The F/A-22 Raptor is a combat jet aircraft built by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, intended to be the leading United States advanced tactical fighter (ATF) in the early part of the 21st century. The first test flight of the Raptor occurred on September 7, 1997. The first production F/A-22 was delivered to the Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on January 14, 2003.
F/A-22 Raptors, over California
The Raptor is designed to carry its air-to-air missiles in internal bays to avoid disrupting its stealthiness. The missiles are launched by hydraulic arms that hurl them away from the jet so quickly that the weapons-bay doors pop open for less than one second.
The United States Air Force originally planned an order of 750 ATFs, with production from 1994. Following the 1990 Major Aircraft Review, production was to begin in 1996 for a total of 648 aircraft. By 1994 the figure stood at 442 planes for service entry in 2003/2004. Based on the F/A-22, the swing-wing NATF was proposed for the U.S. Navy to replace the F-14 Tomcat, though the program was subsequently cancelled in 1993.
See also: Comparison of 2000s fighter aircraft