The story of the world's deadliest fighter.

Posted on April 18, 2015 by N.R.P
It was during the height of the Cold War, that
the US Air Force felt the need for a fighter
aircraft which would have a ridiculous level
superiority over its adversaries on the other
side of the Iron Curtain. They realized that the
latest Soviet fighters were on par with the latest
American fighters, and any future conflict would
be fought on an equal footing. They wanted to
avoid this situation and have a clear and broad
advantage in every conflict, before it even
started. The current 4 generation fighters did
not boast of any revolutionary new technology.
So its successor, a 5 generation fighter would
feature cutting edge technology and several
features which were unheard of in fighter
aircraft. This article will take you on a journey
through the origins, development and
production of the F-22A Raptor, which has
captured the hearts of millions of aviation
enthusiasts around the world.
F-22 Raptor takes off during a training mission. Photo :
It all started in 1981 when the USAF felt that
the newly inducted F-15 needed replacement
with something way more powerful than it.
They believed that the F-15/16 would be
obsolete by the beginning of the 21 century.
So, in June 1981 , they issued an official
Request for Information (RFI) for the next
generation Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF). It
would be a generation ahead of the F-15 and
have features which were absent or rare in the
fighters of that era. The requirement of the ATF
was tailor-made to give the USAF, an
unmatched fighter jet which would be better
than the Su-27 and MiG-29. They wanted their
new fighter to be ‘invisible’ to enemy radar until
it was too late for the adversary to react.
By 1984 , the final requirements of the ATF were
announced, and they are as follows.
Stealth Technology
Airframe made of composite materials
and lightweight alloys
Ability to use a 610 m long runway
(later changed to 910 m)
Maximum Take-off weight of 23,000
Combat radius of 1300 km
Supercruise speed of Mach 1.4-1.5
Higher power engines compared to
the F-15s existing engines
The USAF wasn’t new to stealth technology
having operated the F-117 already. But this was
the first time in aviation history that an
operational stealth fighter was going to be built.
The main contenders for the ATF program were
Northrop and Lockheed, who had a vast
amount of experience in designing and building
advanced aircraft. However, this was a multi-
billion $ program and a single company
couldn’t afford to invest that much money for a
project in which one design would be rejected.
Hence they partnered with other major aviation
firms in order to share the workload and
There were 2 consortiums eventually formed.
The Lockheed led team had Boeing and
General Dynamics while the Northrop led team
had McDonnell Douglas as their partner. Since
all these companies had a vast amount of
experience and top notch facilities, they had no
trouble in designing and building a stealth
fighter. The official USAF requirement at that
time was 750 such fighters. The US Navy
showed interest in a naval variant of the ATF
and expressed their desire to procure 546 such
high-performance aircraft for their carrier fleet.
This was designated as the Naval Advanced
Tactical Fighter and would replace their fleet of
F-14 Tomcats.
Lockheed developed the YF-22 as their
prototype. They went for a conventional
approach for the wing and tail layout which was
initially based on their F-117, but the design
was later tweaked to what it looks like today.
This 5 gen aircraft had a conventional layout
of wings and tail fins with suitable
modifications to reduce radar reflectivity of
these surfaces. The YF-22 was an aircraft built
for maneuverability and stealth and was
designed to trounce the supermanoeuverable
Flankers in a dogfight.
Northrop developed the YF-23 as their
prototype. This aircraft used a very futuristic
design which made it look as outlandish as the
SR-71 Blackbird. The YF-23 was optimized for
high speed and was the stealthier than the
YF-22. It had diamond shaped wings and a V-
shaped stabilator (fully moving stabilizer). It
featured fixed engine nozzles instead of thrust
vectoring ones like on the YF-22, which
reduced its maneuverability compared to its
The two aircraft were subject to rigorous
testing where Lockheed ensured that the YF-22
exceeded the performance requirements for
prototype aircraft and even fired AIM-9 and
AIM-120 AAMs. Finally on 23 April 1991 , the
YF-22 was declared the winner, and the USAF
selected the Pratt & Whitney YF-119 engine to
power it.
The YF-22 and YF-23
The USAF initially wanted 750 fighters, but the
numbers were drastically cut down as a result
of the end of the Cold War and excellent
performance of F-15/16 in combat. The
number reduction took place as follows
1981 – 750 aircraft
1996 – 648 aircraft
1997 – 339 aircraft
2003 – 277 aircraft
2004 – 183 aircraft
The final number decided was 187. Production
started in 1996, and the final F-22 Raptor was
delivered to the U.S. Air Force on May 2, 2012.
