A First Look At The F-22’s 16-Billion Upgrade

A First Look At The F-22’s 16-Billion Upgrade | World War Wings Videos

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Recently, a plane spotter account on X (formerly Twitter) known as TaskForce23 posted an image that has a striking resemblance to the Air Force’s upgraded F-22, complete with stealth external fuel tanks and outboard sensor pods. 

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Here’s everything that you need to know about the new 16-billion upgrade: 

1. Despite the developments, the Raptor is still slated to retire in the coming decade

The next-generation air dominance sixth-generation fighter is currently under development and is expected to replace the aging Raptor fleet.

However, it will take quite a bit of time to produce a massive fleet of these advanced new fighters. 

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In the meantime, the Air Force needs to maintain its air supremacy strategy and give the F-22 its much-needed upgrades to keep it competitive and dominant. 

2. The Air Force kicked off a slew of upgrades that started in 2018 

By the time these upgrades are finished, they’re expected to cost worth $16 billion.

It means that every operational Raptor is receiving more than $88 million worth of upgrades.

3. The upgrades were meant to bring F-22s on board systems up to par

Some of the systems being installed in the F-22 are intended to bridge the technological gap between today’s most advanced fighters as well as the next generation’s air dominance fighters in the not-so-distant future. 

YouTube / Sandboxx

4. In 2022, Air Force General Mark Kelly released an official render that showed the F-22 upgrade program

This includes the low drag and tank pylon effort, additional sensor pods, and what looks like the AIM-260 joint advanced tactical missile. The stealth fuel tanks extend pretty far forward of the wing and not really behind it. 

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Although no one has taken a good look at these drop tanks quite yet, these went through wind tunnel and ground testing last year and were slated to start flight testing in the second quarter of 2024. 

5. The Air Force intends to buy around 326 stealth drop tanks and 286 new pylons at the end of testing later this year

This shakes out to around two pairs of stealth drop tanks for every operational F-22 Raptor.

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This suggests that the old non-stealth drop tanks are likely to stay in rotation for some time to come. 


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