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Smart Bombs: Military, Defense and National Security

The U.S. Military’s Plan to Make the F-22 Raptor Even Deadlier

F-22 Raptor. Image: Lockheed Martin.

The Pentagon has decided to spend more than $10 billion to update and maintain the F-22 Raptor, the world’s best air dominance fighter jet.

The Department of Defense awarded Lockheed Martin an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract worth $10.9 billion to support the F-22.

While the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter gets most of the attention, the F-22 continues to be the most advanced air dominance aircraft in the U.S. military’s arsenal.

The Most Advanced Air Superiority Aircraft

The F-22 is an air dominance, multi-role fighter and the first 5th generation stealth fighter jet in the world to enter service. Its combination of stealth, speed, agility, sensors, and air-to-air arsenal makes it particularly deadly.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and thrust vectoring nozzles, the F-22 can do some incredible stuff on the air. With a combined thrust of 70,000 pounds, the F-22 is deadly in dogfighting as it can quickly reposition itself using its thrust vectoring capabilities.

The F-22 packs a considerable punch while maintaining its stealth aspects. In its air superiority loadout, the aircraft has an M61A2 20-millimeter cannon (480 rounds) for close engagements and can carry two AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and six AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided air-to-air missiles. In an air-to-ground configuration, the Raptor can carry two 1,000lb GBU-32 JDAMs, AIM-9 Sidewinders, and two AIM-120 AMRAAMs or eight 250lb SDB bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinders, and two AIM-120 AMRAAMs.

It has an operational ceiling of 50,000 feet and an effective range of 1,850 miles with two external fuel tanks; if the aircraft wishes to maintain a complete stealth outlook, the effective range is smaller as the external fuel tanks are discarded. The F-22 can reach speeds of more than 2 Mach and supercruise—or sustain supersonic flight without using an afterburner.

The Air Force bought 186 F-22s before the production line closed, and it plans on operating them at least until 2040.

Billions for Updates 

According to the Pentagon, the contract will provide support for the necessary supplies and services needed to sustain and modernize the F-22, including modernization hardware kit procurement and services, such as upgrades, enhancements, and fixes, in addition to logistics services aimed to increase the aircraft’s performance.

One of the most common maintenance issues with the F-22 has to do with its stealth. Air Force technicians have to open the Raptor and work on its avionics and other systems during routine maintenance. However, that degrades the aircraft’s low observable stealth coating—the “paint” that makes it almost invisible to radar—which has to be reapplied. As a result, approximately 50 percent of maintenance work is related to the F-22 stealth capabilities.

The Air Force recognizes that the F-22 is a great platform, and that is why it has decided to spend some much money on a platform that it doesn’t intend to fly for long.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.