This is the definitive history of the world's most advanced fighter jet

The F-22A Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter incorporating fourth-generation stealth technology, radical maneuvering capabilities, the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburners and unprecedented pilot situational awareness, making it the most dominant and advanced air superiority fighter in the world.

The Raptor’s sophisticated aerodynamic design, advanced flight controls and thrust vectoring allows it to outmaneuver any known aircraft. A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness and weapons provides F-22 pilots with a first-look, first-shot, first-kill advantage over adversaries.

The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness.

The F-22A Raptor was introduced Dec. 15, 2005, and a total of 187 operational aircraft were built. The last airframe was delivered to the Air Force in 2012.

Development and Design

The Raptor was developed through the Advanced Tactical Fighter program, which was initially requested by the Air Force in the 1970s to produce conceptual designs of an air-to-ground fighter to complement the air-to-air F-15 Eagle.

The Air Force needed the F-22 as a solution to emerging threats of the Soviet Su-27 Flanker, MiG 29 Fulcrum and the Chinese Shenyang J-11 multi-role fighter aircraft, to maintain air superiority after the Cold War and into the future.

Lt. Col. James Hecker flies over Fort Monroe before delivering the first operational F/A-22 Raptor to its permanent home at Langley Air Force Base, Va., on May 12, 2005. This is the first of 26 Raptors to be delivered to the 27th Fighter Squadron. The Raptor program is managed by the F/A-22 System Program Office at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Colonel Hecker is the squadron’s commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)

Thus, the request was amended with the advancements in stealth technology and the ATF program was then charged with creating a fighter with the capabilities of speed, agility, electronic warfare and signal intelligence into a stealth airframe which could also provide precision long-rage air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry.

The Air Force selected the two proposals of contract teams Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics and Northrop/McDonnell Douglas, to produce prototypes for flight testing, the YF-22 and the YF-23. The Lockheed YF-22 was ultimately selected in 1991 with the first F-22A being delivered for flight testing in 1997.

 

The Raptor is equipped with two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 afterburning turbofan engines producing 35,000 pounds of thrust each, more than any current fighter. The jet is capable of Mach 1.82 during supercruise, or sustained supersonic flight without afterburners, and able to reach speeds over Mach 2 with afterburners.

In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders. The Raptor also has an internally mounted M61A Vulcan 20 mm-rotary canon embedded inside the right wing.

The Raptor’s ability to collect and share tactical information with legacy aircraft enables U.S. and allied forces to engage targets with unmatched battlespace awareness. With the data processed with the Raptor’s advanced avionics sensors and radars, the aircraft can even designate targets for allies.

A 1st Fighter Wing’s F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. pulls into position to accept fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md. off the east coast on May 10, 2012. The first Raptor assigned to the Wing arrived Jan. 7, 2005. This aircraft was allocated as a trainer, and was docked in a hanger for maintenance personnel to familiarize themselves with its complex systems. The second Raptor, designated for flying operations, arrived Jan. 18, 2005. On Dec. 15, 2005, Air Combat Command commander, along with the 1 FW commander, announced the 27th Fighter Squadron as fully operational capable to fly, fight and win with the F-22. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

During the F-22’s first Operational Readiness Inspection the aircraft was rated excellent in all categories with a 221-0 kill ratio against opposing aircraft.

The F-22 has a significant capability to attack surface targets from high cruise speeds and altitudes. In the air-to-ground configuration the aircraft can carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions internally.

The Raptor has the ability to deploy 1,000-pound bombs from 50,000 feet while cruising at Mach 1.5, and can strike a moving target 24 miles away.

Operation and Deployment

Air Force units that operate the F-22 Raptor include:

  • The 27th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • The 94th Fighter Squadron, JB Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • The 149th Fighter Squadron, Virginia Air National Guard
  • The 19th Fighter Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
  • The 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard
  • The 43rd Fighter Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida
  • The 95th Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
  • The 301st Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
  • The 90th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 302nd Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 525th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
  • The 433rd Weapons Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada

    An Air Force F-22 Raptor executes a supersonic flyby over the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is participating in Northern Edge 2009, a joint exercise focusing on detecting and tracking units at sea, in the air and on land. (U.S. Navy photo by Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Ronald Dejarnett)

The first overseas deployment of F-22s was to Kadena Air Base, Japan in February 2007.

F-22s participated in combat sorties for the first time during Operation Inherent Resolve, dropping 1,000-pound GPS-guided bombs on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets during the American-led intervention in Syria.

From September 2014 to July 2015, F-22s flew 204 sorties, dropping 270 bombs on 60 different locations.

On June 23, 2015, two F-22s performed the aircraft’s first close air support mission conducting airstrikes protecting friendly forces in Syria.

Did you know?

– The F-22 Raptor has a radar cross-section smaller than a bumblebee, making it nearly undetectable.

– An F-22B two-seat variant was planned in 1996, but cancelled to save development costs.

– The radar on the F-22 changes frequencies over 1,000 times per second to deter detection by enemy forces.

F-22A Raptor Fact Sheet:

  • Primary function: air dominance, multi-role fighter
  • Contractor: Lockheed-Martin, Boeing
  • Power plant: two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles.
  • Thrust: 35,000-pound class (each engine)
  • Wingspan: 44 feet, 6 inches (13.6 meters)
  • Length: 62 feet, 1 inch (18.9 meters)
  • Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (5.1 meters)
  • Weight: 43,340 pounds (19,700 kilograms)
  • Maximum takeoff weight: 83,500 pounds (38,000 kilograms)
  • Fuel capacity: internal: 18,000 pounds (8,200 kilograms); with 2 external wing fuel tanks: 26,000 pounds (11,900 kilograms)
  • Payload: same as armament air-to-air or air-to-ground loadouts; with or without two external wing fuel tanks.
  • Speed: mach two class with supercruise capability
  • Range: more than 1,850 miles ferry range with two external wing fuel tanks (1,600 nautical miles)
  • Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
  • Armament: one M61A2 20-millimeter cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bays carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles and internal main weapon bays carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air loadout) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout)
  • Crew: one
  • Unit cost: $143 million
  • Initial operating capability: December 2005
  • Inventory: total force, 183
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