control Radar
AN-APG-81 AESA Fire Control Radar

AN APG 77 AESA provides the aircraft with;

  • A rapid beam agility
  • Low radar cross section
  • Multiple target detection

These features help pilots “First Look, Fist Shoot” capability.

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The F-22’s radar and other sensor information are processed by Common Integrated Processor (CNI) developed by Hughes Network Systems (an American company, a world leader in broadband satellite services & network solutions). These processors are very powerful, such that each processor is capable of processing 10.5 billion instructions per second that is 1-lac times the computing speed of Apollo Moon Lander. 

Raptor’s Engine:

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor uses dual Pratt & 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 kilo Newton (35000 lbs). 

Pratt & Whitney F119 Engine
Pratt & Whitney F119 Engine

The F-22 jet Engines are designed for super-cruise, 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. The aircraft, with its cutting-edge engine technology, has a climb rate of 62000 feet per minute, which is far superior as compared to any modern jet.

The F119 engine is very easy to maintain. Commercial stores can be used to maintain six commonly used tools for standard flight line engine maintenance. 

Specifications:

The aircraft dimensions include a length of 62.1 feet, height of 16.8 feet, and a wing-span of 44.6 feet. The empty weight of the jet is 43,340 pounds (i.e. 19,700 kg) and the max-take-off weight is 83,500 pounds (i.e. 38,000 kg). The jet can push to the G limits from -3G to +9G.

The F-22 jet is powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines. Each engine provides the thrust of 35,000 pounds. The Raptor can carry 18,000 pounds (8200 kg) of internal fuel. The F-22 Raptor’s top speed is Mach 2.

F-22 Diagram, F-22 Silhouette
F-22 Diagram, F-22 Silhouette

Ferry range of the F-22 fighter jet is 1850 miles. And the service ceiling (altitude) is above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers).

Specifications/Features/FactsDetails
Fighter Jet:F-22 Raptor
Country Origin:USA
Generation:5th
Capabilities:Stealth
Prime Contractor:Lockheed Martin, Boeing
Wingspan:44.5 ft (13.6 m)
Length:62.1 ft (18.9 m)
Height:16.8 ft (5.1 m)
Weight:19,700 kg (43,340 lbs)/td>
Max Take-off Weight:38,000 kg (83,500 lbs)
Power Plant:Two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines
Engine Thrust Class:35,000 lbs class [Each engine]
Fuel Capacity:Internal: 8,200 kg (18,000 lbs); External: 2 external fuel drop tanks 11,900 kg (26000 lbs)
Thrust to Weight Ratio:>1.09 (1.26 with loaded weight carrying 50% fuel)
Top Speed:Max speed is Mach 2, with supercruise capability
Range:1850+ miles ferry range
G-Limit:+9G, -3G
Service Ceiling [Altitude]:50,000 ft (15 km)
Payload Capacity:same as armament air-to-air or air-to-ground loadouts; with or without two external wing fuel tanks
F-22 Raptor Cost per plane:Estimated $145 million

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Weapon Systems:

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 Raptor also has 4 external hardpoints, two under each wing. These hardpoints can carry external fuel tanks along with stealthy IRST pods and air-to-air weapons to perform combat missions.

F-22 Internal Weapon Bays
F-22 Internal Weapon Bays

The main weapons bay can carry armament of up to six LAU-142/A launchers for beyond-visual-range missiles. While two-side bays, each can carry weapon loadout of 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 lbs) or four 110 kg ( 250 lbs) bombs. Internal air-to-surface ordnance is limited to 910 kg (2000 lbs). 

One rotary cannon (M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm gun system) is embedded in the airplane’s right-wing root with the muzzle covered by a retractable door to maintain stealth. 

M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm gun system
M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm gun system

The F-22 fighter jet can also carry air-to-surface weapons which include bombs with Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance and small diameter bombs. The jet was also tested with external weapons pylons.

Raptor also has nuclear attack capability and can carry B61 nuclear bomb in its weapons bay.

Variants:

The first combat-ready F-22 Raptor was of Block 3.0, which flew in 2001. It also has a software version 3.0 to perform real time combat missions. The first upgrade program enabled the employment of JDAM. Upgradation to Block 3.1 software version 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 to 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 block 30/35 includes upgradation related to geolocation improvements and a new store management system to fully integrate the AIM-9X and AIM-120D. F-22A block 40 is the latest upgrade to the Raptor.

F-22 Variants 3.0, 3.2A, 3.2B
F-22 Variants 3.0, 3.2A, 3.2B

The Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base in Utah is home to the exclusive F-22 Modernization Line. Here, the U.S. Air Force collaborates with Lockheed Martin to seamlessly integrate cutting-edge system capabilities, bolstering the F-22 Raptor’s distinct advantage over both current and potential adversaries.

No successor or blocks of the Raptor has yet been confirmed by the USA.

Program Cost:

In 1985, the US Air Force intended ordering 750 advanced tactical fighters 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 price 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. 

F-22 Raptor Cost
F-22 Raptor Cost

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 single unit lifetime cost of the operational F-22 aircraft skyrocketed to $145 million after the US has decided to halt its production. But if we calculate the cost per jet by considering the overall program cost of $67 billion then the price will surprise you. The lifetime cost per aircraft is estimated at around $350 million for each 187 fighter jets, which is stunning and far beyond the affordability even for the USAF. Also the operating cost per hour of the Raptor is $85000 which is far more expensive than any other fighting aircraft available.

