F-22 Sea Raptor: A stealth fighter ‘beast’ flying from Navy aircraft carriers

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Originally published by The National Interest

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The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, a cornerstone of U.S. Air Force capabilities, was once considered for adaptation into a carrier-capable variant known as the “Sea Raptor.” Despite the F-22’s advanced features, including supermaneuverability, stealth, and supercruise capabilities, the Navy variant never materialized.

-Initial plans involved significant design changes to make it suitable for carrier operations, such as incorporating a variable sweep-wing, which would have compromised its stealth. However, the end of the Cold War and subsequent reduced military budget led to the cancellation of extended F-22 production and the shift towards the multirole F-35 platform.

-The Navy then chose the F-35C variant to fulfill its needs for a capable fighter jet equipped with advanced sensors for air combat and reconnaissance missions, marking the end of the Sea Raptor concept.

The F-22 Sea Raptor That Never Was: The Navy’s Plan for an Aircraft Carrier-Capable F-22

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was the first fifth-generation fighter jet to ever fly. The American platform was an instant legend, and it is arguably still a more fearsome aircraft than newer fighter jets. Combining supermaneuverability with stealth and supercruise, the Raptor is a centerpiece of the U.S. Air Force’s aerial strategy.

At one point in time, the Navy desired its own carrier-capable variant. The “Sea Raptor” version, however, never came to fruition.

Introducing the F-22 Raptor

The Raptor was the result of the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter program. Designed in the 1980s as an ideal air superiority fighter, the F-22 rectified the service’s perceived “mission deficiency” against the Soviet Union’s growing fleet of modern fighters.

Perhaps the Raptor’s most significant feature is its tiny radar cross-section. In fact, this older platform is at least five times less observable than the F-35 Lightning II. Two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines power the airframe, producing a total thrust of approximately 70,000 pounds. In terms of armament, the jet is equipped with three internal weapons bays. The F-22 in stealth configuration can pack two AIM-9 Sidewinder and six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) in its side weapons bays, while also carrying two Aim-120 AMRAAM and two GBU-32 JDAM bombs.

F-22 Sea Raptor: What About the Navy’s Carrier-Capable Variant?

This incredible stealth, speed, and payload immediately made the Raptor the dominant fighter jet in the skies. Naturally, the Navy considered adapting the F-22 to serve its own needs. In order to make the jet carrier-capable, Lockheed Martin would have had to incorporate several critical alterations to the platform’s design. The Navy variant would need a variable sweep-wing design similar to the F-14 Tomcat. Since this specific design would sacrifice the stealth aircraft’s small radar cross-section, the endeavor was a challenge for engineers.

Shortly after the Raptor entered the production phase, the collapse of the Soviet Union shifted the playing field for the U.S. military. The usefulness of the F-22 platform was minimized. In fact, production halted at 187 units. The subsequent F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platform was the true multirole aircraft that each service needed. Instead of engineering a carrier-capable variant of the Raptor, the Navy relied on the Lightning IIC variant.

The Navy’s F-35 variant is highly evolved, incorporating advanced sensors that are capable of managing a battle in the air. Additionally, the platform can conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. This carrier-capable variant will serve the Navy for decades to come.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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