F-22 Raptor: the unstoppable stealth fighter of the US Air Force

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There’s an old joke thrown around, or maybe it would be more accurate to say “thrown at“the United States. fighter pilot community that the difference between a fighter pilot and God is that God does not think he is a fighter pilot. Anyway, if there is a pilot fighter that effectively (pun intended) elevates American fighter pilots to godhood, it is the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.

F-22: The Supreme Being of 5th Generation Fighters?

The always savvy Alex Hollings of Sandboxx News ranks the F-22 as the best stealth fighter in the world: “As the world’s first 5th generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor is the oldest model on this list, but its incredible combination of low observability and high performance not only set the standard for all stealth fighters to come, but it remains the most capable stealth fighter in service anywhere on the planet today… Although the F-22 does not offer the same degree of situational awareness as the F-35, its suite of sensors and avionics is still considered as tough enough to give Raptor pilot what the Air Force calls “first kill opportunity”, meaning she can spot enemy fighters and engage them with weapons that are beyond visual range even before the bad guy can. know he is there. (original emphasis).

For a basis of comparison, Hollings ranks the Raptor’s competitors in ascending order: Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 Felon, China Red’s Chengdu J-20 and America’s (and Lockheed Martin’s) other entry. in the 5th generation fighter game, the F-35 Foudre II.

Moreover, the F-22 is said to carry a frontal radar cross-section (RCS) of only 0.0001~0.0002 square meters, which is about 5,000 times smaller (yes, you read that right, five thousand) than expert assessments of the Russian Su-57, at least 800 times smaller than the J-20, and even 5-10 times smaller than the much newer F-35.

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney turbofans and capable of reaching speeds of Mach 2 (1,534 mph/2,469 km/h), this warbird has a ceiling of 50,000 feet (15 kilometers) and a range of 1,841 miles ( 2,962 km) without refueling.

For purely air-to-air missions, the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAM “Slammer” missiles and two heat-seeking AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (no AIM-7 Sparrows need be applied); for air-to-ground, the aircraft packs two Slammers and either two 1,000-pound (450 kg) JDAMs or eight 250-pound (110 kg) GBU-39 small diameter bombs. And in the case of a good old-fashioned dogfight, the Bird of Prey wields a 1×20mm Vulcan M61A2 rotary cannon with 480 rounds.

F-22: this air god is still a mortal

Alas, this God of Air was “killed”, so to speak, not in air-to-air combat or even by SAMs or enemy triple-A fire, but by the bureaucrats.

Well, maybe not “killed” outright, but definitely stunted in its growth potential; in 2009, then-SECDEF Robert Gates canceled the F-22 program after less than half of the 381 award-winning aircraft had been built.

F-22 Raptor. Image credit: Creative Commons.

Why? Gates, in his own memoir, “To have toexplained that the F-22 was useless in counter-insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, was a Cold War relic and that a Chinese stealth fighter wouldn’t be around until the 2020s, so nothing would be lost. by killing him.

Now that we are in the 2020s, it is becoming apparent that Secretary Gates did not believe in long-range planning, which is all the more shocking given that Mr. Gates himself was a former USAF officer.

For a more detailed and damning account of Gates’ decision to undermine the F-22 program, read the 2015 book Air Power Abandoned: Robert Gates, the F-22 Raptor and the Betrayal of America’s Air Force, by the late great Robert F. Dorr, arguably the most prolific military aviation author since Martin Caidin, an Air Force veteran in his own right, and a Facebook friend of mine who sadly passed away before I could meet him in person (a poignant reminder that I’m writing this article on Memorial Day).

Christian D. Orr is a former Air Force officer, federal law enforcement officer, and private military contractor (with assignments in Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kosovo, Japan, Germany and the Pentagon). Chris holds a BA in International Relations from the University of Southern California (USC) and an MA in Intelligence Studies (Terrorism Studies Concentration) from the American Military University (AMU). It was also published in The Daily Torch and The Journal of Intelligence and Cybersecurity.

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