The F-22 Raptor
The F-22’s total program cost is an estimated $66 billion. One aircraft is the sum equivalent of $339 million, equating to a collective product cost of $34 million. In the early 2000’s, a debate amongst the United States Government tore a rift between two opposing sides – those in favor of funding the program and those against. Despite the objections of some pretty powerful people in the administration and Congress, a seal of approval was stamped and development plans were plcaed into motion.
While it’s true that the primary contractor on the F-22 project was Lockheed Martin, the production company was only responsible for half of the contributed parts and total assembly of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin was head of weapon units, fuselage, and overall assembly. Boeing, another production company, was just as essential in the development and construction of the F-22.; they contributed flight wings, avionics integration, training systems, and aft fuselage. After the project was fully assembled, it was Lockheed Martin who received featured credit for construction and contribution. The conflict of various production companies working together are often cited as the core reason for delayed finish times and spikes in cost.
No Co-Pilot Needed
The F-22’s cockpit is unique in its advanced technology, as well as its overall build and structure. There is no need for a co-pilot on tight aircraft, which means that only the best and most respected pilots can fly the F-22, as they’ll be doing it solo. The cockpit is designed quite intricately; it holds a monochrome head-up display and a keypad system used for autopilot data and communications. The pilot operating the aircraft needs to be educated in processing and analyzing data that is measured and deciphered through the technical instruments of the F-22.
The 2014 Unveiling
In 2014, a United States coalition, opposing the terrorist organization ISIS, started dropping lethal bombs on Syria and Iraq. The F-22 was quickly drafted into the armed coalition to protect the United States Military in their fight against ISIS during repeated airstrikes. The F-22 Raptor had one, primary job to do – the aircraft was employed to escort strike packages to their targeted range and pick up signals or details that involved the enemy. This was the first combat mission the F-22 served in.
The First Flight
The F-22 Raptor’s first official flight was on September 17th, 1997. It was a plan 15 years in the making but eventually, the swift aircraft was able to take a long-awaited test run. In 1990, 7 years prior, 2 prototypes (the YF-22 and YF-23) were flown the predicted course that would be the first flying route for the completed F-22. It wasn’t until 1993 that the fighter jet would fall under construction and slowly, piece by the piece, it was carefully created throughout the course of the decade.
The Hourly Cost
Operating a well-equipped and awfully advanced piece of machinery like the F-22 tends to put a dent in the national bank. For just one hour of flight, the cost of operating the F-22 Raptor is an exact sum of $44,259. After a few years of flight, a more accurate calculation of the F-22’s hourly cost was projected – a staggering $49, 808 per hour! It’s predecessor, fighter jet F-15, cost an estimated $30,818 per hour. As it seems, these hourly rates were a contributing factor in the opposition proposed by political figures when development for the project was initially considered.
The F-22 Raptor may be quick, it may be nimble, and it may even be still (when it needs to be) but that doesn’t negate its need for fuel. The F-22 can travel approximately 1,500 miles with one hour, although, after it has traveled 2,000 miles, it officially needs to be re-charged. So, how do they gas up in the middle of the sky? Luckily KC-135’s act as in-flight gas stations; These huge vessels bring the F-22 Raptors fuel from above their head and give them the energy they need to keep fighting the good fight.
Like all great inventions, the F-22 has seen some complications during its operation. While only a small collection of complications have occurred (or been reported) the F-22 has suffered a crash and malfunction here and there. It’s first incident, a crash involving a YF-22, occured at Edwards AFB during a test run. The second most notable malfunction happened in 2004 at Nellis AFB in Nevada, where a pilot emergency ejected himself after the engine shut-down during take-off. The shut-down was the result of a flight-system malfunction that was later restored and updated in modified versions of the aircraft.
The Lucky T-Shirt
Taking the first F-22 Raptor on its first test flight can be a nerve-wracking experience and for Pilot Paul Metz, it was a once in a lifetime experience. To bid himself good luck, Pilot Metz wore his lucky t-shirt underneath his official uniform during the flight. The t-shirt depicted an image of a popular 1967 cartoon named Super Chicken that once aired on ABC. With this lucky t-shirt, Paul Metz had the confidence and metaphorical safety he mentally required to make history in the name of the United States Government and their combat artillery.
