The US sits at the absolute summit in the field of defense innovation through the amalgamation of decades of hard-earned technical intelligence and unorthodox aerodynamic designs to produce futuristic fighter jets.
At the back of fielding one of the best aircraft in the history of global aviation like the BR-71 Blackbird, the Nighthawk, the F-16 Falcons, the F-15 Eagles, and the American pride – the F-35, however, there is one fighter that while bearing similarities to all, is still the most distinct fighter jet of all.
This is one of the reasons why the Pentagon has been highly protective of it, so much so that they have a law in place which bars the fighter to be exported to any foreign country—the fighter is none other than the stealthy powerhouse, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
Earlier, there were reports in Israeli media that former US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told Israeli officials during a visit to Israel this week that Washington has approved selling F-22 stealth fighter jets to the Middle-East nation.
US President Donald Trump approved the sale of the F-22 Raptor and precision-guided bombs to Israel, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper report was widely cited by the Israeli media.
Yesterday, the Trump administration formally notified Congress on Tuesday that it plans to sell 50 stealth F-35 fighter jets to the UAE as part of a broader arms deal worth $23 billion
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had authorized the sale in keeping with the administration’s Middle East peace efforts. The notification to lawmakers follows the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE, under which the Arab states have agreed to normalize relations with Israel.
According to the US federal laws, the foreign military sale of the F-22 Raptor is forbidden to protect its stealth technologies and classified features. The F-22 was one of the most expensive programs for a fighter aircraft, and during its development, the United States Congress ensured the U.S. military couldn’t share the technology with anyone.
Will Israel get F-22 Raptors remains to be seen, however, the question is why is Israel inclined towards the Raptors when they already have the best jets in its inventory – the F-35s?
F-22 Raptors – Better Than The Best
Considered the fifth-generation fighter in the inventory of the US Air Force, which is its primary user, the Raptors through the use of observable technologies, modern avionics, and efficient engines, offers an air superiority to the US Air Force which is unmatched by any fighter jet in the world.
The single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical F-22 fighter aircraft was built primarily for the use of the US Air Force to fill in multiple roles like that of an air superiority fighter and also being capable of ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence capabilities.
While most of the Raptor’s airframe and weapons systems were built by its prime contractor Lockheed Martin along with its distribution, its wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems have been developed by US aerospace giant Boeing.
The Raptor is considered a key component of the US’ newest innovative concept known as the Global Strike Task Force, which is a contribution to the nation’s “kick-down-the-door” force for the new century.
Under the appliance of the concept, the Raptor is designed to “project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access” to the country’s Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.
“The Raptor’s unique combination of advanced stealth, supercruise, advanced maneuverability, and integrated avionics allow it to “kick down the door,” and then follow up with 24-hour stealth operations and freedom of movement for all follow-on forces,” according to Lockheed Martin.
According to a US Air Force statement, the 16-feet tall, 62-feet long F-22 Raptor makes use of two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners along with two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles.
Renowned for its “supercruise” technology, the fighter can reach speeds up to Mach 1.5 without turning on its afterburners, which enables it to travel faster and farther on less fuel, making it a supreme jet for carrying out combat missions of a longer duration.
So, what makes the fighter so advanced? Well, the F-22 produced in the 1990s is a lot different from the F-22s in present use, the reason being their time-to-time modernization in order to keep it in sync with the current technological advancements.
With the changing times, it has been necessary for the United States to equip the Raptor with modern weapons, and that is exactly what it has done.
The Raptors which are operational by the US Air Force have been equipped with the advanced variants of the AIM-9X air-to-air missile and the AIM 120-D, two weapons which have been under testing and development for several years now.
Kris Osborn, who is the defense editor of the National Interest, says – “The new AIM-9X will shoot farther and reach a much larger targeting envelope for pilots. Working with a variety of helmets and display systems, Lockheed Martin developers have added “off-boresight” targeting ability enabling pilots to attack enemies from a wide range of new angles.”11
The triple-threat AIM-9X Sidewinder missile has the ability to serve multiple roles of air-to-air engagements, surface-attack, and surface-launch missions without modifications.
According to the developers of the Raytheon AIM-9X – “The AIM-9X Block II missile adds a redesigned fuze and a digital ignition safety device to improve handling and in-flight safety. It’s equipped with updated electronics, including a lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements.”
Moreover, the F-22 Raptor have also been upgraded to now have the ability to fire the AIM-120D, a beyond visual range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) which has been designed to carry out all-weather day-and-night attacks
The fighter jet has also been updated with the latest software under which it now possesses a radar-warning receiver with which it has an updateable database called “mission data files” which is designed to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters.
Well, last but not least the fighters are renowned for being the stealthiest of all fighters in the world, having an even reduced radar cross-section than the F-35 stealth fighters.
Eric Tegler, writing for Popular Mechanics, while comparing it to the F-117 Nighthawk, says – “Unlike the faceted shape of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter, the F-22 has no right angles on the exterior. Instead, many of the surface shapes are curves with changing radii. These curves scatter radar beams in various directions rather than back to the radar source. Sawtooth shapes on cockpit edges, landing gear doors and other openings also break up radar,”
A coating applied to the aircraft’s skin absorbs radar energy. The cockpit is even designed to minimize radar returns from the pilot’s helmet, and it does all this without minimizing visibility, which is a problem on the F-35.
In addition to enhancing maneuverability, the horizontal tailfins at the aircraft’s rear act as a shield for engine exhaust heat to make things harder for heat-seeking missiles.”
The Raptors which were first introduced in 2005 have been a huge success story in the history of the US Air Force due to having an impressive combat history in operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.