There is just so much you don’t know about airplanes. The F-22 Raptor in particular holds the greatest secrets among them for its complexity. As a military weapon, much of what we’ve known about it are mere guesses and speculation. Let me take you through 60 facts about this air dragon and see what the military doesn’t want you to know.
Start slideshow below to learn the facts. #21 is mind blowing!
1. First flight was on September 7th, 1997
F-22 never took off till 7th September 1997. Prior to then YF-22, F-15 and YF-23 prototypes had being tested, but none seemed to have attained the objective capabilities set. Therefore the US Air Force still needed to replace them with a swifter weapon. The idea to build F-22 was conceived in 1982 but its realization came in 15 years later.
Coming up with the complete set F-22 took so long that, the assembly of a flyable F-22 started 10 years from the time of design.
2. Didn’t make its combat debut until 2014
Though created in the 90s, the F-22 made its first combat debut in July 2014 in the fight against ISIS. This US led coalition started making air strikes against Iraq and Syria, later during the war the US military saw the need to include the F-22 in the fight. The plane offered safety by escorting and gathering details about the ISIS systems.
3. Only room for one
The most advanced piece of aeronautical technology with state of the art cockpits, monochrome head-up display and a sophisticated keypad for autopilot and communication system has only room for one pilot. Despite the complexity all the computer systems and communication data are handled by one.
To operate the F-22 you need to be the best, the kinds who almost don’t need a co-pilot for recourse. The pilot is required to analyze and process the numerous technical data from each instrument and systems all by himself.
4. How Much Does One Cost?
Nearly $34 billion was used in procurement of the first batch of F-22, this means each plane had an estimated value of $339 million, but at a cost of about $150 million for an additional unit. In total cost of the project is estimated at $66 billion.
This was a huge expenditure that brought in a lot of criticism with some of influential leaders demanding its closure. Donald Rumsfeld the Secretary of Defense and Senator John McCain termed the project as too expensive. However, the congress approved its continuation in the year 2008.
5. Cost per hour
The F-22 is rated among the biggest guzzlers of all planes. According to the Secretary of Defense the F-22 cost $49,808 per hour in air although the Air Force claims it costs $44,259 per flying hour. Former prototypes were by far cheaper with the previous fighter F-22 costing $30,818 per hour.
6. Range of almost 2,000 miles
Although it can move at a top speed of over 1,500 miles per hour it requires a gas break from US to Middle East. The F-22 consumes so much fuel that it had to stop for fuel refills on its trip to Iraq and Syria. The plane depends on KC-135s; which are massive vessels loaded with various plane supplies.
Thanks to the superior aeronautical technologies used, there are few accidents associated with F-22. In the 2004 an F-22 had an accident during take-off in Nevada Nellis AFB but the pilot ejected to safety before the incident. The unexpected incident occurred when the flight-control system malfunctioned due to an engine shutdown during take-off. Later the aircraft design was changed to rectify such cases. Another accident occurred during a test at Edwards AFB.
8. Chief test pilot Paul Metz wore a lucky shirt for the test flight
There is luck in your lucky items. And that is exactly why the chief test pilot Paul Metz wore his lucky super chicken T-shirt underneath the flight gear during the initial test for the F-22.
The super chicken is a cartoon show aired along with same ilk of Rocky and Bullwinkle in the 1997 in ABC. Seems a superhero chicken spirit was needed to ride on this monster.
9. Designed for a lifespan of 30 years
Unlike the previous version with small lifespan, the F-22 is designed to last over 30 years or 8,000hrs of flight time. Therefore until in the 2030s the F-22 will be reigning the skies in their fast speed.
Later there will be a sixth generation of fighter jets which will have added speed and lifespan. Therefore the new fighter jets would probably last to 50 years or so.
10. Radar image like a bumblebee
Considering its stealth capabilities, high speeds of up to 1500 miles per hour and very high altitudes the plane is nearly invisible. As a matter of fact on radar views, the F-22 appears like a bumblebee.
This is a huge advantage for the pilot who has a clear 360 aerial view over the battlefield and rests unnoticeable.