This constitutes the only operational fleet of 5
gen fighters in the world
F-22 in assembly
The F-22 has many unique design features
which make it special
The canopy of the F-22s cockpit has a
thin layer of gold (which is only a few
atoms thick) on it to keep
electromagnetic emissions from
entering or leaving the cockpit. It is
the largest piece of monolithic
polycarbonate material being formed
It was one of the earliest aircraft to
have a full glass cockpit, where large
LCD displays replaced conventional
dials and gauges. This, combined with
sensor fusion, made the F-22 a very
pilot-friendly aircraft which eliminated
the need for a navigator.
The F-22 structure is made of high
strength materials like Titanium alloys
and composites, which enables it to
withstand the heat and stress of
sustained supersonic flight.
The airframe is coated with special
radar absorbent materials which
absorb radio waves. This, along with
the shaping of the airframe, gives the
Raptor its stealth characteristics.
A close up photograph showing the gold coated canopy
Some of the specifications are
Top Speed: 2400+ km/hr.
Range: 2500+ km ferry range
Payload: One M61A2 20-millimeter
cannon with 480 rounds, Internal side
weapon bays carriage of 6+2 missiles
in Air-Air configuration
Crew: 1
Unit Cost: US $ 150 million
Numbers Built: 189
The heart of any aircraft is its engine and the
Pratt & Whitney F-119 PW-100 turbofan engine
powers the Raptor. It features 2 such turbofans
which individually produce around 120 kN of
dry thrust and >160 kN of afterburning thrust.
This exceptional level of thrust, combined with
its aerodynamic design, allows the F-22 to
supercruise at Mach 1.7. Supercruise is the
capability of an aircraft to fly at supersonic
speeds by using the engine’s dry thrust only.
Afterburning thrust is needed for other aircrafts
to fly at supersonic speeds for short intervals.
But the F-22 can fly at supersonic speeds for
long periods as it doesn’t need to use fuel
draining afterburners.
The twin F-119 PW-100 turbofans in full afterburning
The engines feature two-dimensional thrust
vectoring nozzles with ±20°up and down
movement for improved aircraft agility. This
helps the F-22 to make extremely tight turns
and stand toe to toe with those
supermanoeuverable flankers. The engine is
built for ease of maintenance and features 40%
fewer parts when compared to engines of 4
gen fighters. Also its thrust is greater than any
4 gen fighter jet engine in service. The photos
below show the thrust vectoring nozzles in
action under laboratory conditions.
The original F-22 requirements called for a lot
of sensors like Infrared Search and Track
(IRST), Side Looking Radar (SLR) arrays, Active
Electronically Scanning Array (AESA) radars to
be integrated onto the F-22. But the SLRs were
deemed to be unnecessary and expensive and
removed, although the space allotted for it was
left empty in case the USAF changed its mind
in the future. The IRST sensor ball would
protrude from the nose of the F-22 and
compromise its stealth features as it reflected
a lot of radio waves. The requirement for a tiny
RCS of less than 0.00001 m² led to the
omission of the IRST pod as well, but again
there’s space left over for future
implementation. This shows that the F-22 has
a lot of upgrade potential and can be fitted with
additional sensors if the need arises.
Technicians fit the APG-77 radar into the nose of an
Currently, the main radar is the nose mounted
APG-77 AESA. At the time of entering service,
it was the most advanced radar in the world to
equip a fighter and it is currently surpassed by
advanced variants fitted on the E/A-18. The
APG-77 is said to have a range of about 250
km which enables it to detect its adversaries
long before they even know what’s happening.
It can also provide fire control for the AIM-120
which would allow it to shoot down a hostile
aircraft 100 km away, without the F-22 even
revealing itself to enemy radar. This radar can
also act as a jammer by overloading sensors of
hostile aircraft and missiles. The APG-77 will
be upgraded to enhance its detection range to
400 km using narrow beams.
One of the most vital but rather unknown
sensors are the AN/ALR-94 radar warning
receiver (RWR) and the AN/AAR-56 Infrared
and Ultraviolet Missile Launch Detector (MLD).
The RWR, which is distributed around the
aircraft, is a passive radar detector which
enables the F-22 to detect hostile radar
emissions without revealing itself. It has a
range of over “432 km”, which means an F-22
can detect an enemy aircraft’s radar over 400
km away! That’s before the enemy aircraft even
appears on the Raptor’s radar screen. In actual
combat, the RWR detects hostile missiles
heading towards the Raptor and acts in
conjunction with the MLD and the
Countermeasure Dispensing System (CMDS) to
release Chaff and Flares to evade enemy
F-22 deploying flares
AIM-9 Sidewinder being launched from the side bays
A 5 gen fighter needs 5 gen missiles. But
unfortunately it still uses the same missiles
used by older 4 gen aircraft. Although this
won’t affect combat performance much, it still
