Re-phasing of the USAF's F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter programme to cope with budget cuts has delayed the first flight of a development aircraft from the mid-1996 to the first quarter of 1997. The number of development aircraft has been cut from 11 to nine (seven single-seat F-22As and two F-22B two-seat operational trainers).

Budget cuts have also reduced the number of aircraft planned to 442, from an originally envisaged 750, and delayed initial operational capability to 2004. The F-22 design will be frozen in February 1995 and four pre-production verification aircraft will be built in 1997.

Lockheed/Boeing was awarded a $9.95 billion engineering and manufacturing development contract in August 1991. P&W was awarded a $1.5 billion contract to develop the F119 afterburning turbofan.

The F-22's design combines stealth, supercruise and thrust vectoring to provide survivability, persistence and agility exceeding that of the F-15. All weapons and fuel for the air-superiority mission are carried internally, to minimise drag and radar signature.

The principal armament for the air-superiority mission is an internal 20mm cannon, two short-range missiles in fuselage-side bays and four AIM-120A, or six compressed-carriage AIM-120C, medium-range missiles in the underfuselage bay. The F-22 will have limited ground-attack capability.

Source: Flight International