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The F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II are pretty much the best of the best. These two warbirds are equipped with the best avionics and stealth technology that money can buy. It’s safe to say that you won’t find any more advanced fighters around than these two – unless, of course, the 6th-gen fighters come along. So the question now is: “How good are they compared to each other?”
When compared to modern fighter jets, the F-35 is up there with the slowest of them all – along with the lowest altitude ceiling. Meanwhile, the F-22 enjoys a higher operational altitude and speed, able to reach Mach 2.25 compared to the F-35’s Mach 1.6.
This is even after the fact that the F-22 is 30% heavier; its twin F119 engines and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.08 allow it to do so.
The Raptor is possibly one of the best air superiority fighters in the world. In fact, its ability to dogfight is highly regarded in the military aviation community. But as a specialized air superiority platform, it also lacks the ability to carry heavy munitions internally.
This means that the F-22 has none or limited nuclear strike capabilities, anti-ship, or air-to-ground capabilities. In comparison, the F-35’s versatility as the most advanced multi-role fighter allows it to perform all of these roles.
Moreover, the F-35 has a slightly lower maintenance upkeep and a much higher combat readiness rate. The same thing cannot be said about the Raptor, which stopped production years ago.
The Lightning II’s avionics and electronic warfare systems alone are at least a decade ahead of the Raptor. Even with a smaller radar, the F-35 is still fitted with an Infrared Search and Track System that allows it to operate without any radar signature and better lock on to stealth-capable targets.
Most importantly, the fighter has a one-of-a-kind network-centric warfare capability that enables it to share data with other units during combat.
With that said, all signs are pointing towards the F-35 being a part of America’s long-term future. Unfortunately for F-22 fans, the introduction of a new sixth-generation stealth fighter jet will most likely result in the Raptor getting phased out of service.