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The dawn of the 21st century has seen a seismic shift in aerial combat and air power dynamics, with the introduction of two of the most sophisticated fighter jets in aviation history: the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. Each jet is a marvel of modern engineering, epitomizing the pinnacle of the United States’ defense technology.

The F-22 Raptor was conceived as the ultimate air superiority fighter—fast, elusive, and lethal—designed to penetrate enemy defenses and dominate the skies. In contrast, the F-35 Lightning II emerged as a versatile, multi-role combat aircraft, equipped to excel in a variety of missions from air dominance to ground attack and reconnaissance.

Together, these aircraft embody the strategic evolution of air combat, where stealth, avionics, and precision weaponry play instrumental roles in defining 21st-century warfare.

Design Philosophy and Role

Comparative Analysis of Aerial Mastery: The F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II


As instruments of aerial superiority, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II represent pinnacle achievements in military aviation technology, each crafted with distinct design philosophies and operational roles that reflect the evolving demands of modern air warfare. This article elucidates the differential design principles and the intended roles that underlie these two state-of-the-art aircraft, highlighting their strategic value within the United States Air Force.

Introduction to Design Philosophies:

The F-22 Raptor, developed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is a manifestation of a fourth-generation design philosophy with some fifth-generation attributes focused on air supremacy. Its design is wedded to stealth, supercruise, advanced avionics, and superior maneuverability. The Raptor’s role as an air superiority fighter is undisputed, operating with an unequivocal priority to establish control of the skies.

Contrastingly, the F-35 Lightning II, primarily designed by Lockheed Martin with international partners, embraces a comprehensive fifth-generation blueprint. Its versatility through a common platform with three variants demonstrates a broader spectrum of roles including but not limited to, ground attack, reconnaissance, and air defense missions. The F-35 thrives on multirole flexibility, integration into network-centric combat environments, and overall force amplification.

Stealth Capabilities:

The F-22’s stealth architecture is designed to minimize detection by radar across multiple frequencies, a feature critical for its role in penetrating enemy airspace and engaging targets before they can mount a response. Its radar-absorbent materials, planform alignment, and attention to infrared signature reduction form the bedrock of its elusive profile.

The F-35’s stealth design is similarly inclined toward minimizing radar cross-section. However, it is further optimized for a broader range of missions beyond air-to-air encounters, hence its stealth features are balanced with other mission equipment requirements.

Airframe and Performance:

Performance optimization in the F-22 is underscored by its airframe, which is fine-tuned for extreme agility. Vectored thrust nozzles and a lightweight, yet robust structure grant it an unparalleled combat edge in dogfights. The supercruise capability—sustained supersonic flight without afterburners—is a testament to its engineering acumen, greatly enhancing tactical surprise and response.

In comparison, the F-35’s airframe, though less agile than that of the F-22, is engineered for a different spectrum of operations, including short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) in the F-35B variant. It aligns with its focus on sensor fusion and network warfare, trading some maneuverability for increased adaptability across various mission types.


The avionics of the F-22 Raptor enable unparalleled situational awareness and information dominance. Its advanced radar and sensor suite facilitate deep penetration into contested airspace without reliance on external assets. Furthermore, the Raptor’s intra-flight data link enhances its ability to function stealthily as a coordinated unit within air combat operations.

The F-35’s avionics surpass traditional paradigms by incorporating an advanced sensor fusion architecture. It collects and synthesizes data from numerous onboard and external sensors into a cohesive picture, which is shared across allied forces. This system solidifies the Lightning II’s role as a force multiplier, extending its operational impact beyond the immediate aerial engagement.