Average Life Span: 30 Years
The F-22 Raptor aircraft project cost the American Government a pretty penny, wouldn’t you say? So, you can be sure that these military officials wanted to get a bang for their buck. The F-22 Raptor was built with an average life span of 30 years and the ability to travel at least 8,000 flight hours. In theory, this may seem like a long time for an aircraft to exist and of course, functionally operate. In practice, the U.S. Government insists they need more airtime. The newest generation of the F-22 aircraft is supposed to achieve a longer, more sustainable flight time, as well as median life span.
An Invisible Weapon
The F-22 may be fully loaded with heavy weaponry but in actuality, it is a weapon in itself. The speed and stealth of the aircraft makes it almost impossible to see in flight and on a radar scan, is only the alleged size of a bumblebee. For the pilot operating the F-22, this gives him an unusual method of safety and combat strategy. He or she is already gifted with luxury of a 360 degree view of the enemy and territory, therefore, his swift capability and near-invisible power makes him or her unstoppable on the battlefield.
Prepare For Battle
The most intriguing characteristic about the F-22 Raptor is its ability to transform into a ground combat craft. If you thought this fighter jet was intimidating in there, it now becomes more valuable because it transfigures to the ground below it! The weapon supplies on the craft remain operational in either format and their usually a collection of several AIM-120C air-to-air missiles or Sidewinder missiles. We haven’t even shared with you the most exciting (and somewhat scary) part regarding the engagement of the missiles – once it has entered the targeted airspace, the F-22 uses its central intelligence to determine whether or not the ammo needs to unloaded and fired.
Squadrons are located in 4 American states; Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Virginia. Additionally, there are deployment stations located in the Middle East, as well. The F-22 aircraft is a prominent symbol of American Patriotism. All necessary training and maintenance protocol take place in California, Nevada, and Florida. It’s important to the United States Military that they take careful care and place imperative concern on their elite, discrete fighter jets. Therefore, all accomplishments and preparations related to the aircraft occur on American soil.
An In-flight Spycraft
Active electronically scanned array radars, otherwise referred to as ASEA, emits multiple radio waves throughout the air by simply aiming their beam at the intended target. The pictures and data that are collected by ASEA can be shared with coordinated fighter jets in the same area, which gives the F-22 pilots a leg-up on or before their attack against the nearby enemy. The last time ASEA was employed during a battle was in 2015, after Pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh on Christmas Eve in 2014. F-22 fighter jets launched a series of air strikes on ISIS after they burned the pilot alive and the terrorists were located by use of this innovative technology.
Excess Baggage? No Problem
The F-22 Raptor is unique in multiple ways. It carries a large set of weapons internally but would you have guessed that the wings of the aircraft can hold up to 5,000 pounds of excess material? In one documented test flight, the F-22 was able to drop a GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition from 5,000 feet in the air. The GBU-32 hit a moving target that approximately located 24 miles away from the aircraft. Because of the F-22’s high speed ability and altitude range, the effect of employed munition is that much greater.
The Almost Replacement
The F-22 almost (just almost!) inspired a new Naval baby to be born. A carrier version of the F-22 Raptor was a favorable project to embark on in the early 90’s and it would have included variable-sweep wings that could have greatly benefit the U.S. Navy’s Navy Advanced Tactical Fighter Program. The project was cancelled in 1993 but if plans for the updated aircraft had followed through, it would have replaced the tried and true F-14 Tomcat. The idea for a new and improved carrier version of the F-22 was seemingly impractical but hey, it opened up the door for other fighter jets like the YF-22.
New Crash Reports
As it turns out, there were a couple of more crash reports to confirm during the 2000’s. In 2009, an F-22 crashed just northeast of Edwards AFB while on a test flight. David P. Cooley, the operating pilot, lost consciousness mid-flight and the aircraft went spiraling down. Then, in 2010, an F-22 encountered a bleed air system malfunction after the engine overheated. Unfortunately, the pilot aboard did not survive. Finally, in 2012, a pilot escaped a crashing F-22 with his life after it crashed east of Tyndall AFB.
