The F-22 Raptor is the newest fighter aircraft of the United States Air Force (USAF). Originally an air superiority fighter for use against the Soviet Air Force, it is also capable of ground attack, electronic warfare and signals intelligence roles. The F-22 is a combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, integrated avionics and improved supportability. It performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, making it vital to the USAF. The Raptor is capable of providing first-kill opportunities against threats. Its sophisticated aerodesign, advanced flight controls, thrust vectoring and high thrust-to-weight ratio provide the capability to outmaneuver all current and projected aircraft. Intended to be the leading American advanced tactical fighter in the early part of the 21st century, the Raptor is the worlds most expensive fighter to date.
The F-22 was born out of the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) demonstration and validation program to develop a next-generation air superiority fighter to counter emerging worldwide threats, inlcuding development and proliferation of Soviet-era Su-27 Flanker type aircraft. In 1981, the Air Force put out a requirement for a new air superiority fighter that would replace the capability of the F-15 Eagle, incorporating emerging technologies such as advanced alloys, fly-by-wire flight control systems and stealth technology. In October 1986, two contractor teams, Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics and Northrop/McDonnell Douglas, were selected to build prototypes. In August 1991, after a fly-off competition, Lockheeds YF-22 was declared the winner and the company was awarded the contract to produce the ATF.