11. F-22 Raptor can be configured for air or ground combat
The F-22 ergonomics and agility makes it suitable for both air and ground deployment. This rare capability has been made possible by the use of inbuilt sensors technology that gives the pilot the accurate time and route of deploying ammunition. The system is well integrated with the sidewinder and the air to air missiles.
12. Squadrons are deployed in at least 4 states and the Middle East
The F-22 is the most all-American aircraft. It’s deployed in New Mexico, Virginia and Alaska. All the training and maintenance are done in California, Florida or Nevada. Additional bases are in Hawaii and some places in deep of Middle East.
13. Uses AESA to hound enemy aircraft
The active electromagnetically scanned array radars is a new improved form of radar which produce multiple radio waves. They are able to collect valuable and complex data information which are analyzed and shared among other active strike team.
This technology has been helpful especially in strikes against ISIS after the alive burning of a fighter jet pilot in 2014.
14. High altitude and speed increases munition effectiveness
Like an eagle the F-22 hovers around a batter field with strange swiftness. During testing the Raptor deployed a GBU-32 JDAM at an altitude of 50,000 above the sea and a speed of 1,500 miles per hour. The ammunition was able to hit a moving target 26 miles away.
The swiftness comes along with ease of deployment with most weapons carried internally while an ample amount held by the wings capable of 20,000 lbs
15. Almost a naval variant of the F-22
The US navy proposed carrier version of the F-22 would feature variable sweep wings, this piece would be used for its advanced tactical fighter programs. According to the technical objectives the carrier version would replace the F-14.
However the project never commenced as it was pronounced impractical. But it was an influential idea that led to Donald Rice choosing F-22 over YF-23.
16. Incidents 2
Though few, the F-22 accidents have been fatal. In the years 2009 an F-22 was involved in an accident during takeoff which claimed life of the pilot. There were no structural malfunction and therefore the pilot is thought to have lost consciousness.
Later in the next year there was another accident that culminated to loss of a pilot. In this incidence there was a structural malfunction, where the bleeding air system had broken due to engine overheating. In the year 2012 another Raptor was involved in a crash but fortunately the pilot ejected safely.
17. Amount of bombs dropped on targets
Since their introduction in the late 1990s the Raptors are already claiming a sizable number of attacks and bomb hits. The Raptors has dropped 270 bombs compared to 44,000 bombs dropped by US in its history. Further the F-22 has had contact with 60 of 7,900 target location hit by US Air Force.
Additionally, the Raptors offer escort services to other strike packages in and out battlefield while collecting important systems about the enemy.
18. Amazing kill ratios against F-15s
By the end of 2006 the Raptor had proven to be the best Fighter jet to be. During testing it gave a kill ration of 108:0 which is exceptionally high compared to the previous version F-15 and F-5 used in the 1970s and 1980s.
Its vectored thrust, high speed and altitude are remarkable features that made it more agile and places it in a special class among the combat aircraft.
19. The only operational aircraft able to super-cruise while full loaded
The number of ammunition an F-22 carries makes it high speed and maneuverability unbelievable. When fully loaded it weighs over three times the maximum weight that a subsonic aircraft can carry but moves at a supersonic speed and with great stability.
At this speed it’s efficient in burning fuel while it can intercept an object with perfect precision. The plane is made with high strength materials that make it stress resistant.
20. F-119 engines allow supermaneuverability
The Raptor features a one of a kind engines. Its strength and power are unsurpassed. It gives the plane a vectored thrust and sharp turning ability. With this combinations it can maneuver at a speed that would literally stall a normal plane.
With such maneuverability and radar technology added to its stealth the F-22 can cruise very close to the enemy and deploy ammunition to the desired location.
21. It’s touted for being about to carry weapons, but not for its variety
The Raptor would not get any criticism by itself therefore the Detractors criticizes its weaponry. The plane lacks a weapon system qualified to its level. The F-22 features medium range missiles, JDAM and sidewinders. Most of its critiques suggest that a GBU-53 bomb with smaller diameter or a GBU-54 laser JDAM would suit it better. Conversely, it would bring up a new and unique weapon system with high attacking ability for moving targets.
