F-22 Raptor Looks Like It’s Shooting Fluffy Balls of Light Out the Rear

F-22 Raptor 11 photos
Photo: USAF/Senior Airman Anthony Nin Lecler
F-22 Raptor taking off from Alaska baseF-22 Raptor taking off from HawaiiF-22 Raptor taking offF-22 Raptor over Nellis Air Force BaseF-22 RaptorF-22 RaptorF-22 RaptorF-22 RaptorF-22 RaptorF-22 Raptor
As one of the most advanced fighter aircraft ever made, the F-22 Raptor could have had a more glorious career in the skies of the world. Unfortunately for it, bad timing and a series of other factors pushed the airplane out of production, too soon some say, and robbed it of the chance of becoming widespread and, why not, valiant on the battlefield.
The Raptor was born in the hangars of Lockheed Martin at the end of the 1990s, and was introduced into service in 2005. Six years later, production for it stopped, and the world focused its attention on another Lockheed beast, the F-35 Lightning II.

The short production life of the Raptor means that only a tad under 200 of them were ever made (183 are currently in service, and only America has them). Being so few, and having appeared at a time when major conflicts were already being taken care of by other airplanes, it didn’t get to prove itself in combat all that much.

That doesn’t make it any less impressive, though. Meant to provide air dominance, the Raptor is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines with afterburners. Each can develop 35,000-pounds of thrust, pushing the aircraft to a top speed of Mach 2 (1,534 mph/2,469 kph), and making it one of the fastest military airplanes around.

And it’s capable when it comes to weaponry, too. If push comes to shove, it can hit targets with the power of a 20-millimeter cannon, two AIM-9 heat-seeking air-to-air missiles, and six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles.

As it stands, the F-22 is for now just a great sight in the sky. The U.S. Air Force (USAF) knows this and misses no opportunity to advertise the beast, through constant releases of photos of it in action.

Today’s F-22 treat comes in the form of a Raptor assigned with the 1st Fighter Wing, captured as it was taking off from the Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, out on a mission to support a deployment to the United Arab Emirates.

It was a nighttime takeoff, from a friendly base located in friendly neighborhoods, and that means the lights on both the airplane and the air base were shining bright. Or, sort of, as the angle from which the photo was taken shows the ground lights heavily distorted by the hot exhaust of the two turbofan engines, looking like fluffy balls of light coming out its rear.

As for the 1st Fighter Wing (part of the Ninth Air Force), it is a unit set up right after the war, in 1947. Currently headquartered at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, it is fielding one third of all the F-22 Raptor fleet.

The Wing also fields Northrop T-38s, which it uses as adversaries in training missions.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows other F-22s.

About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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