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The F-22 Raptor is a very expensive and effective fighter jet that entered service in the United States Air Force in December 2005. Unlike some other fighter jets like the F-35 Lightning II, the export sale of the F-22 Raptor is forbidden by United States federal law, making the F-22 Raptor the "trump card" of the United States, ensuring it air superiority over every other country in the world, including China and Russia. The United States Air Force claims that the F-22 is the most advanced and effective fighter aircraft in the world, unmatched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. It is classified by the US military as a fifth generation fighter jet and a fourth generation stealth aircraft.
First, some basic specs on the aircraft. The F-22 Raptor is 62 ft 1 in (18.90 m) long, with a wingspan of 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m) and a height of 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m). Its loaded weight is 64,460 lb (29,300 kg). Propulsion is by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 Pitch Thrust vectoring turbofans, each with a thrust of 35,000+ lb (156+ kiloNewtons). The craft has a top speed of Mach 2.25 (1,500 mph, 2,410 km/h), with a cruising speed of Mach 1.82 (1,220 mph, 1,963 km/h). With two external fuel tanks, the F-22 has a 1,840 mi (2,960 km) range. The craft's service ceiling is 65,000 ft (19,812 m), with a maximum g-load of -3 or +9. The armament is one M61A2 Vulcan Gatling gun, with eight medium-range air-to-air missiles, four Sidewinder missiles, with room for about a tonne of conventional drop bombs.
The program to develop the F-22 began in 1986 and took about twenty years, with the fighter entering service in 2005. The F-22 is a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, and the total project cost was $ 65 billion US Dollars, with a per-unit cost of US$ 137.5 million. Originally, 650 were anticipated to be ordered, but the high cost of the fighter caused the order to be downgraded to 183. The F-22 Raptor uses the most advanced technologies currently available, including advanced alloys and composite materials, higher power propulsion systems, advanced fly-by-wire flight control systems, and low-observable/stealth technology. Its 20 MW power plant is so powerful that the craft might become the first air fighter to be equipped with directed energy weaponry, which would theoretically allow an infinite number of shots.
The F-22 has a number of unique abilities that put it a head and shoulders above any other fighter aircraft, some of which are classified. One superior feature is the ability of the craft to travel at supersonic speeds without the use of an afterburner, a characteristic called supercruise. The F-22 is highly maneuverable at any speed, and is very departure-resistant, meaning that the craft stays under control even when engaging in extreme maneuvers. The F-22 has a very high angle of attack, as much as 60°, allowing it to swoop in on inferior fighters easily.
It seems likely that one day some country, probably the United States, will develop an air superiority fighter more effective than the F-22, but it looks like that day could be a while off.
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