America’s F-22 Raptor is widely touted as the most capable air superiority fighter on the planet, thanks to a combination of stealth, speed, and maneuverability. It makes sense, then, that Congress pressed the U.S. Navy to consider fielding a slightly different iteration of the Raptor for duty aboard its Nimitz-class supercarriers back in the early ’90s.
In order to make the F-22 suitable for carrier duty, Lockheed Martin would have had to incorporate a number of significant changes to the F-22’s design. Alongside the usual changes one can expect out of a carrier-capable aircraft (things like a strengthened fuselage and added tail hook), a Navy variant of the F-22 would have needed to incorporate a variable sweep-wing design similar to that employed by the Navy’s existing F-14 Tomcats. This addition, perhaps more than any of the others, would have been a real challenge for engineers to contend with. Sweep wings were expensive to maintain to begin with, but incorporating a sweep-wing design into a stealth aircraft may have been nearly impossible without sacrificing some degree of low observability.
Get the full story on why the Navy never managed to field an F-22 “Sea Raptor” in the video below:
Want to know more about the effort to field F-22s aboard aircraft carriers? Make sure to read the full story this video was based on here.
What makes the F-22 so special?
The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor was the world’s first operational stealth fighter, and ushered in a new era of fighter jets we commonly know today as the “5th generation.” As the first aircraft in this new fighter generation, much of what we commonly consider requirements for a “5th gen” fighter is derived from capabilities the F-22 first brought to the table.
The F-22 Raptor was the first fighter ever designed with an emphasis on stealth and low observability right from the start. While 4th generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Super Hornet all employ some measures to reduce their radar signature, stealth is an intrinsic part of the F-22’s design. But it’s not just about being sneaky–the F-22 can also fly at speeds in excess of Mach 2.25 and execute incredibly acrobatic maneuver–thanks to its thrust vectoring capabilities. It can also sustain supersonic speeds without the use of its afterburner; which is one talent found in the F-22 that can’t be found in any other stealth fighter in the world.
The world’s only operational 5th generation fighters are the American F-22 and F-35, the Russian Su-57, and the Chinese J-20.
J P Sullivan says
No matter the arm chair suggestions of warfare on the ground, it takes Top Gun Aircraft & PILOTS similar to the current flying yf 22’s to hold the airspace above those holding land based warfare with U
S Soldiers, or Naval Admirals over USA manned ships or Submarines
Diego Perez says
To add to my comment and @Baron Do: With the Incorporation of the F/a/xx 6th generation fighter into the Navy and the Future next Generation Missile the Aim-260 the Range and stealth problems to compete against Chinese costal defenses will be resolved. Yet you don’t need to pay attention to Baseless claims and Propaganda by the CCP and the Kremlin. The Kremlin can say all it wants, the Russian airfare has already proved itself in Ukraine to be useless and underprepared to face such a small Military Force. So Imagine if the Actual U.S Military faced Russia. That war would be over in a week. I’m not saying to not be careful, I’m saying to not be discouraged by the CCP (Bill Clinton sold Classified Military Documents about the F-22 and F-35 to) Why else do you think the Chinese army went from 0 to the worlds 2nd Largest economy because of Corrupt Military leaders. So in all JUST YOU WAIT FOR THE 6TH GENERATION FIGHTER (NGAD AND F/a/xx) In the Airforce and Navy. Thank you for taking the time for reading my comment
Diego Perez says
My question is why does the F-22 NEED a variable swept wing. Why not a Delta wing. I imagine this being a very expensive design change for the F-22, Bulk up the Landing Gear. But on another hand you need space on a carrier but even with the Massive Gerald. R. Ford Carrier I don’t get why a swept wing is needed, the F-22 isn’t the F-14, it isn’t as big.
He already answered your question in the video. The need for variable swept wings is so it can extend wings to fly at a slower speed, the slower speed needed to make a carrier lander.
Barry Drake says
Strenthend fuselage swept wings why not just tell us this aircraft does not perform when at slow speed it apparently become a rock at anything under 140 knots thats alot of pace to make a carrier landing and having and accident when you dont have to this aircraft is capable of so many tasks .being onboard a carrier isnt one of them thats all.
The problem is no one anticipated a cold war or a peer adversary threat. Both the F18 and the F35 lack the range and performance needed to keep the carrier safe from long range coastal missles or high speed bombers with anti ship missles. The F22 has the range and performance needed. An F22 carrier variant was the only choice to address these issues. If they can make a strike F15 they can do the same for the F22. The navy has a critical problem with its current jets but does not seem to be doing anything to address it.
yf-12a/sr-71 was the first stealth aircraft NOT f-22. get it right.
Bobbie J. Woodard says
The F-22 IS the worlds first stealth “fighter” not the first stealth “aircraft.”
Ru yin says
Stealth is bull shit technology. It Is a bluff to make more money from the buyers.. A good fighter is dependent on the pilot and not others, and nothing else, too.