22. Donald Rumsfeld nearly bookends the F-22 project
Rumsfeld is marked as one of the military leaders who have been opposed to the idea of F-22. He was the Secretary of Defense twice. First in the years 1977 a few years to the initial requirement of the plane. Later in 2001 he returned to the position a few years after the initial testing.
During the second term he vehemently discouraged the continuation of F-22 production.
23. Reached full operational capability in 2005
In the years 2005 through a program dabbed Increment 2 the F-22 was upgraded. By the end of the year it had attained the Initial Operational Capability. As a result of this accomplishment, the 27th fighter squadron comprised of F-22 Raptors which had started conversion in the year.
24. Low usefulness in ‘Small Wars’
The F-22 is criticized on its low ability to effectively combat in fleeting targets despite its value.
This is because any counter-insurgency warfare planes features in-built laser targeting and optics which are not available in F-22. This makes it less valuable in such combats compared to –F-35 and UAVs.
25. Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA was inspired by it
Fighter jets for various nations have traits of F-22. The Chinese and Russian fighter jets have so much resemblance to F-22. The Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA is a direct competition to F-22.
26. Raptor will have the AIM-9X integrated in 2017
The Raptor included the AIM-9X in its sidewinder. This is a new combat system innovation included in the year 2017, the plane is expected to see much high technology incorporation in the coming years.
27. Helmet-mounted cuing system
The Raptor is expected to introduce a new helmet cuing system. According to its schedule and requirements report the new helmet is likely to be out by the end of 2020.
Speculations suggest that there are chances that they will improve on the Gentex HGU-55/P or produce a new design.
28. The 262 Sturmvogel of its time?
Many detractors compare the F-22 with the ME-262. Just like the Raptor, the Me-262 had capabilities comparable to no other fighter jet in its era.
However this may not come as a complement to many since of the 200 Me-262 nearly all we brought down during the World War II. This brings up the question on if the Raptor is worth the credit.
29. Gen. Hawk Carlisle
General Hawk Carlisle is among the few individuals who have had deep knowledge and experience about the US Air Force. He argues that the country does not have enough Raptors, based on how the few are used and the future projected need for Raptors, there is a great deficit.
To him Raptors are important in making high end strike, bringing some things down and helping other forces acquire their optimal working capacity.
30. Gen. Hawk Carlisle part 2
General Herbert J. Carlisle commonly known as ‘Hawk’ is a highly experienced retired US Air Force general with four-star. He has served as the commander in Air Component of US in Pacific Command, once as a commander of Virginia-Langley field Combat command and in pacific Air Forces.
He graduated in the year 1987 and has ever since them been a principle party in many Air Force operations. This includes commanding operational groups and fighter squadrons.
31. Gen. Carlisle Retirement
General Hawk retired on 1st March 2017. A command changing ceremony was held in Langley Air Base in Virginia. He passed the baton to General Holmes James ‘Mike’. Holmes like Hawk is highly experienced therefore much revolutions are expected.
32. Gen. Holmes
Holmes joined the services in the years 1981 as a pilot. He is highly experienced as a pilot having accumulated over 4,000 hours of flight with over 500 being combat time.
He has commanded a number of Air Force Combat wings such as the Afghanistan expeditionary wing and locally the Fighter wing in North Carolina.
33. Lockheed was prime but Boeing was clutch
The F-22 was no single contraction. A number of contractors were involved, with main ones being Boeing and Lockheed Martin the mix brought in many advantages. Lockheed contributed to the fuselage, final assembly and weapon units. On the other hand the Boeing brought in the wings, avionic integration aft fuselage and training system.
However, the use of different contractors had hitches such as the hiking of cost and delays.
34. Light Attack Aircraft
In the recent past there has been so much conversation in the military about procuring a more light attack airplane. Most of this sentiments have been echoed by important leaders within the Air Force. This would probably be a resolution in the current anti-terrorism campaign in the US.
According to General Holmes the light attack fighters are important. They would not cost so much yet they will ease on how weapons are carried during fights.
35. Fighter Pilot Shortage
There is a high shortage of personnel with sufficient skills. The requirement are attained by few while the redesigning eliminates them further. In 2015 the Chief of staff directed the fighter enterprise redesign to develop means to create a more adequate pilot force.
