In 2001, Lockheed Martin started seeing the possibility of designing a stealth medium-range bomber version of the F-22 Raptor Stealthy fifth-generation fighter. This new bomber was supposed to supplement the aging United States Air Force strategic bomber fleet.
Experience obtained from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan demonstrated the value of a bomber that could remain in theatre in the absence of surface-to-air missiles. The FB-22 was about to use all existing technologies of the F-22.
Lockheed Martin had planned to design the FB-22 into a two-seat, supersonic and deep penetrating bomber. Although role wise the FB-22 was about to take the place of old aircrafts such as the F-117 Nighthawk and the F-111 Aardvark tactical bomber. Lockheed had very high expectations from this new bomber, according to some reports there were claims that the FB-22 would be much stealthier than the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.
More than 80% of the components of the FB-22 including its avionics, sensors package, and software were about to be same like the F-22 Raptor, which was ultimately supposed to lower the price of the aircraft, including lower maintenance and production costs. The bomber was to be designed with delta-wing, and had a combat range of 3,300 km, with the maximum speed of Mach 2.
The FB-22 was proposed to be flown by two pilots. The aircraft would have the maximum takeoff capacity of 54,431 kg, which included thirty GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs and two AIM-120 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles. The FB-22 was capable of striking targets deep inside the enemy territory. The combat effectiveness of this bomber was comparable with the Super Expensive B-2 Spirit, according to some claims the swiftness of the FB-22 was much better than the B-2 bomber, the FB-22 was capable of striking targets where the B-2 was not able to reach.
The FB-22 was capable of carrying payload in both stealthy and non-stealthy modes. The total stealth payload of the FB-22 was approximately near 7 tons and non-stealthy payload was about 15 to 20 tons. With this increased payload capacity the FB-22 was supposed to also carry heavy weapons such as bunker-buster bombs, which has the weight of approximately 2 tons.
Although this was not mentioned but this stealth bomber could be able to carry air to ground missiles inside its weapon bay same like the F-22 or the F-35. The bomber would also be able to carry tactical nuclear weapons same like the F-111 Aardvark tactical bomber. The FB-22 would be carrying two AMRAAM air to air missiles to deal with enemy jets.
Technical specifications of FB-22
Since the FB-22 was much more larger and heavier than the F-22 Raptor, it would have required more powerful engines. The Strike Raptor was proposed to be powered by Pratt & Whitney F135 turbofan engines. The F135 engine was originally designed and developed for use on the three variants of the F-35 Lightning II. The F135 is the most powerful and most advanced fighter engine ever produced for a aircraft. With the help of these powerful engines, the FB-22 would have been able to easily reach the maximum speed of Mach 2.
Why was the FB-22 canceled?
Since the USAF doesn’t have any proper aircraft to replace the F-111 Aardvark at that time, the features of FB-22 was able to give a significant boost to the combat capability of the US Air Force. The FB-22 was capable of fulfilling the gap between the F-111 and other heavy bombers of the USAF.
The U.S. Government cancelled the development of FB-22 in 2006 following the Quadrennial Defense Review. There were many reasons for supporting this decision. One main reason was that, the USAF now wanted to focus more on the development of long-range and heavy payload carrying bombers. In addition to this reason, one more reason was the lack of competitors that could counter such an advance aircraft at that time.
In 2011, the USAF stopped the production of the F-22 Raptor due to its very high cost and lack of competitors that could counter this aircraft. The closing of the F-22 production line by Lockheed Martin also closed the hopes of the production of the FB-22.
Although the FB-22 always remained just a advanced tactical bomber concept, but there are chances that the design and technologies of the Strike Raptor could be utilized by countries such as USA and Japan to design and develop sixth-generation fighters.