makes the missiles jammable by enemy radar.
Also, the relatively larger size and diameter of
these missiles coupled with non-folding fins,
limits the total amount of missiles carried
internally to 8. In a typical air combat
configuration, the F-22 carries 6 AIM-120s in its
fuselage weapons bay and 2 AIM-9s in its side
bays. This could possibly be increased to
10-12 missiles in the future, by using compact
missiles with small diameters and folding fins.
The current capacity of 8 is enough for combat
against any modern 4 gen fighter. The
weapons suite is being upgraded and the F-22
will be able to field the newer AIM-120D and
AIM-9X after the upgrades.
The port fuselage weapons bay with 4 SDBs and 1
The F-22 is technically designated as the F/
A-22 because it is a multi-role aircraft which
can fight and attack ground targets as well. The
weapon of choice for the F-22 to take out
ground targets is currently the Small Diameter
Bomb (SDB). Up to 8 of these GPS guided, 50
km range, winged SDBs can be carried in the
central weapons bay along with AAMs. They
are used for precision strikes against enemy
ground threats and their small size, accuracy
and effectiveness makes the Raptor a potent
strike aircraft. The larger 1000, 2000 lb. GPS
guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM)
can be carried, but in very small quantities of 1
or 2. Since the USAF has stealth bombers in its
inventory, it’s unlikely that the F-22 will be used
for any serious strike missions. Its role will be
limited to achieving and maintaining air-
supremacy over hostile battlefields.
The weapons carried by the Raptor aren’t
limited to its internal bays, but can be carried
externally as well. This is generally used when
stealth is not needed and a better weapons
load + external fuel tanks would be more
beneficial, such as over friendly or neutralized
territory, or when the enemy has no anti-air or
aerial assets which would make stealth
unnecessary. 4 AAMs or 2 external fuel tanks
can be carried under the wings. These external
stores can be jettisoned along with their
mounting pylons mid-air, if the need arises or
stealth is suddenly required. The high speed of
the F-22 and its supercruise ability allows
weapons release at very high speeds, which in
turn extends the range of existing missiles due
to a high launch velocity.
An F-22 with its bomb bay open
The higher the level of technology used in an
aircraft, the higher the level of the problem
which affects it. The solution for such
advanced problems and bugs is very expensive
and generally involves years of testing and
research. Though it is the best fighter ever built,
it has had its fair share of problems. The most
infamous one is the ‘Raptor Cough’, caused by
what they say is a faulty oxygen generating
system and filter. This left the F-22 pilots with
severe cases of cough. The problem is said to
have been rectified by installing imported filters
and oxygen generators.
Money is another problem over here. Being a
hi-tech beast, every sortie of the Raptor drains
money at supersonic speeds. As of 2013, the
cost per flight hour was $68,362, which is over
3 times that of the F-16. The stealth coatings
of the F-22 are maintenance intensive and each
and every major component has an
astronomical price tag when compared to 4
gen fighters.
Although the US has fought many wars since
the time the raptor entered service, it hasn’t
seen any actual combat. Till recently, it only
participated in military exercises with friendly
nations which gave the Raptor pilots much
needed experience against 4 gen fighters. It is
said to have achieved lopsided kill ratios in
mock combat against USAF aggressor fighters,
with 1 F-22 defeating multiple adversaries with
ease. It practiced extensively against every
modern US fighter as its main purpose was to
achieve air supremacy over the battlefield in
case of a war.
An F-22 refuels from a KC-10 on its way to Syria
However in September 2014, it made its
combat debut over Syria for a very different
mission. After being refueled by a KC-10 on its
way, it bombed IS targets and made its way
back to base. There are questions raised as to
why the USAF deployed such an advanced
fighter to attack a relatively undefended
airspace. But some say that it was because the
Air Force didnt want to take a chance against
any undetected threats which could shoot down
4th gen fighters. There is also the possibility
that it was a well organized publicity stunt for
the F-22, which has been facing strong
criticism for having never been used in combat,
despite spending 65 billion $ on the program.
The F-22 also participates frequently in Combat
Air Patrol missions, but most of the countries
will be unaware of it because they can seldom
detect it. The F-22 also does the traditional job
of intercepting and escorting Russian Tu-95
bombers and recon aircraft near Alaska. There
were rumors floating around that the F-22 once
saved a USAF drone from an Iranian F-4. It
supposedly sneaked up stealthily behind the F-4
and then warned the pilot to back off. To
detect the strengths of its adversaries, the F-22