In the last three decades US have had continuous combat leading to a higher loss of combat fighters than the Force’s entering production capacity.
36. Infrastructure Issues
The shortage of fighter pilots is contributed by lack of infrastructure. There are no enough infrastructures required for training of pilots. The problem escalates when the projected airline capacity is increasing faster than the number of pilots.
According to Lt. Gen Nowland Chris, the problem of lack of fighter pilots is brought by high competition from commercial airlines.
37. Commercial Airlines
The airline business has seen a sharp growth in the recent years. There is a considerable number of pilot going for their retirement leaving the gap wider. It is estimated that commercial airlines will need about 5,000 pilots every year and this numbers could increase to 10,000 by 2022.
The Air Force therefore will be the most available harvesting ground for other airlines. Additionally drone pilots and maintainers are in high demand. Thereby constraining the military in securing its personnel.
38. Lofty Salaries
The commercial airlines invest high on their pilots. Their salaries, job security and benefits are inverse to what military offer.
Since military offer high piloting skills hence its trainees are top notch pilots every airlines recruitment focus first on the Air Force.
39. New Study
According to a study done recently, major airlines will hire about 2,000 pilots in every years for the next 10 years. The number may increase to 5,000 annually by 2022. By the time an Air Force pilot finished training he will have met the 1,500 hours of flight requirement to be a co-pilot and with such high pay comparison there will be a huge number of pilots leaving the forces.
40. Increased Retention Bonuses
To compete favorably the Air Forces have increased their retention bonuses among other benefits. There is an annual installment of about $10,000 to $ 25,000 for period between 5-9 years. Also for the first time ever the Air Force have included aviator Retention Pay for the drone pilots.
More importantly the Air Force has strict schedule and works under high pressure which makes the piloting career much enjoyable.
41. Demands of the Job
While there are unmatched monetary benefits, high job security and flexible working schedule there is a lot to enjoy working as a veteran pilot. The Air Force stretches their capability to the limit and thereby making the career livelier. Many former Air Force pilots working as commercial pilots will always mention that the level of involvement in Air Force is unmatched by the commercial Airlines.
42. Raptor over the Persian Gulf
To any veteran pilot, quitting for a job in the commercial position is much like chickening out 0f piloting career. To them the ultimate satisfaction is in the challenging moments they have to undergo on a regular basis.
Speaking to ‘Showtime’ Lt. Col. Kevin to him conducting routine surveillance over the Persian Gulf in a Raptor is a trip he looks forward to. His stories about the experience in the military are intriguing.
43. It’s Showtime
Showtime’s passion for piloting is so deep that he learned how to fly before he had his driver’s license. Before his 16th birthday he had performed his first solo flight.
He has over 3,000 hours of flight, most of them being challenging flights to any average pilot. His most impressive skills is in the ability to maneuver around the hostile region with a Raptor.
44. Showtime Saves The Day
In his regular escort mission to the Middle East Showtime. At a distance he spotted a fast approaching fighter jet. Considering the range between them he decided to engage the intruder.
There were previous attempts by Iranian fighters to intercept on US drones thereforehe needed to intercept the incomer however, heengaged on a very dangerous but turned necessary actions. He flew below the intruder to check its weapon load just to see what he was dealing with. After inspecting he flew to its sides and delivered a kind message.
45. Go Home
Turns out the intruder fighter jet was unbelievably inferior he saw it necessary to advice an upcoming pilot instead of engaging him in a combat which would be lethal. His message was simple ‘you really ought to go home’.
It worked and the intruder retired back home. This is a gesture that the F-22 would be need in many escort mission to help avoid unnecessary damages.
46. Courage in the Air Force
The Air Force have courage in high volumes. Even just the ability to fly in the F-22 displays so much courage and believe in ones skills. The story of Showtime is just but one of many mind blowing incidences the pilots go through. According to Chief of Staff General Welsh Mark there are many incidences when the pilots have risked their lives and involved in daring situation to save the day.
