Lockheed Martin / Boeing
C L I C K T O E N L A R G E
The most advanced fighter that exists is the stealth designed F-22. The cost of $150 million per unit helped to halt production in 2011 at 187 aircraft. While fifth generation fighters are being developed by both Russia and China their aircraft are not seen as a near-term threat.
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Power: 2 - Pratt & Whitney 16,095 kg / 35,438 lb afterburning thrust
Max. Speed: Mach 2
Ceiling: 15,250 m / 50,000 ft
Range: not available
Climb: not available
Empty: 14,395 kg / 31,760 lb
Max. Take Off: 27,216 kg / 60,000 lb
Wingspan: 13.56 m / 44 ft
Wing Area: 78 sq m / 840 sq ft
Length: 18.92 m / 62 ft 1 in
Height: 5 m / 16 ft 5 in
1 - 20 mm / 0.78 in cannon
4 - AIM-9 Sidewinders carried in side bays
4 - AIM-120 AAMs or
6 - AIM-120s in ventral weapons bay
4 - underwing hardpoints for additional ordnance
Four weapons bays house ordnance to maintain the aircraft's stealth characteristics although four hardpoints beneath the wings allow for external weapons. Advanced avionics enable a lone pilot to perform a mission normally requiring a two man crew. The end of the Cold War reduced the Raptor's need and its initial order of 339 aircraft was cut nearly in half.
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The design is optimized for maneuverability in low speed combat with vectoring engine exhausts. The engines also provide supersonic cruise capability without the use of fuel guzzling afterburners. They are also designed for relative ease of maintenance.
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The Raptor cockpit includes a holographic Head-Up Display - HUD, as well as providing for HOTAS controls - Hands on Throttle and Stick, enabling the pilot to issue commands without releasing flight controls. The F-22's radar system provides the pilot information on approaching aircraft well before the opposing pilot is aware of any threat.
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Ground crews are able to monitor the Raptor's status using a laptop computer as well as undertake diagnosis of system faults. The aircraft is primarily composed of composites, titanium alloys and radar absorbent materials. The frameless canopy also reduces radar reflection.
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Both the F-22 and the B-2 represent a revolution in aircraft design made possible by advances in computer technology. Their enormous expense and limited role given the current world situation makes their future uncertain. Aircraft such as the F-35 are more likely to be called upon to fulfill the role of tactical fighter.
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Although the F-22 is capable of providing ground support it is not likely the Air Force would volunteer a $150 million aircraft for such a high risk mission. Close Air Support is becoming the exclusive role of helicopters like the AH-64 Apache which has the advantage of being able to linger near ground targets.
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