F-22 Raptor vs F-35 Lightning II (SPECS)

Lockheed Martin F-22 RaptorLockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II
First flight19972006
Unit costUS$138 million (estimated)F-35A: $110.3 million
F-35B: $135.8 million
F-35C: $117.3 million
Maximum speedMach 2.25 (1,500 mph, 2,410 km/h)Mach 1.6 (1,200 mph, 1,930 km/h)
Range1,600 nautical miles (2,900 km) with 2 external tanks1,200 nautical miles (2,220 km)
Service ceiling65,000 feet (20,000 m)50,000 feet (15,000 m)
Engines2 × Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofans1 × Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbofan
(F-35A and F-35C)
1 × Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-600 turbofan
(F-35B, Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing)
Thrust35,000 lbf (156 kN) each43,000 lbf (191 kN) (F-35A)
40,000 lbf (178 kN) (F-35B)
43,000 lbf (191 kN) (F-35C)
Armament1 × 20 mm M61A2 Vulcan Gatling gunInternal and external hardpoints for missiles, bombs, and other munitions
(F-35A: 4 internal, F-35B/C: 2 internal)
Air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance
(AIM-120, AIM-9X, GBU-12, GBU-31, etc.)
Fuel Tank Capacity2,400 gallon (9,085 litre)2,760 gallon (10,448 litre)
Length62 feet 1 inch (18.92 m)51 feet 4 inch (15.67 m)
Wingspan51 feet 4 inches (15.67 m)44 feet 6 inches (13.56 m)
Height16 feet 8 inch (5.08 m)16 feet 8 inches (5.08 m)

Avionics and Stealth Capabilities

Advancements in Radar Avoidance Technologies: A Comparative Analysis between the F-22 and F-35 Aircraft Systems

In the realm of aeronautics and defense systems, two preeminent aircraft stand in the vanguard of modern military capability: the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. Both aircraft deploy cutting-edge technologies, but distinct nuances in their design and implementation delineate their operational roles and exemplify the multifaceted nature of contemporary aerial warfare strategy.

Material Composition and Electromagnetic Emissions

Whilst previous discussions have elucidated the governing philosophies that instantiated their stealth characteristics, a further examination into their material and electromagnetic emission standards is paramount. Specifically, the F-22 employs titanium and advanced composites that minimize radar cross-section (RCS), alongside radar-absorbent materials (RAM) intricately layered upon its airframe. This deftly crafted arrangement is tailored to thwart high-frequency radar systems, providing imperative atypical angles reflecting incoming radar waves.

Conversely, the F-35 integrates a divergent approach in its stealth composition. While also utilizing RAM, the F-35’s emphasis is on low observability across a broader spectrum of sensor frequencies, conceding slight concessions in high-frequency bands in favor of a reduced RCS over a more extensive range of detection systems. This translates to a balance fashioned to combat a variety of threat environments, as befits the aircraft’s multirole designation.

Sensor Fusion and Situational Awareness

Moving to electronic capabilities, it is critical to underscore the variance in sensor technology and information integration between the two titans of the skies. The F-22 Raptor, with its heritage as an air superiority fighter, is outfitted with the AN/APG-77 radar system, incorporating adaptive agile frequency-hopping, low probability of intercept, and synthetic aperture radar imaging. This precise and versatile radar is a cornerstone for the F-22’s unparalleled situational awareness in air-to-air combat.

In contrast, the F-35’s AN/APG-81 system not only shares similar agile radar technology but also introduces an advanced sensor fusion framework. This sees a merging of data from an extensive array of onboard sensors, including the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS) and the Distributed Aperture System (DAS), into a cohesive picture. Such integration allows for an omnipresent real-time battlefield panorama, accessible not only to the pilot but networked across allied platforms, epitomizing the concept of a ‘force multiplier’.

Electronic Warfare and Countermeasures

Electronic warfare capabilities enhance the impression of these stealth aircraft within the electromagnetic spectrum. The F-22’s electronic warfare suite is primarily self-contained, focusing on the tactical engagement of threats within its immediate battle space. On the other hand, the F-35’s electronic warfare systems are engineered for network-centric combat; its capabilities include advanced data linking and cyber/electronic strategies that provide both offensive and defensive options well beyond the scope of its sensor range.