47. In the Middle East since 2009
After a long hesitation from the Secretary of Defense the F-22 were officially deployed in the Middle East, in United Arabs Emirates at Al Dhafra.
About a year before the Showtime’s incident a number of F-22 were making routine trips around the base close to the Iranian Border. The raptor has since them been making regular operations in the Middle East.
48. Missions Availability
The F-22 are nearly always in a mission. In the year 2004 they were 62% engaged in a mission, 70% in 2009 and 63 % in 2015. The continued engagement is associated with high cost and maintenance.
49. Cost of Getting Them Off The Ground
Being the world’s most superior fighter jet, it costs averagely $ 44,000 per every hour it’s in the air. The price of each single piece is over $339 million with the entire F-22 program costing about $62 billion.
50. Fixing Them Up
The maintenance cost for the Raptors in equally high. In the initial testing the F-22 required 30 hours for every 1 hour of flight, this period has since them been reduced to 18 hours in 2008 and 10 hours in 2009.
On average the mean time between consecutive repairs was 1.7 in against the required time of 3.0 hours. But with the current improvement the numbers have rose to 3.2 hours.
51. Altered Training
To cut on the operating cost as well as improving the lifespan of the F-22. Most pilots learn through simulations. While the T-38 is used as a stand in for foe training.
52. Hard to Breathe
There are consistent complains about persistent respiratory discomforts which include chronic coughing, in other causes there are emotional imbalances and neurological problems. This has led to the introduction of Fleet-wide grounding.
The causes of the respiratory problems have been investigated and a possible cause has been spelt out air system tubing emitting of noxious chemical agents.
53. Lockheed Martin Got Involved
To deal with the respiratory issues ideally, Lockheed was incorporated in the year 2012 to add an automatic oxygen in addition to the manual system. During the time of this adjustment long distance trips had to be flown at low enough altitudes. But after the installation the F-22 returned back to the sky.
54. 4 More Deployed In 2014
With the aim of enhancing its rapid deployment the US Air Force summoned four F-22 and a C-17. The idea was to find it they would engage in a combat within 24hours of alert.
The four would be deployed in Spangdahlem in Germany base in August, an in Lask in Poland and in Amari base in Estonia in September of 2015. The full operation also involved training with the NATO.
55. 2016 Events
Just like the Showtime’s encounter with the Iranian fighter. On 19th august of 2016 two F-22 intercepted on a pair of Syrian Su-24 over Hasakah, Syria. The dual Syrian fighter jet were eliminated accurately following Syrian attacks on Kurdish Forces allied to US.
The F-22 is working tirelessly to be the on the next level. Just recently in March of 2017 they introduced an Air Intercept Missile -9x on its sidewinder missiles. This follows a number of integrated air-to-air missiles incorporated in the end of 2016 this missiles had been used in F-15, F-16 F/A-18 among others.
To bear the air-to-air sidewinders missiles so much change took place. There were numerous adjustments in its hardware to house the missile as well as software system upgrade. This improvement gave rise to the F-22’s 3.2 version.
58. Much Needed Improvements
The Air Force is aiming at making much more improvement on F-22 before the year 2019. The introduction of sidewinder upgrade is one of the improvements.
There is a great need to bring up a new version of weapons that will match the airplane. Currently the plane houses 50 year old missiles, there is an anticipated incorporation of the new AIM-9X to replace the AIM-9M’s, the 9X houses eight missiles.
59. The Most Lethal Combat Aircraft In The World
Following the recent advancement on the F-22, this fighter jet is currently the most lethal combat plane. The Third wing weapon manager stresses that with such as state of fighter jet it needed a highly maneuvering, high range and fast moving missiles. This combination leaves no room for comparison with other fighter jets.
Soon after this changes are made the F-22 will be a bright future for the Air Force.
60. Sixth generation to be revealed sometime between 2025-2030
In the next 15 years the US Air Force will be introducing a version of fighter jet. The sixth generation is set to be of higher speed and maneuverability, the Boeing F/A-XX design released in 2013 is expected to be use although research by navy is still ongoing. The budget and acquisition program has already been suggested. Leaving the specifics about the next generation and the F-22 on the wraps.