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Meet the F-22 Raptor: The Best Air Superiority Stealth Fighter Jet on Earth

F-22. Image: Creative Commons.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor conducts a heritage flight during the 2022 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Air Show at MCAS Miramar, San Diego, California, Sept. 24, 2022. The F-22 Raptor is the Air Force’s fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Its combination of stealth, super-cruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in war-fighting capabilities. The theme for the 2022 MCAS Miramar Air Show, “Marines Fight, Evolve and Win,” reflects the Marine Corps’ ongoing modernization efforts to prepare for future conflicts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Adam Bowles)

Last week, an Air Force F-22 Raptor shot down the Chinese spy balloon that was flying over the U.S. The 5th generation fighter jet took off from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and used an AIM-9X air-to-air missile to take out the Chinese vehicle over South Carolina. 

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Operated by the Chinese military, the spy balloon was used to collect signals and imagery intelligence. 

The unprecedented event brought to the forefront the F-22 Raptor, the most capable air superiority stealth fighter jet in the world. 

The F-22 Raptor

The F-22 Raptor is an air dominance, multi-role fighter jet. It was the first 5th generation fighter jet to enter service. The fighter jet packs a deadly combination of stealth, agility, speed, and survivability, in addition to having great air-to-air capabilities. 

The F-22 Raptor is powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines that can produce a combined thrust of 70,000 lbs. But what is particularly remarkable about the engines of the F-22 Raptor is the thrust vectoring nozzles they have at the very end.

Essentially a set of high-tech fins, the thrust vectoring nozzles can redirect the flow of energy that moves the fighter jet and enable it to do some amazing aerial acrobatics.

For example, an F-22 Raptor can literally change direction mid-flight.

This capability makes the F-22 Raptor one of the most capable air-to-air fighter jet. 

The 5th generation stealth fighter jet also packs quite an arsenal. 

The Weapons of the F-22 Raptor 

In a stealth configuration, the F-22 Raptor can pack two AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missiles in its two internal side weapon bays and six AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided air-to-air missiles or 2 AIM-120 AMRAAM and two 1,000lbs GBU-32 JDAM bombs in its center internal bay. The fighter jet also sports an AM61A2 20-millimeter cannon with 480 rounds. 

In a ground configuration, the fighter jet can pack different combinations of munitions, including 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.

However, there is always the need to balance lethality with stealth. The more weapons the F-22 Raptor carries, the less its stealth is.

The aircraft is coated with a special, and expensive, coating of painting that plays a significant role in its stealth, with the design of the aircraft and certain sensors doing the rest. But if the fighter jet has to pack weapons in external weapon bays, then its stealth is jeopardized to a certain degree. 

The F-22 Raptor has an operational ceiling of 50,000 and a maximum effective range of almost 1,900 miles (but with two external fuel tanks, which would limit the stealth capabilities of the fighter jet).

As far as speed, the F-22 Raptor can hit speeds of more than Mach 2 and also supercruise, or maintain supersonic flight without the use of an afterburner. 

Sadly, the F-22 Raptor is a fighter jet facing extinction. Congress has shut down the production line of stealth aircraft after only 186 aircraft.

The U.S. Air Force operates around 130 F-22 Raptors today. 

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Expert Biography

19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned 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. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

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.