Operational Deployment and Upgradeability

Lastly, the evolutionary trajectory of these stealth platforms underscores a stark differentiation. The F-22, despite being a technological marvel, has seen its production curtailed and its upgrade path limited. In contrast, the F-35 is designed with an inherent modular upgradability, which allows for incremental enhancements that keep pace with rapidly evolving threats and technologies.

In essence, while both aircraft are at the zenith of stealth and avionic technologies, their specific capabilities are optimized for divergent, albeit complementary, operational paradigms. The F-22 remains the pinnace of air superiority, fixed in a role where sheer performance and high-end stealth are paramount.

Meanwhile, the F-35 assumes the mantle of versatility, primed for an ever-shifting theater of operations where adaptability and network-centric warfare are the benchmarks of lethality and survivability. This distinct dichotomy in technological emphasis underscores not only the breadth of tactical foresight but also the depth of engineering ingenuity embedded within these transcendent machines of the sky.

Weaponry and Armament

Comparative Analysis of F-22 and F-35 Weapon Systems: A Strategic Examination

The inherent diversity in the weapons systems of the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II underlines the strategic framework within which these fifth-generation fighters were conceived. The F-22, primarily an air superiority fighter, and the F-35, a multi-role platform, integrate sophisticated weapon systems that reflect their designed intent.

The F-22 Raptor, with its advanced arsenal, includes AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles) and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles for beyond-visual-range (BVR) and close-range engagements respectively. In a ground attack configuration, it can employ JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) precision-guided bombs. The internal weapons bay is a cornerstone of its stealth capability, ensuring minimal radar cross-section when carrying ordnance.

Conversely, the F-35 series boasts a more versatile armament suite, tailored for ground support and air defense. It can carry an array of weapons, from the internally stowed AIM-120C/D AMRAAMs and AIM-9X Sidewinders, alongside guided bombs like the GBU-31 JDAM and the GBU-39 SDB (Small Diameter Bomb). The F-35B and F-35C variants enhance the platform’s offensive breadth through increased weapons payload capacity, albeit with a compromise in stealth when utilizing external hardpoints.

A definitive advantage of the F-22 lies in its supercruise capability, allowing missile launches at higher speeds and altitudes thus extending the kinematic range of its projectile arsenal. This feature proves crucial in establishing air dominance swiftly, a fundamental consideration in designing its weaponry.

The weapons systems within the F-35 showcase diversification to address a broader spectrum of missions. The integration of advanced targeting systems, such as the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), provides a pivotal ground attack advantage, strengthening its role in close air support and interdiction missions. The aircraft’s adaptability in carrying a mixed load of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions offers commanders formidable tactical flexibility.

Limitations also merit attention. The F-22’s operational scope, while exceedingly proficient in air-to-air combat, is constrained by the range and payload limitations inherent in stealth design. Additionally, the limited production run has impacted the scalability of modifications and cost efficiency of the platform.

The F-35, meanwhile, must balance the trade-offs between stealth when employing external stores and the need for a varied weapons payload. Moreover, the ongoing challenges of integrating diverse weapons systems across multiple platform variants underscore operational complexity and maintenance considerations.

In synthesis, the F-22’s weapon systems are optimized for air dominance with a judicious balance between stealth and firepower. The system favors exquisite kinematic performance and low-observable engagement strategies. In contrast, the F-35’s weapons infrastructure demonstrates a broader vision, catering to a panoply of tactical scenarios, ensuring multi-role capacity and future operational relevance at the potential expense of stealth under certain loadouts.

The complementary strengths and limitations of the F-22 and F-35 weapon systems epitomize the complexity of modern aerial warfare, where strategic imperatives demand a nuanced evaluation of tactical value and versatility.

Performance and Maneuverability

Understanding the ramifications of maneuverability in combat performance requires an appreciation of the thrust-to-weight ratio and control surface design.
The F-22 Raptor exhibits remarkable agility, attributable to its higher thrust-to-weight ratio, sophisticated flight controls, and thrust vectoring capabilities. These features allow for exceptional pitch authority and rapid altitude changes, affording the F-22 superior maneuvering in within-visual-range (WVR) scenarios—where turning and angular velocity are paramount.