The Raptor is used for both dropping bombs as well as escorting packages from one place to another. In 2015, the F-22 Raptor had been in 204 operations where they dropped 270 bombs, during Operation Inherent Resolve. The escorting of the packages also occurred during this operation, as the Raptors are also capable of gathering information from the other side’s systems of intelligence.
The Kill Ratio
The Raptor is the next generation of the F-15 that are now considered outdated. The Raptor has shown itself to be very capable in its kill ratio of 108:0. This kill ratio is much more advanced than the other jets, such as the F-15 and the F-5, which were tested in the 70s and 80s. The Raptor is unparalleled in its range, stealth capability and thrust, making it an almost perfect machine.
Imagine you are flying at an extremely high speed, with a loaded weapon on board, but you don’t have to physically fly the jet – that is exactly what the F-22 Raptor gives. This option is not a given in the case of jets. The Raptor is able to handle the stress of the speed and elevation that they are in, as well as maintain their super cruising abilities while intercepting targets.
The element of the thrust vector allows the pilot and jet perform more controlled turns at high g forces. The jet will not stall despite the pressure on the jets, both external and internal. Between the tight turn ability (super-maneuverability) and the incredible radar system on board the jet, the F-22 is a tracking and capturing giant, which is exactly the point of this jet to begin with.
The only downside that seems to befall the F-22 is the lack of versatility in the weapons it can carry. While they are working on adding the ability to carry GBU-54 laser JDAM and GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb II to the weaponry of the F-22, currently, the jet can only hold the Sidewinder, medium range missiles, and JDAM assortment of bombs.
The 1st Combat F-22 Squadron
In 2005, the first F-22 upgrade program, Increment 2, was implemented. By the end of 2015, the United States Air Force stated that the F-22 had managed to get to the initial operations capability. The US Air Force worked long and hard to make sure their investment in the F-22 would be well worth the expense for the fighter jets.
It’s A Small War, After All
The biggest issue some people had with the jet was the fact that it cost the government so much out of the aforementioned budget but the jet was lacking in the system it needed to engage fast moving fleeting targets. Nowadays, helicopters, UAVs and the F-35 are all built with built in laser targeting that is made possible by optics.
With the success of the F-22 Raptor, China and Russia took notice, seeing as they are the strongest nations other than the US. They created their own version of the jet, China created the Chengdu-20 and Russia the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA. Russia’s jet is the closest thing to the F-22 Raptor but with the innovations that are set to be implemented in the US version, it is likely to progress faster than the other jets.
The New Raptor
The Raptor keeps getting better and better over the years, with constant renovations to the jet. By the end of 2017, the F-22 Raptor will be able to carry the AIM-9X sidewinder, and as a result expand their weapon capabilities. At this rate, by 2020, the next stage in the innovation of the jet is set to put the fighter aviation giant ahead of any other jet.
A Modified Helmet
The jet itself is the most important piece of the puzzle but not the only one. In 2020, a year of innovations we seem to think, the plan for an F-22 Raptor helmet. According to the United States Air Force, they will be using the Gentex HGU-55/P helmet as a base for the new and more technically advanced version.
Just Like The 1st Jet-Fighter
The F-22 is constantly compared to one of the first of its kind, the Me-262. Sadly, that isn’t much of a good thing considering almost all of the Me-262 were taken out of commission during World War II for one reason or another. However, at the time, they were the best at what they did, just didn’t last very long. The F-22’s shelf life is much longer but is making people wonder if worth the added expense.
The Next Generation
Within the next decade or so, the United States Air Force will probably go into another generation of fighter jets, just as they left the previous models, so will they leave the current ones when the new versions are up and running. What will happen to the F-22 Raptor has yet to be revealed, but the fate will be decided by 2018 when the budget is set to be renewed and the purchasing of newer models are an option.