The F-22 program is developing the next-generation air superiority fighter for the Air Force to counter emerging worldwide threats. It is designed to penetrate enemy airspace and achieve a first-look, first-kill capability against multiple targets. The F-22 is characterized by a low-observable, highly maneuverable airframe; advanced integrated avionics; and aerodynamic performance allowing supersonic cruise without afterburner.
Stealth: Greatly increases survivability and lethality by denying the enemy critical information required to successfully attack the F-22
Integrated Avionics: Allows F-22 pilots unprecedented awareness of enemy forces through the fusion of on- and off-board information
Supercruise: Enhances weapons effectiveness; allows rapid transit through the battlespace; reduces the enemy’s time to counter attack
The F-22's engine is expected to be the first to provide the ability to fly faster than the speed of sound for an extended period of time without the high fuel consumption characteristic of aircraft that use afterburners to achieve supersonic speeds. It is expected to provide high performance and high fuel efficiency at slower speeds as well.
For its primary air-to-air role, the F-22 will carry six AIM-120C and two AIM-9 missiles. For its air-to-ground role, the F-22 can internally carry two 1,000 pound-class Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), two AIM-120C, and two AIM-9 missiles. With the Global Positioning System-guided JDAM, the F-22 will have an adverse weather capability to supplement the F-117 (and later the Joint Strike Fighter) for air-to-ground missions after achieving air dominance.
The F-22's combat configuration is "clean", that is, with all armament carried internally and with no external stores. This is an important factor in the F-22's stealth characteristics, and it improves the fighter's aerodynamics by dramatically reducing drag, which, in turn, improves the F-22's range. The F-22 has four under wing hardpoints, each capable of carrying 5,000 pounds. A single pylon design, which features forward and aft sway braces, an aft pivot, electrical connections, and fuel and air connections, is used. Either a 600-gallon fuel tank or two LAU-128/A missile launchers can be attached to the bottom of the pylon, depending on the mission. There are two basic external configurations for the F-22:
• Four 600 gallon fuel tanks, no external weapons: This configuration is used when the aircraft is being ferried and extra range is needed. A BRU-47/A rack is used on each pylon to hold the external tanks.
• Two 600 gallon fuel tanks, four missiles: This configuration is used after air dominance in a battle area has been secured, and extra loiter time and firepower is required for Combat Air Patrol (CAP). The external fuel tanks, held by a BRU-47/A rack are carried on the inboard stations, while a pylon fitted with two LAU-128/A rail launchers is fitted to each of the outboard stations.
An all-missile external loadout (two missiles on each of the stations) is possible and would not be difficult technically to integrate, but the Air Force has not stated a requirement for this configuration.