Lmao. So many armchair generals and admirals in here. Stealth is 100% not obsolete. It doesn’t matter how good a pilot you are in a anti-aircraft environment. An S-400 will take out an ace pilot in an F-15 while he helplessly ejects. An an aircraft vs aircraft setting, no other fighter is seeing an f-22 until he is in low band frequency range and at that point he’s dead. Also radar locking an F-22 is extremely difficult and heat-seeking won’t work either. All this because of stealth. Every battle simulation and red flag says stealth matters. So does every pilot.
Naval warfare is obsolete
So is drinking coffeen and having sex.
Robert Schultz says
So the f35 without swept wings works but not the f22? The navy loves twin engine aircraft, like the 22, the 35 is single seat and very expensive and difficult to maintain.
Brian Flatley, SR says
The Navy selected its version of the F-22. The Navy’s:
Lower spotting factor and landing speed than the F-14.
Roger Burnett was working in the USAF program office.
The Navy wanted more F/A-18s, and McDonnell Douglas and Northrop, who lost the competition with the F-23 were more than ready to sell.
Swept wing is a good choice than a fixed wing. If the swept wing can perform like a acrobat, then it is worthy of having it. Otherwiss, iti s is a sheer waste of money for it.
Swept-wing is far more expensive to maintain and the F-22 is already extremely expensive to maintain because of it’s fragile coatings. Also swept-wings would of turned it into the stealthiest aircraft on earth on par with the B-2 to something more akin to the J-20(i’m speculating)
I thought f22 was single seat, not a 2-seater. Your comment is wildly inaccurate.
Let’s ask a the right people what’s most beneficial. A Trump supporting aeronautics engineer, rank and file troops, leave out the upper Brass, Pentagon retired upper Brass, and Raytheon-Northrop Grumman-Lockheed Martin. Problem solved.
The article is fairly accurate and about the norm for the field. At least you didn’t fawn over the pos F35 the Navy is getting forced to accept.
Freak out early says
A lot of generals are waiting to retire want to join the jet fighter contractor like Boeing, General Dynamic, or Mcdommel, etc, as vp and svp and board and eranmanagement and earn big money from influencing the US to buy more from them. They don’t give a dammed if the taxpayer money is misspent on it.
Ryan Gregory Minnick says
I’m curious… You would drop the most cutting edge contractors in the world like Northrop, Skunk Works(Lockhead) and Boeing for….
What exactly? Where would you allocate out funds? The F-35 is currently 30 million cheaper per aircraft than the next cheapest capable aircraft like Eurofighter and Rafale.
I guess we can pay the ghost of the wright brothers.
Rumaldo,P Flores says
I read the F 35
Used Safirst strik support task force can help the 22 Rapter come in and finish the job while there can remain stelt but, the F35 can become visible moment tarily when engaging its long radar & sophisticated multiple targiting& so once it has identified its targets it has to break of f,climb and stealth
It’s reak of
R.P F.Jr says
What happened to my first commentary? Like I said as a first strike;the f35 as a support task can locate identity and target but, in using it’s long rang & sophisticated multiple targiting,
It momentarily becomes visible & soft must climb and go stealth & allow The F22 Rapter go in and along with F16 & F 15 as well with submarine, frigates ,carrier’s & the 6th generation fighter’s; I believe we could do what ‘s needed in 15 min.r
Charles Lucas says
Use the f-35 as a scout and the F-14 use it as a missile truck like the F-15EX THATwould fix everything
arkangel yf-12 was the first stealth aircraft. out of the skunk works of lockheed. slide rule aircraft.
It wasn’t a stealth aircraft. It was “stealthy” with “stealthy aspects” but to fly as fast as it did it had no stealth coating or way to reduce the engine heat.
Ditching the Raptor was the greatest blunder in Air Force history.
Robert Carr says
I absolutely agree 100% with that. We will more than likely regret closing down the assembly line for the Raptors. They say that it would take hundreds of millions if not more to get it up and running again but I say it’s worth it. The Raptor isn’t perfect but it’s damn near close. No one has anything that can touch it if the pilots are bringing their A game
Tomcat-21 would have been the superior naval fighter……
Bruh they did have f-22s on aircraft carriers what do you mean lmao 🤣
Robert Carr says
If there were Raptors on aircraft carriers they were just sitting on it. A raptor can probably take off from a carrier but they can’t land on one
Mike Livingston says
I don’t know anything about naval technology, but all I know is the last time we got behind in this area (1941), we were very lucky to escape with our lives. Indeed, many of us didn’t. So I hope we don’t let that happen again.
T. Gore says
The F-35C outclasses anything in the sky, except for the Raptor and it’s F-35 A&B stablemates. Unlike the F-14, it’s also going to have reliable, accurate long-range missiles once the AIM-260 comes online. American carrier groups will be well protected in a peer war with F-35Cs flying interception and CAP (combat air patrol).
I think the hoopla about lost capability for fleet defense on the retirement of the Tomcat is just American nostalgia. The Super Hornet itself is a highly capable plane; the F-35C will only make the Super Hornet more effective with datalink and sensor fusion. Similarly, the E/A-18G Growler will make the F-35 more capable, adding significant EW defense to the flight package, minimizing the risk for the 35 when it opens its weapon bays and momentarily betrays it’s location.