Operational History:

F-22 Raptor as an advanced tactical fighter is designed to counter enemy strategic threats in the skies as well as over the horizon threats from the emerging and technologically advanced nations.

The Raptor did not take part in any real combat till now, but it pitched against the F-15 Eagles to test its capabilities in a controlled exercise. The four eagles have been shot down by the Raptor without a single loss. One of the pilots of the F-15 said that the F-22 fighter jet had not even shown-up on radars due to its most advanced stealth features. 

F-22 Combat operational tests
F-22 Combat operational tests

F-22 has a simulated kill-ratio of 221 to 0, and is designated best in all categories. As described by Lt. Col. Phillip Guy, 192nd FW Plans and Programs officer, “The effort and attention to detail of the Airmen in the 1st and 192d Fighter Wings was amazing,”. He further added, “With an unprecedented 221-0 kill ratio during the ORI, Team Langley demonstrated that the F-22 Raptor is more than ready for combat operations.”

The jet cannot be used as a bomber fighter aircraft in combat missions but as an air superiority next-generation war machine to neutralize the emerging and advanced threats.There are other bomber variants available in the US inventory such as F-15 Eagle, FA-18 Super Hornet, and F-16 Fighting Falcon to do the bombing tasks.

Customers:

The US Air Force or USAF is the sole customer and operator of the F-22 Raptor. America doesn’t even sell the jet to its allies.

Analysis:

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, an unmatched air dominant fighter aircraft is a very expensive jet as compared to other 5th generation jets of the same generation. It is said to be the fighter of another league, the jet that is too far ahead of its time.

The F-22 is the most advanced fighter jet in the world right now. No doubt, the F-22’s combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and mission systems make it the best fifth-generation fighter in the world.

F-22 Raptor Futuristic photo by Global Defense Analysis
F-22 Raptor Futuristic photo by Global Defense Analysis

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 Raptor is too far ahead of its time and advanced fighters from Russia and China do not even come close to it in terms of its technological advancement. 

Raptor, the most advanced aircraft of its kind, has direct competitors from adversaries including Su-57 from Russia and J-20 from China.

Lockheed Martin, as a world leader in producing modern war machines, is committed to provide higher readiness rates, faster response, and lower life-cycle cost.

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. 

The F-22 flight manuals documents are also available here.

Quick Information:

Which one is better, F-22 or F-35?

In comparison between F-22 vs F-35, both these fighter jets are 5th-generation, and house the most advanced and cutting edge technologies. The F-22 as a world’s first stealth fighter aircraft is still the most advanced one. But the F-35 can integrate more diverse offensive and defensive weapon systems than the F-22 Raptor.

Is the F-22 Raptor retired soon?

The US Air Force appears to be reconsidering its timeline for retiring the F-22, extending its usage well beyond 2030, as indicated by the spending projections outlined in the service’s fiscal 2025 budget request. This signals a strategic shift in the management of the air dominance fighter program.

Is the F-22 currently the fastest fighter jet available?

No, the F-22 aircraft is not the fastest fighter jet available to date. But it still has a top notch speech of Mach 2 in the 5th-generation category of the fighter jets available all over the world.

What is the cost of the F-22 Raptor?

If we calculate the per unit fighter jet price of the F-22 from its general overall program cost then it is staggering and will surprise you. The overall cost of the F-22 program was estimated at around $67 billion. So the per unit cost of the jet is estimated at around $350 million for 187 fighter jets, which is stunning.

Why is the F-22 Raptor so expensive?

Weapon systems developed for the Raptor, known for their advanced capabilities, are accompanied by staggering development costs that could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars. Additionally, a significant portion of these expenses is attributed to the extensive research, testing and validation processes required to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of these cutting-edge systems.

Can F-16 shoot down the F-22?

F-22 is the most advanced 5th-generation jet in the world while the F-16 is a 4th-generation. Which means the F-16 is a generation behind the F-22. So there is no direct comparison between the two. But surely the F-22 has a direct advantage over the F-16 both at long-ranges and in close combat.

Can Rafale counter the F-22?

Rafale is a 4.5th-generation jet and is the most advanced in its category while F-22 is a 5th-generation jet. Rafale can counter the F-22 somehow but F-22 can easily shoot down the Rafale at long-ranges due to its powerful radar and cutting-edge avionics.

Is the F-22 jet fighter used in the movie Top Gun?

No, the F-22 is not used in the Hollywood movie Top Gun Maverick. F/A-18 Super Hornet is used in the movie because the movie is about the Navy and US Navy used the Super Hornet. While the F-22 is used by the US Air Force only.

For how long the F-22 can fly without refueling?

The ferry range of this 5th-generation jet is 1850+ miles. It also depends on many other factors such the payload the jet is carrying, and the armament.

10. Does the F-22 break the sound barrier and go supersonic?

Anything above Mach 1 means it is breaking the sound barrier. Speed above Mach 1.2 represents the supersonic speed. Yes, the Raptor speed can break the sound barrier and go even supersonic speed of Mach 2 along with the help of its advanced thrust vectoring engine.

Does the Raptor have the vertical takeoff capability?

The F-22 demonstrates remarkable agility thanks to its ability to execute steep vertical take-offs, swiftly transitioning into a 90-degree twist to level off. This agility is made possible by its impressive thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.08, showcasing the aircraft’s nimbleness in maneuvering.

Sources:

  1. Lockheed Martin
  2. Wikipedia

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