F-22 Raptor High Speed Pass Over the Moon during 2010 Aviation Nation Air Show.

F-22 Raptor High Speed Pass Over the Moon during 2010 Aviation Nation Air Show.

The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligence roles. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is the prime contractor and is responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems and final assembly of the F-22 Raptor. Program partner Boeing Defense, Space & Security provides the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and all of the pilot and maintenance training systems.

An F-22A Raptor, AK AF 06 4127 on approach to Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag 10-2

An F-22A Raptor, AK AF 06 4127 on approach to Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag 10-2

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 during the years prior to formally entering USAF service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite a protracted and costly development period, the United States Air Force considers the F-22 Raptor a critical component for the future of US tactical air power, and claims that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter, while Lockheed Martin claims that the Raptor’s combination of stealth, speed, agility, precision and situational awareness, combined with air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, makes it the best overall fighter in the world today. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Chief of the Australian Defence Force, said in 2004 that the “F-22 will be the most outstanding fighter plane ever built.”

The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air combat missions because of the lengthy delays in the Russian and Chinese fifth generation fighter programs, a US ban on Raptor exports, and the development of the cheaper and more versatile F-35 resulted in calls to end F-22 production. In April 2009 the US Department of Defense proposed to cease placing new orders, subject to Congressional approval, for a final procurement tally of 187 Raptors. The US Senate and House each passed 2010 budget bill versions without F-22 production funding in July 2009. Congress worked to combine these versions into one bill, and President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 in October 2009, without funding for F-22 production.

Pair of F-22A Raptors fly over Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag 10-3.

Pair of F-22A Raptors fly over Nellis Air Force Base during Red Flag 10-3.

In 1981 the United States Air Force (USAF) developed a requirement for a new air superiority fighter, the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), to replace the capability of the F-15 Eagle, primarily the F-15A, B, C and D variants. ATF was a demonstration and validation program undertaken by the USAF to develop a next-generation air superiority fighter to counter emerging worldwide threats, including development and proliferation of Soviet-era Su-27 “Flanker”-class fighter aircraft. It was envisioned that the ATF would incorporate emerging technologies including advanced alloys and composite materials, advanced fly-by-wire flight control systems, higher power propulsion systems, and low-observable/stealth technology.