The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is an American single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed exclusively for the United States Air Force.
The result of the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but also has ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence capabilities.
The prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built most of the F-22’s airframe and weapons systems and conducted final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.
The aircraft first flew in 1997 and was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 before it formally entered service in December 2005 as the F-22A.
Despite its protracted development and operational difficulties, USAF considers the F-22 a critical component of its tactical airpower.
The fighter’s combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and mission systems enable unprecedented air combat capabilities.
The USAF had originally planned to buy a total of 750 ATFs.
In 2009, the program was cut to 187 operational aircraft due to high costs, a lack of air-to-air missions due to the focus on counterinsurgency operations at the time of production, a ban on exports, and development of the more affordable and versatile F-35, with the last F-22 delivered in 2012.
In 1981, the U.S. Air Force identified a requirement for an Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) to replace the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Code-named “Senior Sky”, this air-superiority fighter program was influenced by emerging worldwide threats, including new developments in Soviet air defence systems and the proliferation of the Sukhoi Su-27 “Flanker”- and Mikoyan MiG-29 “Fulcrum”-class of fighter aircraft.
It would take advantage of the new technologies in fighter design on the horizon, including composite materials, lightweight alloys, advanced flight control systems and avionics, more powerful propulsion systems, and most importantly, stealth technology.
In 1983, the ATF concept development team became the System Program Office (SPO) and managed the program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The demonstration and validation (Dem/Val) request for proposals (RFP) was issued in September 1985, with requirements placing a strong emphasis on stealth and super cruise.
Owing to the immense investments required to develop the technology needed to achieve performance goals, teaming between companies was encouraged.
Of the seven bidding companies, Lockheed and Northrop were selected on 31 October 1986.
Lockheed then teamed with Boeing and General Dynamics while Northrop teamed with McDonnell Douglas, and the two contractor teams undertook a 50-month Dem/Val phase, culminating in the flight test of two technology demonstrator prototypes, the YF-22 and the YF-23, respectively.
Concurrently, Pratt & Whitney and General Electric were awarded contracts to develop the YF119 and YF120 engines respectively for the ATF engine competition.
Dem/Val was focused on system engineering, technology development plans, and risk reduction over point aircraft designs; in fact, after the down-select, the Lockheed team completely changed the airframe configuration in the summer of 1987 due to weight analysis during detailed design, with notable changes including the wing planform from swept trapezoidal to diamond-like and a reduction in forebody planform area.
Contractors made extensive use of analytical and empirical methods, including computational fluid dynamics, wind-tunnel testing, and radar cross-section (RCS) calculations and pole testing; the Lockheed team would conduct nearly 18,000 hours of wind-tunnel testing.
Avionics development was marked by extensive testing and prototyping and supported by ground and flying laboratories.
During Dem/Val, the SPO used the results of performance and cost trade studies conducted by contractor teams to adjust ATF requirements and delete ones that were significant weight and cost drivers while having marginal value.
The short take-off and landing (STOL) requirement were relaxed to delete thrust-reversers, saving substantial weight.
As avionics was a major cost driver, side-looking radars were deleted, and the dedicated infra-red search and track (IRST) system was downgraded from multi-color to single colour and then deleted as well.
However, space and cooling provisions were retained to allow for the later addition of these components.
The ejection seat requirement was downgraded from a fresh design to the existing McDonnell Douglas ACES II.
Despite efforts by the contractor teams to rein in weight, the take-off gross weight estimate was increased from 50,000 lb (22,700 kg) to 60,000 lb (27,200 kg), resulting in engine thrust requirement increasing from 30,000 lbf (133 kN) to 35,000 lbf (156 kN) class.
Each team produced two prototype air vehicles for Dem/Val, one for each of the two engine options.
The YF-22 had its maiden flight on 29 September 1990 and in-flight tests achieved up to Mach 1.58 in super cruise.
After the Dem/Val flight test of the prototypes, on 23 April 1991, Secretary of the USAF Donald Rice announced the Lockheed team and Pratt & Whitney as the winners of the ATF and engine competitions.
The YF-23 design was considered stealthier and faster, while the YF-22, with its thrust vectoring nozzles, was more manoeuvrable as well as less expensive and risky.
The press speculated that the Lockheed team’s design was also more adaptable to the U.S. Navy’s Navalized Advanced Tactical Fighter (NATF), but by fiscal year (FY) 1992, the Navy had abandoned NATF.
Pre-production technology demonstrator for Advanced Tactical Fighter demonstration/validation phase; two were built.
Single-seat production versionwas designated F/A-22A in early 2000s.
Planned two-seat variant, cancelled in 1996 to save development costs with test aircraft orders converted to F-22A.
62 ft 1 in (18.92 m)
44 ft 6 in (13.56 m)
16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
840 sq ft (78.04 m2)
NACA 6 series airfoil
43,340 lb (19,700 kg)
64,840 lb (29,410 kg)
Max take-off weight
83,500 lb (38,000 kg)
18,000 lb (8,200 kg) internally,
26,000 lb (12,000 kg) with two 2× 600 US gal tanks