Why was the F-22 Raptor never sold?

On Friday, an F-22 Raptor fighter jet shot down a Continental spy balloon over South Carolina with an AIM-9X air-to-air missile from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. 

The first actual combat record since the fighter plane entered service. One of the most powerful air superiority fighter jets launched the most advanced air-to-air missiles and shot down the huge balloons floating across the Pacific Ocean, which is quite topical.

After the advent of the F-22 Raptor, it has been recognized as the strongest air superiority fighter in the world. Its performance is so good that its radar cross-section, high maneuverability, and supersonic cruise are all the better than the F-35, which came out later.

But its status is also quite peculiar. Originally, the U.S. Department of Defense expected to purchase 750 F-22s, but the production line ended after 187 were produced. Moreover, due to Congress’s ban on the export of F-22s, its total number stopped, including 8 prototypes, and the final total number of F-22s was 195.

It is obviously valued and loved by all countries, so why the United States does not allow it to be exported? 

Designed to replace the revered F-15 Eagle fighter jet, the F-22 went into mass production in 2005 and is expected to lead the pack well into the 2040s.

The emergence of the F-22 has set the standard for the fifth-generation fighter. It combines advanced technologies such as stealth, sensor fusion, high maneuverability, supersonic cruise, and built-in ammunition bays.

The high maneuverability of the F-22 is related to its thrust-vectoring nozzle. Two Pratt & Whitney F119 engines are at the end, with specially designed direction-controllable nozzles, which can direct the engines’ thrust in another direction, and the effect is more direct than controlling the rudder surface.

 The F-22’s flight performance has always been impressive, often flying over the audience area at a very slow speed and at a sustained high angle of attack, which is its unique skill.

An Airman pilots the F-22 Raptor of the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team at Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show &amp; Balloon Festival, Battle Creek, Mich., July 5, 2021.<br /> (Courtesy photo)
An Airman pilots the F-22 Raptor of the F-22 Raptor Demonstration Team at Battle Creek Field of Flight Air Show & Balloon Festival, Battle Creek, Mich., July 5, 2021.
(Courtesy photo)

F-22 is an “air dancer” with superb stunts and a powerful “air warrior.” Its internal bomb bay can carry two AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range missiles plus six AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Missiles (AMRAAM). For air support or precision strike missions, its bomb bay can also carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Range Attack Ammunition (JDAM) or eight 250-pound GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs. In addition, it has an M61A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon with 480 rounds.

This kind of ammunition load is unparalleled in the 5th generation aircraft. The second 5th generation aircraft in the United States, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, is limited by the narrow space of the fuselage. Its two internal bomb bays can only Carry 4 bombs.

However, it is also quite unfortunate that the timing of its publication coincided with a drastic change in U.S. strategy. The F-22 enters service at a time when the supposed Soviet adversary no longer exists, and the U.S. military is engaged in a seemingly never-ending War on Terrorism (GWOT) with irregular enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq.

On the anti-terrorist battlefield, the air superiority and stealth attributes of the F-22 are useless because the enemy has no fighter planes at all and even no radar. What is the meaning of the so-called “radar stealth”?

Over the years, Israel, Japan, and Australia have repeatedly approached the Pentagon about the possibility of purchasing the F-22 but have been dismissed each time. In 1998, Congress even voted to pass an amendment that explicitly banned the sale of the F-22 Raptor to foreign countries.

Unlike the vast majority of U.S. military aircraft, the F-22 was never designed “for export.” So it’s full of secret technology. So far, the United States is still the global leader in stealth aviation technology. This is most likely related to several unpleasant experiences in the past. 

In the 1970s, the F-14 Tomcat fighter was the first fighter to use advanced I.C. chips, enabling its radar and missiles to have a long detection and attack distance. Once the F-14 landing aircraft failed and fell into the sea. The United States also sent a deep-sea submarine to retrieve the F-14 4,000 meters below the sea surface to prevent the leakage of secrets.

The F-14 was exported to Iran. At that time, the pro-American Pahlavi Shah was still in power in Iran, but a few years later, the Islamic Revolution changed everything, and Iran became an extremely anti-American country.

F-16 may also have part of the technology outflow, F-16 is exported to too many countries. After the United States exported related technologies to Israel, China made its own J-10 fighter jet more than ten years later, which is similar in grade to the F-16. One view is that Israel sold the technology of the Lavi to the mainland. The Lion fighter is based on the technical experience of the F-16.

So, is it possible to have a downgraded version of the F-22? According to the information declassified by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the F-22 did have the idea of ​​downgrading and exporting, such as simpler stealth paint, or an engine without vector nozzles, etc.

However, Congress never authorized the F-22 export program because another, more expensive program was in the works, the F-35, which was a downgraded version of the F-22.

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