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Lockheed/Boeing F-22 Raptor

Role: air superiority fighter
Builder: Lockheed Martin / Boeing
Variants: YF-22A, F/A-22A, F-22A, (FB-22)
Operators: USAF

The F-22 Raptor is the world's first stealth air-to-air fighter. It is developed to replace the F-15C in the air superiority role. The F-22 is the first production aircraft with the ability to super cruise flying at supersonic speeds without the use of afterburners.

In January 2003, the Air Warfare Center at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada, received its first Raptor. It was the twelth F-22 produced. The 422nd Test & Evaluation Squadron took on seven more F-22s for testing and training of the initial cadre of instructor pilots.

The 43rd Fighter Squadron became the first F-22 squadron when it received its first F-22 (then designated F/A-22) in the end of September in 2003. The unit of the 325th Fighter Wing carries out the training at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. In January 2004, the first pilot qualified at Tyndall AFB.

The 27th Fighter Squadron of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB became the first operational F-22 squadron when it received its first Raptor in Janaury 2005. The squadron was declared operational (initial operational capability) in December 2005 with 12 F-22A Raptors. Also based at Langley AFB, the 94th Fighter Squadron received its first two Raptors in March 2006. On January 19, 2007, the last of 40 F-22A Raptor for the 1st Fighter Wing was delivered to the 94th FS, equipping both fighter squadrons with 20 Raptors each.

In 2007, the first of 36 F-22 will enter service with the PACAF at Elmendorf AFB, which will then become the second F-22 operational base.

Previously the designation for the Raptor was changed to F/A-22 to indicate the possible air-to-ground role of the aircraft. JDAM bombs can be carried in the internal weapon bay, while the optional external pylons offer a more flexible station for air-to-ground armament. However the U.S. Air Force changed the designation back to F-22 in December 2005, although it will still posess the secondary air-to-ground role.

Lockheed Martin conducted a study in 2002 to develop a medium bomber from the F-22. The FB-22 would be a low cost, low risk way to develop a bomber that would fit the gap between the fighters and the long-range bombers. It would have a much larger wing, close to delta, to enable more weapons and fuel for longer range. Also the fuselage would be slightly longer to have a larger weapons bay. It could be powered by the F135 or F136 engines, now being developed for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The concept design is also tailless, no vertical fins. If the military is interested, Lockheed/Boeing estimated that FB-22 flights could begin by 2013.

- AFM (2007), Air Forces Monthly #228 March 2007, p.15, Key Publishing, UK.
- internet websites

picture courtesy of USAF

picture courtesy of USAF

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