Fighter jets are some of the most advanced military aircraft in the world. And they’ve come a long way since the days of World War I and World War II. We now have fifth generation fighters operating in various air arms across the world, and of course the F-35B Lightning II is one of the most incredible in the world. But there are others out there too, such as the awe-inspiring F-22 Raptor. The Lockheed Martin aircraft first flew in September 1997, yet it still feels like yesterday that the aircraft entered service.
Since then, it has become one of the most expensive fighter aircraft ever made. As you might expect. It is only operated by the United States Air Force and is one of the most capable aircraft ever made, and is now considered a critical component of the United States Air Force’s tactical airpower. It’s hardly been the easiest of births either for the F-22, with production of the aircraft terminated in 2009. But it has become one of the capable jet fighters in the world and a core part of the United States military.
Development And Background Of The F-22
The F-22 has hardly had the easiest existence. The idea for the F-22 was first conceived back in 1981, as the US Air Force (USAF) looked for a replacement for its F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The Air Force needed to keep up with new Soviet aircraft of the time as well as the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker and the Mikoyan MiG-29, two of the most advanced fighters of the time. Companies were then invited to bid on a contract to build the new aircraft, with Lockheed and Northrop becoming the final two.
In the end, between the bidding aircraft and engine manufacturers it was ultimately Lockheed and Pratt & Whitney that won out over Northrop and General Electric. The first F-22 was first revealed in April 1997, and it first took to the skies on September 7th that same year. The new technologies involved with creating the F-22 saw the program incur massive overruns in terms of cost and delays, with the total cost of the program estimated to be around the $67.3 billion mark as the final F-22 left the production line in 2011. Amazingly, the F-35 is cheaper than the F-22 despite its own problems.
The F-22 In USAF Service
It wouldn’t be until December 2005 that the first F-22 was first introduced into US Air Force service. It soon proved its worth during Exercise Northern Edge in June 2006, with 12 F-22s shooting down 108 adversaries in simulate exercises with no losses to themselves. A Red Flag exercise in early 2007 again highlighted the dominance of the F-22, as it maintained air dominance against larger numbers of “rival” F-15s and F-16s and the Raptor was proving itself to be a very reliable aircraft as well. Only one F-22 was “lost” in the simulated exercises.
The F-22 would see its first combat service in September 2014, when it saw usage in the opening strikes of the American-led intervention in Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve. The F-22 would prove its worth by deterring Syrian, Iranian and Russian aircraft from attacking the US-backed Kurdish forces. The F-22 would also see combat use in Afghanistan in 2017, when they flew alongside B-52 bombers to target opium production and storage facilities in Taliban controlled parts of the country. The F-22 has also intercepted various Russian bombers that are spotted near American airspace, including the Tu-95MS and the Tu-160.
Performance Of The F-22
It might have had a troubled beginning, but there can be no questioning the performance of the F-22. The aircraft has two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 augmented turbofans that produced 26,000 lbs of thrust each, which goes up to 35,000 lbs with the afterburner. The Raptor has a total range of 1,800 miles and a maximum speed of 1,500 mph. Which roughly is around Mach 2.25. Thrust vectoring is a key feature of the aircraft, and it can carry various weapons including its Vulcan rotary cannon, Sidewinder missiles and up to 1,000 lbs worth of bombs.
The Future Of The F-22
Despite the advent of the F-35B, the F-22 is likely to see usage with the US Air Force for some time yet. Ultimately, it will be replaced by a sixth-generation fighter, but that is still some years away. And as we have seen in the past with the USAF, they are not afraid to upgrade aircraft to keep them flying for even longer. The F-16 and F-15 are still in USAF service today despite the Raptor being designed and built to replace both aircraft. Despite its troubled beginnings, it is likely there is a lot more to come from the F-22.