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FB-22 Strike Raptor: The Stealth Bomber Raptor Variant That Never Was
The American F-22 Stealth fighter can kick the snot out of just about any enemy fighter you could think of. Apart from possibly a few highly classified Chinese and Russian aggressors, there isn't a whole lot out there that can match it.

FB-22 Strike Raptor: The Stealth Bomber Raptor Variant That Never Was

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But what if we told you the most strategically important variant of the Raptor platform never made it out of the concept phase? Would it puzzle you? Confuse you? Or perhaps make you slightly angry? Marvel with us at what almost was the Lockheed Martin FB-22 Strike Raptor.

First thing's first, why was such an aircraft devised in the first place? If we are to explain the story accurately, it's important to understand the time period in which it became a concept. 2001 was a year of sweeping changes and military technology innovations. The September 11th, 2001 attacks against America transitioned the U.S. Military into its next evolutionary phase.

A phase in which any counter-terrorism/insurgency weapon that had the potential to be effective can and would see at least a preliminary design contract. It'd be inaccurate to say that these attacks prompted the FB-22 project, but now, with all the funding to do as the Air Force pleased, there was no excuse to cancel it. At least, in the beginning, that is.

The Air Force desired more than anything to possess a supersonic fighter/bomber capable of the same stealth abilities as the standard F-22 but with a payload more in line with a modern strategic bomber.

Although nowhere near the size of a B-1 Lancer, B-2 Spirit of B-52 Stratofortress, but just large enough to rain devastation onto enemy insurgent positions. Be it in large buildings or heavily armored cars and trucks. Giving other American bombers some much-needed rest.

It may seem like a bit of overkill to use a stealth bomber to obliterate a gaggle of lightly armed guerilla fighters. But remember, by 2001, the surface-to-air missile tech had gotten a heck of a lot smaller than it was in the 20th century. To see a SAM sight attached to the bed of a pickup truck or a commandeered SUV wasn't out of the question.

The agreed-upon result of the initial Strike Raptor design program blurred the line between a special upgrade for the standard Raptor and an entirely bespoke airplane. As much as 80% of the sensors, avionics, and other sub-systems in the Strike Raptor were to be shared with the standard Raptor. Only the wings, landing gear, and a few other items were different. An aspect that hopefully meant the Strike Raptor would be cheaper to manufacture.

A choice of either the F-35 Lightning II's Pratt & Whitney F135 or the alternative general Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 has been proposed to power the Strike Raptor. It gave a theoretical top speed of around twice the speed of sound. Two of these engines gave this theoretical aircraft a maximum bomb payload of 15,000 pounds (6,903.9 kg) before external pylons were required to carry more broke stealth. Including twin AIM-120C AMRAAM air to air missiles for self-defense.

Want a stat that will blow your mind? The Boeing B-29 Superfortress that dropped the Atomic bombs over Japan had a max payload of only half a ton more, around 16,000 pounds (7,257.4 kg) while being significantly larger in size, with a further two more engines.

It all sounded wonderful, at least on paper. But there were a few huge drawbacks. Enough to change the course of the entire F-22 Raptor program as we know it, in fact. That's how gigantic these problems were.

Firstly, the decreased maneuverability of the Strike Raptor over the standard variant meant it wouldn't have been all that great in a dogfight. Meaning if it were unfortunate to get into a tussle with something like a MiG-29 or Su-27, chances were good that it would be completely screwed.

Furthermore, questions about the costs of the standard Raptor by itself led to serious doubts about its future plane. This meant that production of the F-22 was capped off at a little over 120 units. Potentially saving the program from becoming an albatross around the Air Force's neck the same way the F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter became.

By 2006, the project had been axed for good. Happily, the Strike Raptor made an appearance in the Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown as a special DLC aircraft in 2021. Nearly 20 years to the date that the program began.

 
 
 
 
 

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