Brian sledge says
The first smart thing I have heard
Robert Carr says
You are correct sir! You put some F22’s and F35’s in the air together to take out air and ground defenses and then mop up with some F18’s, F15’s and F16’s. Sounds like a good plan to me lol
Author did fine regarding sweep or folding wing. Story states in beginning it was the Congress of the 90s. F14 was still active at that time. Slow down armchair commandos and leave the facts to pros.
oh boy, the author confused “sweep” wing with “folded” wing – that’s the req so that hangar/deck space is efficiently used.
No, he has it correct. Going back to the Navy’s original variable sweep wing fighter project, the Grumman XF-10F in 1954, the reason for the VG wing is to use minimum sweep for maximum lift at low speed for carrier takeoff and landing.
Even with a “cat shot”, taking an aircraft as heavy as the XF-10F, or later F-111B or F-14, off a deck without that VG wing all the way forward will likely end in a stall and crash right off the bow, due to insufficient lift.
On landing, the VG wing has to be at minimum sweep again, so that if it misses the arrestor cables and “bolters” the pilot can get it back in the air instead of ending up in the water off the angle deck.
It’s a question of weight vs. available lift. The heaviest aircraft to fly on and off carriers regularly was the Douglas A3 Skywarrior, in bomber, tanker and ELINT variants. It had a sweptback wing very like that of the B-47 Stratojet in plan, or in other words a lot like an airliner’s wing. The whole point of that wing was to get thirty tons of aircraft off and on the deck without stalling and crashing.
Without a VG wing, it’s very unlikely that you could get the F-22 on or off a carrier without stalling and crashing it. It’s just too heavy.
Romie Deschamps says
David Von Raesfeld says
It would have needed the landing gear redesigned from the ground up. It already has a tail hook, which would need to be strengthened (I’m surprised a Marine Veteran didn’t know that.) Also it wouldn’t need swept wings. It would need foldable wings to save deck space. It sounds weird when he mentions “existing F-14 Tomcat” when it has been retired for 15 years now.
Elias Martinez says
Prick? He was right on. The F22 already has a tail hook and the Tomcat has been gone forever (sadly). A defense analyst writer should know these things automatically.
Herman Anderson says
Yeah. I don’t know what was the obsession with the variable sweep wings. That would have made the plane heavier and much more expensive. Longer folding wings with better lift surfaces would have done the trick. You would have some performance lost but it would still give anything on land more than a run for it’s money.
Bill Knowles says
The A-12 would have been a superior design, to be very clear – General Dynamics was the prime contractor. MCAIR assumed responsibility to bail GD out. The flying Dorito as it was called was quite a marvel. when MCAIR assumed responsibility it was tremendously over weight. Then the ATA, ATF and JSF platforms collided, the JSF was part of the original aerial platform for FCS which was cancelled. The LCS and JSF are remnants ATA and ATF were platforms that were originally conceptualized in 70’s during the cold war. In addition the weight of the F-22 would have been a failure. the structural components required to repeatedly to slam a jet on the deck of carrier is a task. the F-22’s welded keel A-Frame design was quite rigid and would have required changes. Stress and load paths like controlled movement that is tough and controlled but not rigid……
Need to get the history straight.
Mike Beach says
I would have bought the blue prints from Grumman F14 and modify the engines and used the wing sweep change out the electronics adding stealth technology. Would been a lot cheaper. Than designing from scratch. I worked on the F14
Brian Hider says
They wouldn’t have needed to do a swept wing design. A folded wing is simple, easy, and effective. And it’s amusing that you are claiming reinforcing the fuselage and adding a tail hook were unsurmountable design hurdles when the F-35 incorporates far more problematic design compromises.
The reason the F-22 wasn’t incorporated into the carrier fleet is because Lockheed was already pitching it’s F-35 concept to procurement officials and it would have been bad for business to have a more cost effective and efficacious solution already on hand. In other words, the MIC was looking out for itself.
Charles Underhill says
The Navy WAS developing a stealth (albeit not an air superiority) fighter during the time the F22 was developed. But, McDonnell Douglas screwed up the A-12 so badly that the DoD terminated the contract for cause. After the merger, Boeing ate about a billion dollars in write-offs after the litigation was over.
The F-35 has a larger radar signature. It’s worse in literally every measurable way. Lockheed literally didn’t want to build it as is because it’s nothing but compromise. It’s absolute garbage. -An Actual Aerospace Engineer
Clement Khoo says
I couldn’t agree with you more. Lockheed simply didn’t want to modify the Raptor for the Navy, period. The Navy had no choice but to accept the F-35 as a compromise.
Another Actual Aerospace Engineer says
The F-35 does stuff the F-22 could never do and is part of a battlespace information management system that allows the fighter pilot to control drones even stealthier than the F-22, get real time battlefield information from AWACS and satellites – like where the bad guys are – while remaining radar silent. It’s the first information age fighter which is why it cost so much with so many teething troubles.
The F35 is what you get when clueless politicians make decisions about military equipment. It is the first in a string of expensive bad decisions that ends at the LCS.
The F35 was a game changer in the 90’s but it’s overpriced and proved to be what we said it would be. An overpriced compromise that does nothing well.