It was 2005, and the world would meet its most powerful fighter the F-22 Raptor. It was an invention so far ahead of its time that it had to put in a generation of its own the world’s first fifth-generation fighter.
For almost two decades, the F-22 Raptor has remained the ultimate air superiority fighter, with a long line of advancements too advanced for even newer fighter jets to wield. A fighter so precious that a federal law was passed 24 years ago to prevent it from being sold to any other nation on the planet – not even to allies of the United States, even though they did line up to buy. This is the story of the F-22 Raptor: the super fighter that changed the world and whose sheer existence was history in the making.
The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is an American single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). As the result of the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, the aircraft was designed as an air superiority fighter, but also has ground attack, electronic ωɑɾʄɑɾε, and signals intelligence capabilities. The prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built most of the F-22’s airframe and ωεɑρσռs systems and conducted final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.
The aircraft first flew in 1997 and was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 before it formally entered service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite its protracted development and operational difficulties, USAF considers the F-22 a critical component of its tactical airpower. The fighter’s combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and mission systems enable unprecedented air combat capabilities.
The USAF had originally planned to buy a total of 750 ATFs. In 2009, the program was cut to 187 operational aircraft due to high costs, a lack of air-to-air missions due to the focus on counterinsurgency operations at the time of production, a ban on exports, and development of the more affordable and versatile F-35,[N 1] with the last F-22 delivered in 2012.