Why the F-22 Successor Can’t Come Soon Enough

The NGAD system is expected to surpass the capabilities of current fighter jets and it will definitely replace the F-22.

The Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) system will be the aircraft that ultimately substitutes the Lockheed Martin F-22. The USAF is looking to reduce its fighter fleet to four fighter types, including the  F-15EX, F-35, F-16, and this new aircraft. 

This program is advancing on schedule and will deliver a sixth-generation fighter jet.  This program is the USAF’s best-kept secret right now – but we already know some details of this new aircraft that will replace the F-22 in the next decade.

Why does the US Air Force is looking to replace the F-22?

F 22 taking off
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The F-22 is one of the finest aircraft ever built. However, it has shortcomings: it is expensive to operate, it is maintenance-intensive, it is restrained by its range, and global air defense systems are rapidly developing to counterstrike the F-22.

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Defensive systems are progressing quickly, and they are including cutting-edge technology, and the F-22 nowadays doesn’t have the advantage it used to have. So, the Raptor may be obsolete in the next decade. But, the F-22 Raptor is still in a process of modernization, and the decommissioning of this jet is not expected in the near future. 

The difference with the Fifth-Generation aircraft like the F-22 Raptor

F 22 at night
Photo by Staff Sgt. Ericha Fitzgerald  Joint Base Langley-Eustis

The F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter. All fifth-generation fighter jets have stealth capabilities, superior maneuverability, state-of-the-art avionics systems, multipurpose combat competencies, and enhanced connectivity with other USAF components. These features are perfect for today’s air force requirements but modern combat is demanding more from aircraft.

That’s why the USAF is now planning to move ahead and get sixth-generation aircraft that will likely contain all the characteristics of fifth-generation fighters. and some additions such as unmanned capabilities to make them stronger and ready for more challenging missions. 

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The NGAD Sixth-Generation aircraft

F 22 flying
Photo by Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock Defense Imagery Management Operations Center

The NGAD is expected to overcome all the weaknesses of the F-22 Raptor with an augmented payload, enhanced networking, sophisticated sensors, revolutionary situational awareness, a considerable combat range, unmanned capabilities, and the ability to operate simultaneously with drones, and much more. 

Additionally, the NGAD fighter will be bigger and more powerful, and it will probably be a tailless design because it significantly increases its stealth capability. There might be two possible variations of the NGAD: one with long-range and higher payload for the Pacific regions where distances are enormous, and another NGAD targeted at the short ranges.

Can the F-22 Raptor be discarded soon?

F 22 Raptor flying
Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young, United States Air Forces Central

In the best scenario, it would be replaced in 2030. There are no plans to retire the F22 in the next few years because it’s impossible to launch a new top-notch aircraft soon. Designing, producing, and testing a new aircraft may take several years, and the F-22 is still experiencing a modernization process that will keep it relevant for many years to come.

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This will allow the USAF to compete against other fighter jets from Russia or China, which will also modernize their aircraft to keep their fleets up to date.

The F-22 have many years ahead while the new aircraft is ready

While the USAF is looking at a future without the Raptor, there’s still a long way before that becomes a reality. The new prototype is in an early stage, and it won’t be available anytime soon. 

The F-22 has years ahead to continue operating although it’s also true that its days are numbered. When the new aircraft is ready, its capacities will be outstanding and it will guarantee US air supremacy. 

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