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Could The F-22 Raptor Be Transformed Into a Bomber?

FB-22 Bomber
Image: Creative Commons.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor—an American single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical aircraft—long has been considered one of the deadliest fighter jets ever built largely due to its unmatched maneuvering and dogfighting capabilities.

“The Collier Award-winning F-22 Raptor has delivered on its promise to provide unprecedented air dominance,” the aerospace company says on its website.

“The 5th Generation F-22’s unique combination of stealth, speed, agility, and situational awareness, combined with lethal long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, makes it the best air dominance fighter in the world,” it continues.

However, according to the EurAsian Times, “a relatively lesser-known fact is that Lockheed Martin also designed a bomber version of the Raptor—the FB-22, which was even more ill-fated than its fighter jet ancestor.”

It was back in the mid-1990s when Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Boeing came together to develop a prototype YF-22, which was seen as a replacement for the F-15.

Military Needs Adjusted

However, after the collapse of the Soviet Union after the Cold War, “the demand for F-22 subsided since the U.S. didn’t need a stealth air superiority fighter for either competing with a rival nation or for its global War on Terror. Thus, the U.S. Senate voted to end the Raptor’s production in 2009. Overall, less than 190 F-22 were built, and the USAF received the last Raptor in 2012.”

Amid the Raptor’s success, Lockheed Martin in 2001 conducted a study to dig deeper into the viability of developing a bomber platform from it.

“To reduce manufacturing costs, Lockheed attempted to utilize as many designs and parts from the F-22 as possible. The plan was to lengthen and widen the fuselage to create space for a co-pilot/navigator who could take over flight duties on extended missions. This would also increase the payload capacity of the bomber,” the Times writes.

“The design envisioned considerably larger wings, with a different sweep angle that would form a modified delta shape. This was to optimize the bomber for longer-range operations. These would’ve been so-called ‘wet wings’, capable of storing quite a lot of fuel internally. The FB-22 was also to have a weapons bay that would be positioned underneath the bomber’s wings, apparently without hampering the plane’s stealth characteristics. Since the aircraft would have a wider and more elongated bomb bay, it would have carried over four times the amount of munitions compared to the F-22,” it continued.

Range Factor

Not only would the FB-22 have been able to carry more munitions, but it would also boast a range of 3,000 kilometers—nearly triple that of the Raptor.

“However, this would still be significantly less than the B-2’s nearly 11,265 km range. The bomber was also expected to have a top speed of Mach 1.92. … This plan did not materialize. After the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, this project was canceled as the DoD wanted a bomber with greater range,” the Times writes.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Written By

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV.

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