In contrast, while the F-35 Lightning II might not match the F-22 in raw maneuverability, it compensates through its advanced avionics and integration of the distributed aperture system (DAS). This system gives pilots a panoramic view of their surroundings, including the critical ability to see “through” the airframe.

Such an advantage expands the operational envelope of the F-35 beyond traditional dogfighting metrics, integrating information-centric warfare within split-second decision-making processes.

The engagement range is another pivotal factor when evaluating performance metrics. The F-22’s radar-evading profile, combined with its supercruise and advanced sensor suite, permits it to engage adversaries at beyond-visual-range (BVR) before opposing forces can detect and target it effectively.

The F-35, on the other hand, is equipped with the AN/ASQ-239 system, which offers a comprehensive suite of electronic warfare capabilities that can detect, analyze, and respond to imminent threats, thus enhancing its BVR engagement competence.

Ongoing exercises and simulations indicate that BVR successes are increasingly decisive. Combat overmatch is no longer solely dictated by dogfight prowess but by a platform’s ability to deliver outcomes through sensor integration, networking, standoff capabilities, and electronic warfare—all spheres in which the F-35 demonstrates compelling capabilities.

The kinematic performance and maneuvering expertise of these fifth-generation fighters must not overshadow the practical consideration of operational tempo and the human-machine interface. The F-22, with its leaner logistical footprint compared to the multirole F-35, presents a lower operational complexity in scenarios where its specific role as an air superiority fighter is exploited.

However, in contemporary and envisioned future combat occurrences, the F-35’s versatility in interoperability across services and coalition operations makes it a cornerstone in combat strategy, particularly in joint domain operations.

Ultimately, maneuvering within the confluence of combat performance metrics reveals a multifaceted landscape where the F-22 Raptor’s dominance in air superiority about kinematics is complemented by the F-35 Lightning II’s holistic approach to networked warfare and information dominance.

This synergetic understanding underscores the profound transformation in aerial combat philosophy, where strategic prowess proceeds from a symbiosis of stealth, sensor fusion, and situational responsiveness rather than raw maneuverability alone.

Cost and Deployment Considerations

Cost Implications and Deployment Strategies Associated with the F-22 and F-35

In the realm of modern airpower, the cost and deployment strategies pertinent to the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II strike fighters are subjects of paramount consideration and frequent scrutiny.

One must examine the economies of scale and their applicability to the production and maintenance of both aircraft. Production of the F-22 ceased in 2012 after 195 units, resulting in higher per-unit costs due to the limited production run.

The F-35, alternatively, benefits from international partnership and larger production volume aiming to reduce the overall cost. Continued investment in the F-35’s production under the Joint Strike Fighter program aims to realize cost savings through increased economies of scale.

Lifecycle costs are another critical factor impacting these sophisticated machines. Both aircraft require substantial investment in maintenance and modernization over their decades-long service lifetimes. The F-35, in particular, is designed with a modular approach to component replacement, a characteristic projected to streamline maintenance and reduce costs over time.

It is paramount to integrate prognostics and health management systems that monitor the condition of aircraft components, ameliorating the predictability and efficacy of maintenance activities. This alignment with advanced logistical support mechanisms is crucial for optimizing operational readiness and cost-effectiveness.

Deployment strategies for both aircraft are interwoven with the geopolitical landscape. With the global security environment favoring versatility, the F-35’s multirole capabilities allow for a broad array of mission profiles, necessitating a carefully structured and strategic deployment matrix that maximizes the aircraft’s advantages in a variety of theaters.

The F-22, with its emphasis on air dominance, requires forward stationing at key strategic points to assert airspace control rapidly when necessary.

The integration of both aircraft into a cohesive force structure has ramifications for interservice strategy and joint operations. Effective deployment of these assets entails a strategic calculus that includes alliance structures, aircraft interoperability, and the opportunity for burden-sharing among partner nations.

This aggregation of multi-tiered capabilities accentuates the need for coordination across different branches of the military and with allied forces to ensure a unified and effective use of these sophisticated weapon systems.

