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Does the F-22 Raptor Have Beast Mode or Not?

F-22 Hawaiian Raptor flies over Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Dec. 5, 2019.

The F-35 is well known to have a sort of ‘Beast Mode’ whereby it can drop out of its stealth configuration and load more bombs and weapons in a war situation. Can the F-22 Raptor do that? We asked an expert to break down what might be possible: While “beast mode” is a description, not a technical term, it refers to a fighter plane that is carrying more than its usual or standard array of weapons. The F-35 Lightning II does have a weapons-heavy beast mode that has around four times the ordnance of regular stealth mode or 22,000-pounds of munitions.

Meanwhile, the F-22 Raptor is more reliant on its basic stealth technology for training in “high-end combat scenarios.” The F-22 does not have a beast mode like the F-35, according to a search of open-source defense news, but the Raptor is considered by some pilots to be a “beast” in aerial combat all the same. The Air Force is even proud enough to feature the F-22 in a recruiting ad that runs before Hollywood’s new Top Gun sequel.

What Is Beast Mode?

Beast mode is envisioned by Air Force war planners to be a “Day Three” attack configuration in an offensive operation. This means the F-35 would drop or fire extra ordnance after the Air Force and Navy first acquires air superiority and achieves suppression of enemy anti-aircraft defenses. The F-35 would have extra bombs and missiles loaded on hardpoints under its wings – less stealthy, but more powerful.

The F-22, due to its highly-maneuverable stealth airframe, is envisioned as a “Day One” fighter that could escort the B-2 bomber or someday the B-21 bomber on the first day of conflict, penetrate radar, and destroy enemy surface-to-air missiles to clear the way for F-35 beast mode.

Rehearse Likely Offensive Scenarios Early in a Conflict

The Air Force and Navy have practiced this type of attack configuration before and the concept of operations is something that could become a standard order of battle in a future conflict in East Asia.

Some Pilots View the F-22 in Wonder

The F-22 itself is a flying marvel according to some aviators. In May, Task and Purpose web magazine shared pilot reactions from an interview on a podcast. Retired Air Force Colonel Terry “Stretch” Scott flew the F-22 during his career and related how potent the airplane is. “The flight controls … are phenomenal,” Scott said. “The original operator’s manual actually read ‘you may fly this aircraft with reckless abandon,’” he recalled.

The agility of the Raptor Is Unforgettable

“Having come from a fourth-generation background, it’s eye-watering how nimble the jet is,” said Scott, a former F-15 pilot. “Even when I’m flying offensive against another Raptor, that airplane is eye-watering when it starts maneuvering visually.”

Air Force Wants to Recruit Viewers of New Top Gun Movie

Task and Purpose also said the Air Force is airing a 60-second recruiting video to run at theaters before the start of the movie “Top Gun: Maverick,” even though the Tom Cruise character and his pilots are naval aviators. The F-22 is featured in the spot along with several other Air Force warplanes. The advertisement can be watched here. The F-22 shows off its thrust vectoring to rapidly loop the fighter in the video.

So according to these Air Force pilots, the F-22 is always a “beast” due to its stealth characteristics and maneuverability. It’s good the Air Force envisions working as a team with F-35s and stealth bombers. The Day One – Day Three designation is interesting and shows the military is planning for a hard-to-kill enemy defense configuration. Yes, this training does cost money for fuel and maintenance, but it is worth it to simulate the type of combat pilots will likely see someday. And the Air Force recruiting video and the Top Gun sequel are not too shabby either.

Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.

Written By

Now serving as 1945s New Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.