Why F-22 Raptor is still Unbeatable
The F-22 Raptor is unquestionably the Air Superiority Queen, especially in Beyond Visual Range (BVR) engagements; it’s all about knocking down adversary aircraft before they ever notice the Raptors’ presence.
Speed & Stealth
The F-22 Raptor’s superior speed, stealth, agility, and situational awareness, combined with combat-proven long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, makes it the best fighter jet in the entire world. Additionally, the F-22 can also super-cruise at high speeds, which basically means it can reach the speed of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its afterburners. Not only does this drastically reduce her IR signature it also enables the Raptor to travel faster and farther on less fuel, a scenario that expands its time for combat missions.
The Raptor has been flying for over 20 years. By now the Raptor pilots are more than seasoned with their aircraft. I’m sure some pilots have been flying the Raptor for a decade at least.
Unsurprisingly, US stealth technology is vastly superior to every other counterpart. The Radar Cross Section (RCS) of the Raptor is literally smaller than that of an average insect. The only other active aircraft in the world to possess a comparable RCS is the B-2 bomber. Followed by the F-35.
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The F-22 has a significant detection advantage over any other fighter airplane on the planet. The Su-57, for example, has an RCS of 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than the F-22 (which has an RCS of 0.1 m2 vs. -40 dB). Because detection range is proportional to the 4th root of the RCS, an RCS of 1,000 times greater amounts to a detection advantage of at least 6 times greater for the F-22 over the Su-57. As a result, F-22 pilots will always have a detection edge over their adversaries – at least until 6th generation fighters are introduced.
Most powerful radar and avionics suite:
The fidelity and resolution of F-22’s avionics suite allow the Raptor to identify targets much faster than AWACS. In training, it’s common for F-22 pilots to classify emitters and track their location faster than AWACS (flying radar) – more below (point 5).
The F-22’s APG-77 radar is composed of nearly 2,000 T/R modules making it the largest and most powerful AESA radar on a fighter aircraft. According to Jane, the early APG-77 could generate 31 cm resolution radar images for target recognition in excess of 161 km (real figures are classified but it’s safe to assume it’s 161km at least).
The F-22 (and F-35) being 5th gen. aircraft have superior sensor fusion capabilities than all the previous generation of fighter jets. They’re more than just an individual platform as they become effective “pack leaders” in groups.
For example, the F-22 (and F-35) can literally function as mini-AWACS (their radars can frequently identify targets even faster than dedicated AWACS platforms), share data, and most importantly guide armaments launched from other platforms (such as the F-15EX) – thus improving their Pk (probability of kill).
That said, the USAF is finally getting about 144 – 200 brand new F-15EX – which can carry more air to air armament than any other fighter aircraft (up to 22 air to air missiles). The F-22 (and F-35) will literally start firing and controlling missiles directly from the F-15EX bay; they will basically use the F-15EX as an advanced flying weapons bay (or bae whatever you prefer haha).
The Air-to-Air Missiles (AAM) carried by the F-22 also ensures that her capabilities are well utilized. The AIM-120D for example boasts an amazing range and engagement envelope, is highly maneuverable (thanks to Raytheon’s HOBS), is very accurate due to GPS navigation coupled with inertial guidance, and lastly, the AIM-120 is also equipped with advanced jamming resistance, thanks to the two-way data link.
Thanks to nonstop upgrades and modernizations since 2014 the F-22 today easily outclasses the Raptor that existed in the 2000s. So far the US spent 14.5$ billion at least on those upgrades; it’s safe to say the Raptor today is superior, stealthier, more advanced (newer software and sensors), and lastly, the F-22 now even fires missiles the early versions of the Raptor could only dream of (AIM-9X and AIM-120D).
These improvements not only keep the Raptor up to date with the latest technologies, but they also keep the F-22 ahead of the competition, even while Russia and China work on their own 5th generation fighter jets.