F-22 Raptor – The High Flyer

We covered a bit of the F-22 Raptor in our last article. Go here to read what sparked our desire to write about this stealth aircraft.

The F-22 Raptor is a 5th-generation 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 Integrated Defense Systems provides the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and all of the pilot and maintenance training systems. The Raptor is also known as F-22, F/A-22 and F-22A.

The F-22 Raptor formally entering USAF service in December 2005. Despite a protracted and costly development period, the United States Air Force considers the F-22 a critical component for the future of US tactical airpower, and claims that the aircraft cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter,[2] while 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.


The F-22's avionics include BAE Systems E&IS radar warning receiver (RWR) AN/ALR-94, AN/AAR 56 Infra-Red and Ultra-Violet MAWS (Missile Approach Warning System) and the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-77 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. The AN/APG-77 has both long-range target acquisition and low probability of interception of its own signals by enemy aircraft. The AN/APG-77 AESA radar, designed for air-superiority and strike operations, features a low-observable, active-aperture, electronically-scanned array that can track multiple targets in all kinds of weather. The AN/APG-77 changes frequencies more than 1,000 times per second to reduce the chance of being intercepted. The radar can also focus its emissions to overload enemy sensors, giving the aircraft an electronic-attack capability.

The radar's information is processed by two Raytheon Common Integrated Processor (CIP)s. The radar has an estimated range of 125-150 miles with possibility of a range of 250 miles with upgrades. The F-22 is capable of functioning as a "mini-AWACS.". The system allows the F-22 to designate targets for cooperating F-15s and F-16s, and even determine if two friendly aircraft are targeting the same enemy aircraft, thus enabling one of them to choose a different target. It is often able to identify targets "sometimes many times quicker than the AWACS."


The Raptor has internal weapons bays that can carry a maximum of six missiles or four bombs in the center bay, and one missile in each side bay. Carrying missiles and bombs internally maintains its stealth capability and maintains lower drag resulting in higher top speeds and longer combat ranges. Launching missiles requires opening the weapons bay doors for less than a second, while the missiles are pushed clear of the airframe by hydraulic arms. This reduces the Raptor's chance of detection by enemy radar systems due to launched ordnance. The aircraft can also carry such air-to-surface weapons as bombs with the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guidance system, and the new Small-Diameter Bomb (SDB). The Raptor carries an M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon, also with a trap door, in the right wing root. The Raptor's very high sustained cruise speed and operational altitude add significantly to the effective range of both air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions.


The stealth of the F-22 is due to a combination of factors, including the overall shape of the aircraft, the use of radar absorbent material (RAM), and attention to detail such as hinges and pilot helmets that could provide a radar return. Lockheed Martin and Boing also made the aircraft less visible to the naked eye, and controlled radio and noise emissions. The Raptor has an under bay carrier made for hiding heat from missile threats, like surface-to-air missiles.

The F/A-22 Raptor is built by Lockheed Martin in partnership with Boeing, is powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, and made from parts and subsystems provided by approximately 1,200 subcontractors and suppliers in 46 states.

The F-22's combination of stealth, integrated avionics, maneuverability and super cruise will give Raptor pilots a first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability against the aircraft of any potential enemy. The F-22 is designed to provide not just air superiority, but air dominance, winning quickly and decisively with few US casualties. The F-22 pilot can maintain control of the aircraft at speeds as low as that of a Piper Cub or at very high supersonic speeds. Because of the F-22's sophisticated aero-design and high thrust-to-weight ratio, it can easily outmaneuver all current and projected threat aircraft, both at medium and high altitudes. The F-22 claims to be the only fighter capable of simultaneously conducting air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions with near impunity.

End of Production

Earlier this month amid intense lobbying by the White House and blunt advice from the Pentagon the Senate voted to scrap plans to spend $1.75 billion to add seven more F-22s to the 187 already built or on order. President Barack Obama had threatened to veto the defense spending bill if it included money for more F-22s.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, has asked Congress to reject more F-22s, saying the existing number is sufficient to deal with any potential threat. Gates and others at the Pentagon have been pushing for major changes in weapons procurement, pointing out that the F-22s were built with the Soviet threat in mind and have not been used in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The money for the F-22s, Gates contends, would be put to better use on less expensive but more versatile F-35s, unmanned drone aircraft and other weaponry suited for the types of conflict in which the U.S. military is now engaged.

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