The adoption of the F-22 and F-35 furthermore necessitates a reevaluation of training programs. Advanced simulators are employed to train pilots at a fraction of the cost of live flying, and such simulators have become a linchpin in crew readiness programs. Pilot and maintainer training rapidly evolves in tandem with aircraft technology, necessitating ongoing investment to maintain the edge these platforms can deliver.

Lastly, one must consider the strategic import of export policy related to the F-35, whereas the F-22 remains exclusive to the United States Air Force. International sales of the F-35 not only have implications for cost-sharing but also contribute to the strategic tapestry of collective defense initiatives by proliferating fifth-generation capabilities among allied nations.

In conclusion, the fiscal and strategic elements underlying the deployment of the F-22 and F-35 platforms reveal a complex interplay between technology, economics, and geopolitical strategy. It is imperative to continuously adapt and refine both the cost frameworks and deployment concepts to retain air superiority in an ever-evolving security landscape, ensuring that these technological marvels serve the dynamic interests of national defense effectively and efficiently.

The discourse on the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II unveils a narrative far more intricate than a mere comparison of the two aircraft; it is a testament to the relentless pursuit of aerial supremacy and tactical innovation. As these two titans of the sky continue to evolve within the confines of modern warfare, their presence signals a new epoch in military strategy where adaptability, technological superiority, and strategic deployment converge.

The Raptor and the Lightning, while distinctive in their roles and capabilities, stand united in their purpose: to ensure the security and efficacy of air power for the United States and its allies in an era of unpredictable challenges and relentless technological progress.

How is the F-22 compared to the F-35?

The F-22 Raptor exhibits superior maneuverability, speed, and altitude capabilities in comparison to the F-35. It boasts a higher thrust-to-weight ratio, enabling it to attain greater speeds and altitudes.

Which is louder F-22 or F-35?

The F-35 Lightning II is typically acknowledged as louder than the F-22 Raptor, with both aircraft generating substantial noise. This difference is attributed, in part, to the F-35’s larger size and more potent engine. The F-35 has a maximum noise level of 159 decibels, whereas the F-22 reaches a maximum of 152 decibels.

What is the top speed of the F 35c Lightning II?

Reaching Mach 1.6, equivalent to around 1,200 miles per hour or 1,931 kilometers per hour at sea level, the F-35C Lightning II attains impressive speeds even with a full internal weapons load.

Can a F-22 beat a F-35?

In a hypothetical dogfight between the F-22 and the F-35, the F-22 would emerge victorious. The F-22 possesses significantly superior stealth features compared to the F-35, boasting a much lower radar signature. Additionally, the Raptor surpasses the F-35 in both speed and maneuverability. However, in a more complex battlefield environment where stealth and situational awareness are crucial, the F-35’s strengths could prove decisive.

Which is more expensive F-22 or F-35?

The F-22 Raptor carries a considerably higher price tag compared to the F-35 Lightning II. The estimated unit cost for an F-22 Raptor is around $350 million, whereas the F-35A comes in at approximately $80 million per unit. This substantial cost difference positions the F-35 as a significantly more budget-friendly option when compared to the F-22.


The role-specific design philosophies of the Raptor and Lightning II shape each aircraft’s capabilities and operational utility. Where the F-22 specializes in establishing air dominance through unrivaled maneuverability and stealth, the F-35 emerges as a master of adaptability, harmonizing stealth, sensor fusion, and multirole performance.

These differing tenets underscore the unique applications of each fighter in securing airspace, providing multifaceted support to combat operations, and ensuring versatile combat readiness in dynamic theaters of conflict.

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Suman Karki
Suman Karki is the founder of the AviaTech Channel blog and YouTube Channel. He is a passionate aviation enthusiast and holds experience working as a Ground Operations Officer for Swissport International. He is currently serving as a Flight Data Feeder for FlightAware (a US-based company for Flight Tracking). Besides, he has worked as an aviation content editor for various aviation media.