World’s 1st Fifth-Gen Fighter Completes 25 Years! Lockheed, Boeing, USAF Celebrate F-22 Raptors’ Global Dominance

On September 7, the F-22 Raptor marked the 25th anniversary of its first flight. This advanced stealth fighter aircraft by Lockheed Martin was designed to dominate the skies and enemy warplanes.

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The F-22 Raptor took to the skies for the first time on September 7, 1997, and emerged as the first 5th generation fighter jet. The Raptor continues to be the ‘most powerful’ air dominance fighter of the US Air Force along with 4th-gen F-15.

The F-22 Raptor marks a quantum leap in terms of warfighting capabilities thanks to its combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, integrated avionics, and increased supportability. 

The Raptor is capable of executing air-to-air and air-to-ground operations, enabling the complete fulfillment of operational concepts essential to the Air Force in the 21st century.

The F-22, an important component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to project air superiority quickly and across greater distances. 

Lockheed Martin tweeted a message on September 7 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the F-22’s first flight. 

The post was captioned, “Cleared for takeoff! Celebrating 25 years of RaptorNation. The F22 first took flight on September 7, 1997, after six years of development. The Raptor continues to provide our nation and allies air superiority and is a pathfinder to the next generation of air dominance.”

The company also posted a YouTube video showcasing the F-22 Raptor’s first flight, which took place on September 7, 1997, in Marietta, Georgia. 

Meanwhile, Boeing also posted a picture of an F-22 with the first 757 ever built, modified to serve as a flying test bed, to commemorate the 25 years of Raptor’s First flight.

“Today marks the 25th anniversary of the F-22 Raptor’s first flight. The F-22 is pictured in this Innovation Quarterly Magazine spread, with the first 757 built and modified to serve as a flying test bed. The 757 still routinely tests alongside Raptors,” Boeing Tweeted. 

The F-22 is pictured in this Innovation Quarterly Magazine spread, with the first 757 built and modified to serve as a flying test bed.

Previously, the US Air Force also noted that this year marked the 25th anniversary of the F-22 Raptor. The aircraft routinely delivered America and its allies fifth-generation air superiority, USAF said in a statement. 

In August 2022, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and other fourth-generation aircraft were escorted by F-22 fighter jets over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex as they flew in offensive and defensive counterair formations. 

F-22 Raptor Development History

The Raptor delivers a combination of stealth, speed, mobility, and powerful warfighting qualities and is propelled by two Pratt & Whitney F119 engines. Various sensors and extremely lethal weapons ensure air dominance, assisting the mission.

F-22 Raptor
File Image: F-22 Raptor

In the 1990s, Boeing and Lockheed Martin collaborated to design and develop the F-22, a highly sophisticated tactical fighter. The F-22 was designed to take the place of the F-15 as the front-line fighter for American air dominance. 

On April 9, 1997, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Pratt & Whitney conducted a rollout event where the first F-22 in production was launched. That was one of the nine flyable F-22s built for flight testing. 

The F-22 entered service in 2005 and was awarded the prestigious Collier Trophy for 2006. However, in the years that followed, there was debate regarding its operational costs and maintenance-related issues. 

A German Eurofighter Typhoon, left, an F-22 Raptor, middle, and an EA-18 Growler fly together to demonstrate friendship and cooperative leadership.

Furthermore, the next generation of Soviet fighters, which were meant to dominate aerial combat, was never developed after the fall of the Soviet Union. In April 2009, the US Department of Defense announced that production of the F-22 would stop at 187 aircraft. The final F-22 was delivered to the Air Force in 2012.

Nonetheless, 186 F-22s are in service, only a fourth of what the Pentagon anticipated would require. According to some estimations, more than half of those might be mission capable.

Meanwhile, the Air Force plans to retire 33 Block 20 F-22 aircraft because they are primarily used for training and lack combat readiness. The EurAsian Times had earlier reported that preparing the F-22s for combat would cost $1.8 billion over eight years, which is an astronomical sum. 

The Raptor fleet will be down to 153 aircraft if all retirements are approved. The Air Force does not plan on retiring any more F-22s until the Next Generation Air Dominance program is ready to take its place.