The F-22 was supposed to have another name when Lockheed Martin developed it

Why Is the F-22 Called the Raptor?

Discover the origin of the F-22 fighter jet's name, the Raptor.

Tobias Holm
Tobias Holm

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The F-22 Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, is the world's most superior fighter aircraft, boasting stealth, maneuverability, supportability, supercruise, and advanced integrated avionics. It represents a massive leap forward in warfighting capabilities. So, it's no wonder it's become a critical element of the Global Strike Task Force, dominating the skies.

The F-22 bears the name "Raptor," but many wonder how this name came to be. Did Lockheed Martin get to name their carefully crafted fighter jet? Or did the United States Air Force pick the title? Well, you're in the perfect place to find out.

The F-22 or The Raptor

The F-22 Raptor began with a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing, replacing the F-15 Strike Eagle when the F-22 program was initially rolled out in the early 1990s.

Aviation enthusiasts and those in the Force commonly refer to this advanced jet as the "Raptor" due to its astronomical speed, unique design, and advanced capabilities.

However, this name didn't come as an accident. There's quite a story behind how this aircraft got its now-iconic name.

The Story Behind Naming The F-22 Raptor

When Lockheed Martin produced the jet's prototype in the early 1990s, they originally named it the Lightning II. The manufacturer reportedly chose the name to honor its P-38 Lightning fighter that acquired much fame during the second world war.

The F-22 Raptor is named after a bird of prey
The F-22 was originally supposed to be called the Lightning II.

When the mid-1990s rolled around, the company decided to change its name to SuperStar. While not honoring any plane in particular with this name change, it was in keeping with the manufacturer's tradition of star-based aliases.

However, the US Air Force rejected both of them. They didn't like Lightning II or SuperStar, opting for Rapier instead. A rapier is a small knife, giving the jet a more fight-ready name than Lockheed Martin suggested.

But again, this name didn't stick.

As soon as the Air Force got the delivery of the first F-22 production lot in the late 1990s, they renamed it (for the final time) Raptor.

Those familiar with other planes in the Force will know that they've recently started naming fighter jets after birds of prey. And, of course, the F-22 Raptor fits in nicely alongside the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the F-15 Eagle.

The F-22's name "Raptor" doesn't stand for anything in particular. It simply refers to a bird that hunts from the sky and has no natural enemies thereby attaining air superiority. A fitting name for a fighter aircraft like the F-22.

And That's How The F-22 Raptor Got Its Name

While many might believe that naming a fighter aircraft might be a relatively straightforward process, the long-winded journey the F-22 went on to get its Raptor name badge proves otherwise.

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Tobias Holm Twitter

Founder of Planenerd, based in Denmark. Got a LEGO plane as a kid. Obsessed with aviation since. None of my friends want to talk about airplanes.