The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). A result of the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but also has ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence capabilities.
In 1981, the U.S. Air Force identified a requirement for an Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) to replace the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. Code-named “Senior Sky”, this air-superiority fighter program was influenced by emerging worldwide threats, including new developments in Soviet air defense systems and the proliferation of the Su-27 “Flanker”- and MiG-29 “Fulcrum”-class of fighter aircraft. The F-22 program was killed at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in an effort to reshape the U.S. military.
The reason why hackers couldn’t hack F-22 Raptor computers is the technology is more than 35 years old.
When the $65 billion fighters was cut from the Pentagon budget, there was a lot of joking surrounding the fighter, that the United States had developed a weapon it would never use in combat – after all, until that point, the F-22 hadn’t flown a combat mission over either of the two wars the U.S. was actually fighting. Former Navy Secretary John Lehman, found a silver lining, telling the Wall Street Journal that at the very least, the plane’s computer technology was safe from Chinese hackers.
“No one in China knows how to program the ’83 vintage IBM software that runs them,” he said.
Ten years later, the F-22 has definitely flown combat sorties over Syria and the rise of China and Russia, and their fifth-generation fighters, some of the technology stolen from the United States, might have the Pentagon wishing they had more Raptors.
In 2024, funding is projected to begin for the F-22 mid-life upgrade (MLU), which is expected to include new sensors and antennas, hardware refresh, cockpit improvements, and a helmet-mounted display and cuing system.
Other enhancements being developed include IRST functionality for the AN/AAR-56 Missile Launch Detector (MLD) and more durable stealth coating based on the F-35’s.
The F-22 was designed for a service life of 8,000 flight hours, with a $350 million “structures retrofit program”.
Investigations are being made for upgrades to extend their useful lives further. In the long term, the F-22 is expected to eventually be succeeded by a sixth-generation jet fighter.