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F-22 Stealth Raptor: Can It Stay the World's Most Powerful Fighter Jet?

Kris Osborn

Key point: Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allowing for better target identification.

The Air Force is performing key maintenance on the F-22 Raptor's stealth materials while upgrading the stealth fighter with new attack weapons to include improved air-to-air and air-to-surface strike technology, service officials said.

Months ago, the Air Force contracted Lockheed Martin to perform essential maintenance to the F-22's low-observable stealth coating to ensure it is equipped to manage fast-emerging threats.

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Lockheed Martin completed the first F-22 Raptor at the company’s Inlet Coating Repair (ICR) Speedline, a company statement said.

"Periodic maintenance is required to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the 5th Generation Raptor’s Very Low Observable radar cross-section," Lockheed stated.

The increase in F-22 deployments, including ongoing operational combat missions, has increased the demand for ICR. Additionally, Lockheed Martin is providing modification support services, analytical condition inspections, radar cross section turntable support and antenna calibration.

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Also, Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that, by 2019, the service will begin upgrading F-22 functionality for the AIM-120D and AIM-9X Air-to-Air missiles as well as enhanced Air-to-Surface target location capabilities. The F-22 currently carries the AIM-9X Block 1 and the current upgrade will enable carriage of AIM-9X Block 2.

Raytheon AIM-9X weapons developers explain that the Block 2 variant adds a redesigned fuze and a digital ignition safety device that enhances ground handling and in-flight safety. Block II also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements, a Raytheon statement said.

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