is frequently deployed in combat exercises with
friendly nations which possess the latest
Russian fighters. Recently the Raptors carried
out mock combat against Su-30MKMs of the
Royal Malaysian Air Force.
An F-22 intercepting and escorting A Tu-95D. Note the
external fuel tanks on the Raptor.
When you create a fighter jet that you say is
invincible, everyone will start finding ways to
prove you wrong and try to create something
better than your product. Russia, Europe and
China have designed advanced fighter jets
which can give the F-22, a run for its money. In
an exercise, Eurofighter Typhoons of the RAF
claim to have detected the F-22 at
considerably long ranges using their IRST
sensors and achieved a simulated ‘kill’. Russia
says that their latest Flankers can out-
manoeuver the Raptor and carry more missiles
than it.
RAF Typhoon
But there is a small fact. You can’t shoot down
something which you can’t see. This was the
basis of the F22 and will remain a fact for
decades to come. No airborne radar which is
currently operational can detect the F-22 at
sufficiently far off distances. Even if a fighter
manages to detect the Raptor at close ranges
or when its weapon bays are open for a
second, it will be a nightmare for the adversary
to get a missile lock on the F-22. So, any
potential Raptor killers must be able to detect
the F-22 from 100+ km, remain undetected by
the F-22, possess long range missiles which
have a range of around 200 km and the ability
to track the Raptor and guide the missiles
towards it. No operational fighter has this
However it’s not wise to underestimate the
rivals of the F-22. Although still in prototype
testing phase, the Russian Su-50 will be a
powerful adversary by the time it enters service
around 2017. The Su-50 does not possess the
stealth features of the F-22, and according to
official figures, the Radar Cross-Section of the
Su-50 will be 1000 times that of the F-22. This
means that the Raptor will clearly have an
advantage in detecting and shooting it down at
long ranges. But, the Su-50 will have L-band
radars which can detect stealth aircraft at long
ranges, so won’t it detect the F-22 from afar?
The answer is most likely no. These radars
would be more effective against the F-35,
which has a bigger RCS than the F-22, but
definitely not against the Raptor at least at long
E/A-18 Growler with its jamming pods
The most important aspect of modern aerial
combat is electronic warfare. This non-lethal
form of warfare can disable advanced fighters
without a single shot being fired. The powerful
APG-77 radar of the F-22 enables it to jam
every other fighter in existence and render them
useless in the fight. But this is only done at
short ranges and in emergency situations as
jamming the enemy would make the F-22
visible on radar. But there are 2 fighters that the
F-22 can’t touch electronically. They are the E/
A-18 Growler and the Su-50.
The Growler has jammed the F-22 in exercises
with its powerful built in jamming equipment
and APG-79 radar, but isn’t a threat as they are
both on the same side. However the biggest
electronic thereat is the Su-50 from Russia.
Since the Russians know that they can’t
compete with the US in stealth technology, they
have concentrated in putting a wide variety of
radars, sensors and advanced jamming
equipment in their 5 gen fighter. The Su-50
will house multiple AESA radars in its nose, L-
band wing radars and rear looking AESA radars
and jammers. It will also feature the latest
Himalaya Electronic Warfare Suite and
Jammers which are said to be the most
powerful of its kind to be mounted on a fighter.
Only constant upgrades can keep the F-22 on
top of its adversaries.
Now that you know about the F-22 and its
capabilities, you may be wondering whether the
F-22 production be restarted if needed? The
answer is: Theoretically yes, but practically no.
Because the new batch would require billions of
$ to set up new facilities and the aircraft would
end up costing 2-3 times more than the original
batch. Also during exercises, it is fitted with a
special radar reflector to appear on the radar
screens of friendly aircraft.
The F-22 will now supplement the F-35, F-15
and F-16 in the USAF until the F-35 replaces
the 4 gen aircraft. The F-22 was designed
with a service life of 30 years, and will need to
be replaced 2030 onwards. The replacement
will be a 6 gen fighter which will have
unprecedented capabilities and the research
work on it is said to have already started.
If you enjoyed reading this article, do rate it
below. Share your opinions and feedback in the
comments section.



Admin ought to introduce dislikes so that if someone posts such gibberish we can return them to N.V or even worse expel them from the kijiji.


I second this @admin

pang’ang’a tamalisa wewe. Inline with the equator law sijapost kitu inaitisha niende siberia. a long post can’t harm anybody.

Niaje navy seal, Hii ndege ndio hukupea air cover time uko black ops pale afghanistan.

1 Like

Waah hii nitangoja tu movie itokee

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No, I won’t mind to expand my knowledge