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Lockheed Martin / Boeing F-22 Raptor Air Dominance Fighter (2005)

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 11/25/2013

Some technological issues have plagued early operational use of the Lockheed F-22 Raptor but she remains a potent fighter mount nonetheless.

The Lockheed F-22 "Raptor" represents a culmination of decades-worth of data collection, testing and evaluation for the United States Air Force (USAF). She is the newest fighter design in the Air Force stable and the most cutting-edge fighter mount currently in existence. The F-22 was added to the USAF inventory to replace the aging McDonnell Douglas / Boeing F-15 Eagle series of air superiority / multi-role fighters in an effort to meet the then-current and any proposed future threats as part of the Global Strike Task Force. Coupled with the upcoming Lockheed F-35 Lightning II multirole aircraft, the USAF will field a potent "one-two" punch for generations to come. As the world's only operational "Fifth Generation" fighter platform, the F-22s only true "enemy" at this time appears to be the growing pains involved with her complex and highly technical internal systems.

The Reagan-Era ATF Program

Origins of the F-22 lay in the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) initiative put forth by the USAF in an effort to shore up an aging frontline of Cold War-era fighter platforms - particularly the venerable F-15 Eagle series. The F-15 Eagle itself was born in the thick of the Cold War years and was accepted into service in 1976. She was as a large fighter platform meant for true air superiority over Soviet-sponsored fighters of the time, offering a potent payload along with excellent top-flight speed and proved an outright success within time - one of the classic American fighters of all time. The airframe was eventually adapted into a dual-role air-superiority / ground strike version in the F-15E "Strike Eagle" offering and was even more recently converted to a "semi-stealth" end-product through the proposed F-15SE "Silent Eagle" initiative. By the time of the ATF program, the F-15 was really only just beginning to gain a foothold in the USAF inventory. However, technological progression the world over would eventually catch up to the fabled F-15 lineage and its large interceptor concept so, thusly, a new thoroughbred was on order. The ATF program began in 1981 and the USAF ultimately envisioned some 750 ATF aircraft to fill its next-generation stable. Several developmental platforms serving throughout the latter part of the 1970s and into the 1980s would go on to deliver the valuable data that would influence the future of American flight.

The Revised USAF Requirement

By June of 1981, formal specifications had been ironed out for the successor to the F-15. The USAF required a new-generation aircraft capable of exceeding the speed of sound without the need for thirsty afterburning technology while also featuring an operational range of approximately 800 miles. The new fighter platform would also have to exhibit unparalleled performance (in excess of Mach 1.5) for the air-to-air role through superior use of burgeoning technologies that included vectoring thrust and stealth, the latter through various materials and skilful use of design to make for a relatively invisible enemy. In July of 1986, the Demonstration and Validation Phase began and ultimately led to a formal "request for proposal" being sent out with Lockheed and Northrop headlining the response.

The YF-22 Versus the YF-23

The storied aviation firms of Lockheed and Northrop went head-to-head in the ensuing ATF competition. The Lockheed submission was to be designated as the "YF-22" whilst the Northrop submission became the "YF-23". Along with the new airframe designs, each aircraft was to also trial a pair of new powerplants in each afforded prototype bringing both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney into the fold. Like the airframe counterparts, the engines too were labeled in developmental form as the "YF119" (Pratt & Whitney) and "YF120" (General Electric). The USAF requested that each concern produce two prototypes mounting examples of each engine for review. The program would be a huge stage for all those involved and the potentially lucrative defense contract to follow would affect smaller contributors in multiple states across the country.

Such a stage required more resources than those military-minded aircraft developments in years past and now saw former competitors team up to promote a viable end-product. Lockheed joined forces with Boeing and General Dynamics while Northrop stood with McDonnell Douglas. The program was extended by the period of six months in 1987 for a redesign of the YF-22 to fall under the requisite weight limitations. The four prototypes were completed and made ready for evaluations beginning in 1990. The Northrop / McDonnell Douglas development earned its first flight on August 27th, 1990. The Lockheed prototype - N22YF - was unveiled at the Lockheed Palmdale plant in California on August 29th and took to the air for the first time on September 29th, 1990. For the Lockheed example, Boeing was responsible for the wings and rear fuselage assemblies while Lockheed herself concentrated on the cockpit and forward nose assembly and General Dynamics handled the central fuselage and tail. A second prototype, the N22XF, this fielded with the other engine under consideration and was flown on October 30th, 1990. Northrop eventually tied their YF-23 to the "Black Widow II" nickname in homage to their twin-engine, piston-powered P-61 "Black Widow" nightfighter of World War 2 fame. Similarly, the Lockheed team bestowed the nickname of "Lightning II" to their YF-22 in tribute to their war-winning, twin-engine, twin-boom fighter, the P-38 "Lightning" - the "Fork-Tailed Devil".

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Specifications for the
Lockheed Martin / Boeing F-22 Raptor
Air Dominance Fighter

Focus Model: Lockheed Martin / Boeing F-22 Raptor
Country of Origin: United States
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin Corporation / The Boeing Company - USA
Initial Year of Service: 2005
Production: 195

Crew: 1

Length: 62.07ft (18.92m)
Width: 44.49ft (13.56m)
Height: 16.47ft (5.02m)
Weight (Empty): 31,998lbs (14,514kg)
Weight (MTOW): 54,999lbs (24,947kg)

Powerplant: 2 x Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 afterburning turbofans generating 35,000lbs of thrust each.

Maximum Speed: 1,599mph (2,574kmh; 1,390kts)
Maximum Range: 2,000miles (3,218km)
Service Ceiling: 50,000ft (15,240m; 9.5miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 0 feet per minute (0m/min)

Hardpoints: 4 External; 8 Internal
Armament Suite:
1 x 20mm internal cannon

2 x AIM-9 Sidewinders short-ranged air-to-air missiles (internal side weapons bays).
6 x AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-ranged air-to-air missiles (Internal ventral weapons bay).

4 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-ranged, air-to-air missiles (External, underwing, outboard)
2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-ranged air-to-air missiles (Internal side weapons bays).
6 x AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-ranged, air-to-air missiles (Internal ventral weapons bay).

2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder short-ranged air-to-air missiles (Internal side weapons bays).
2 x AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-ranged, air-to-air missiles (Internal ventral weapons bay).
2 x 1,000lb GBU-32 Joint Direct Munitions (JDAM) (Internal ventral weapons bay).

8 x 250lb GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs (SDBs) (Internal ventral weapons bay) in place of JDAM.

2 x 600 US Gallon external fuel drop tanks underwing, inboard.

YF-22 "Lightning II" - Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) competition aircraft designation fitting YF119 and YF120 engines; two produced.

F-22A "Raptor" - Single-Seat Production Model

F/A-22 - Alternate Prototype Designation to coincide with addition of ground-attack functionality; designation since dropped.

FB-22 - Proposed Two-Seat Fighter-Bomber derivative based on the single-seat F-22A; cancelled.

F-22 "Navy" - Porposed navalized fighter with swing-wings; cancelled.

United States