When Was The F-22 Raptor Made?
The F-22 Raptor is one of the most advanced aircraft ever built. But when was the F-22 made?
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In the early 1980s, the US Air Force decided it needed a new air superiority fighter. This kickstarted a rather lengthy development process with Lockheed Martin at the helm. The result? The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. But, when was the F-22 Raptor first made?
The First F-22 Raptor
The first F-22 Raptor was built at some point in 1996 (we told you that it was a lengthy development process!). Although, it wasn't ready to fly at that point. Remember; if you are building a top-of-the-line military fighter aircraft, you need to make sure that it is going to be working properly when you send it up into the air. Development of the F-22 included nearly 44,000 wind tunnel test hours and 13,000 material sample tests.
The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor had its first flight the following year in 1997.
The First Flight
7th September 1997. With Paul Metz in the cockpit, the F-22 Raptor was sent up into the air for the first time. It was a rousing success and, by all accounts, the aircraft was performing absolutely satisfactorily. Pilot John Beesley was flying the safety chase aircraft for the Raptor's first flight and had to engage the afterburner on his F-16 to keep up with the Raptor.
Fifty-eight minutes after takeoff, Metz touched down, completing maiden flight of the F-22. A successful first flight is always a great moment in aviation; the dawn of a completely new type of fighter aircraft.
Over the next few years, the F-22 Raptor would be sent up in the air regularly. Test data was recorded and the aircraft would be evaluated and tuned. 3,496 flights and 7,616 test hours went into the engineering and manufacturing development phase of the F-22. Eventually, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor received the go-ahead to go into full-scale production.
The first production F-22 was delivered to Nellis Air Force Base in January 2003.
It was in 2005 that the aircraft started to be classed as military-ready and entered service. Although, it wasn't fully combat-ready until 2007 (when it achieved Full Operational Capability - or FOC), over 25 years since the project was first conceived. This wasn't a quick aircraft development project by any stretch of the imagination, but the F-22 Raptor did have countless issues to deal with during development, including an almost constant reduction in order size, which took a lot of cash away from Lockheed Martin.
After 2007, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor entered full service with the United States Air Force, and it has remained so ever since. The aircraft has never been sold to another nation, even allied nations. This is because the USAF wants to keep the stealth tech behind the aircraft 100% secret.
The End of Production
Just as quickly as the F-22 Raptor went into production, it was ended. In 2011, the last aircraft was built. The total number built was 195, with 8 of these being test aircraft and the rest entering combat. The US Air Force originally intended to purchase a total of 750. However, budget cuts and changing equipment requirements reduced the total order number.
Of course, the legacy of the F-22 lives on, and the aircraft is still in service today. Parts of the designs are being used for future aircraft and this particular model is going to be flying for years and years to come.
The F-22 program began in 1981 when the US Air Force determined the need for a replacement for the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. However, it wasn't until 1996 that Lockheed Martin built the first model. It took a further 6 years to produce a production model. However, along the way, the team at Lockheed Martin learned a ton about developing advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor.
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