Last month, an image circulated on social media which we have above shows the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor inverted in flight.
“˙ǝʌᴉʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɟo ɹǝʇʇɐɯ ɐ llɐ s,ʇI,” read the tweet from the official @LockheedMartin Twitter account, adding, “Stealth. Speed. Situational awareness. This is what makes the #F22 the world’s premier air dominance fighter.”
It’s all a matter of perspective. The photo was also one of several stunning images shared by the aerospace giant – the largest American defense contractor – of its cutting-edge products.
It is hardly the first time the fifth-generation air superiority fighter has been seen making such a maneuver.
In fact, members of the United States Air Force’s Air Combat Command F-22 Demonstration Team often use a variety of maneuvers to show off the capabilities of the aircraft. Based at Langley Air Force Base (AFB), the team performs precision aerial maneuvers that are able to demonstrate the unique capabilities of the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
Each year, the team regularly performs at air shows and other events around the United States and Canada. In addition to flying into the wild blue yonder, team members also visit local schools, hospitals and community events. The team further regularly performs with the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation to showcase modern day fighter jets flying in formation with World War II, Korean, and Vietnam era aircraft.
The Raptor Dominates The Skies
The U.S. Air Force F-22 is widely regarded as the most dominant fighter in the world. As the premier air superiority combat aircraft, the F-22 Raptor is especially respected for its dogfighting ability and air-to-air maneuverability attributes, especially when compared with any other potential rival. In addition, the aircraft’s dual engines produce more thrust than any current fighter, while the sophisticated F-22 aero design, advanced flight controls, thrust vectoring, and high thrust-to-weight ratio provide the capability to outmaneuver all other current and projected aircraft.
The F-22 Raptor is powered by two Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, which provide a top speed of Mach 2 (1,534 mph/2,469 kph), while it has an operational ceiling of over 50,000 feet (15 km) and, with the tanks fully loaded, a maximum range of 1,841 miles (2,962 km).
As seen in air shows and other demonstrations, the Raptor is able to seemingly defy physics with breathtaking maneuvers that include a “big belly-first somersault” at altitude. Such low-speed maneuvering isn’t seen to have any particular usefulness in modern air combat, especially when adversaries can be targeted while beyond range of sight, yet, it is still noteworthy that the F-22 and its pilots can pull of the death-defying moves.
The United States Air Force had originally planned to purchase 750 Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, the twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft. However, the program was cut short by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to just 187 operational aircraft.
That was arguably a shortsighted decision given the capabilities of the F-22 – yet even as there are now those who would like to see the remaining aircraft retired sooner than later, the Raptor will likely remain operational until the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) fighter enters service in the 2030s.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.