The flagship of American aviation, the F-22 Raptor, and the best aircraft in the world are about to be retired. However, the withdrawal of the F-22 will only happen gradually.
American experts believe that the F-22 will fly under the sign of the US Air Force for at least a decade. At least that’s how long it will take for the US to test and begin production of the as-yet-unknown Next Generation Air Dominance [NGAD].
This means that the F-22 Raptor has to go through another modernization. The ability to conduct a long-range battle over the Pacific Ocean requires the combat aircraft to conduct it without additional refueling in the air.
The F-22 is a stealth fighter that shouldn’t wear anything external because doing so disrupts its radar signature. I.e., stealth technology will not be effective.
The US is considering a scenario where the F-22 Raptor could be used for military action in a possible Asian conflict. For several years there has been talking about China’s intentions to annex Taiwan. Since Taipei is not supposed to bow to Beijing willingly, a war between the two countries involving Taiwanese allies is entirely and increasingly possible.
A new fuel tank would give the F-22 Raptor the edge it needs. Similar signals appeared in the second quarter of this year. Then in the US defense budget for the fiscal year 2023, interesting upgrades appeared, which are about to be absorbed. Thus it becomes clear that Raptor will get new invisible underwing fuel tanks.
Raptor fuel tanks currently hold up to 600 gallons of fuel. However, they have a negative effect and reduce the visibility of the fighter. The new fuel tanks designed for the F-22 are intended to offset some of this reduction.
An excerpt from the US’s FY 2023 military budget says new adversary technologies increase strike range. To ensure mission success, the budget also says, the F-22 Raptor must receive increased range “while maintaining own-ship survivability.”
US military experts say a new, more invisible design for the underwing fuel tanks will be created. The pylons will also receive an upgrade, with their “invisibility” reworked. Dramatic changes will occur when the tanks are ejected from the wing.
In the future, this action will need to be performed, leaving a smooth surface behind, which is vital for the proper functioning of stealth technology.
Experts say this disposal will be done with pneumatic technology on the pylons. Pneumatic technology will allow for precise control during ejection. The new pneumatic technology should also provide a smooth wind-swept surface for minimal drag with no stock.
Of course, the FY2023 budget does not only provide for these changes. The US will likely invest funds in developing and integrating new underwing pods.
The F-22 does not have an active electronic warfare package, and the new underwing pods will most likely be used to integrate such. Others speculate that the new underwing pods will enable the F-22 Raptor to gain the long-awaited IRST capability. I.e., a passive means of detecting and targeting enemy aircraft.
The expected retirement of the F-22 Raptor will likely happen, but not in the next few years in the short term. The US does not want to lightly abandon this project, which can significantly protect its position in the Asian part of the planet.