The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, which was supposed to replace the F-15 fleet, is perhaps the most operationally capable fifth-generation air superiority fighter in the world.
The twin-engine aircraft was designed as a heavy-duty stealth fighter, much more matured than the current generation F-35s.
The F-22 Raptor made its first flight in 1997 and was inducted into the US Air Force in 2005, at a time when most countries were struggling to develop more credible fourth-generation platforms.
In a new video released, an F-22’s potential is seen as it simultaneously takes on five F-15 fighters, effectively dominating the skies alone. This capability is still unmatched by any fighter jet in the world, and the Raptor shall remain undisputed king in air-to-air combat at least until 2025.
The USAF initially wanted to purchase 750 F-22s, following which it was downed to 381 and then subsequently the production was halted at 183. The last F-22 was delivered by Lockheed Martin in 2012.
It seems a rather interesting subject that an aircraft that was perhaps the most advanced and the most groundbreaking in the annals of aviation history saw an abrupt halt. To compare, the F-22’s radar signature is still less than the more digitally advanced F-35, according to WeAreTheMighty.
The F-22 was intended as a replacement for the F-15s. However, the F-15 development continued to take place with the latest variant being the F-15EX Eagle II, but the production of Raptors stopped abruptly because of several factors.
The main reason was the lack of clarity on Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter development, which made the US less focused on stealth air superiority fighters.
The other reason was the high costs, and the eventual development of the F-35, made with the expertise gained on the Raptor.
While some critics pegged its cost at over $300 million a plane, the actual fly-away cost could go down to $116 million per Raptor, according to a 2006 Air Force release.
But, until the F-35 platform is fully developed, the F-22 Raptor remains the king of the skies for the US Air Force.
The aircraft can carry a robust complement of 4 AIM-120 AMRAAMs and 4 AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles in the air superiority configuration and also an internal 20mm cannon.
It can also launch air-to-surface weapons such as bombs with JDAM guidance and the small diameter bomb, but cannot self-designate for laser-guided weapons.
Had this platform been given more time to mature, it could have offered a lot more. And then, it could have been a better option than throwing funds for the F-35, according to experts.
But, global sales have always been a driving factor for Washington, which made the development of F-35s inevitable.