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    Why The Navy Select The F-35c Over A ‘Sea Raptor’ Variant Of The F-22

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    Lockheed Martin F-35C ‘Lightning II’ (BuNo 169601) (with VMFA-314 at Miramar NAS)” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Why the Navy Chose the F-35C Over a ‘Sea Raptor’ Variant of the F-2In a world where air superiority is a must for national security, the choice of fighter aircraft for the U.S. Navy’s carrier-based operations holds strategic importance.

    Lockheed Martin F-22 ‘Raptor’s’ at Hickam AFB, Hawaii” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    A consideration that once took center stage was the potential adaptation of the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor into a carrier variant, dubbed the ‘Sea Raptor’.

    F-35C lands aboard USS Carl Vinson” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This initiative has been thoroughly evaluated by the Navy, but ultimately, it decided to anchor its carrier air wings with the F-35C Lightning II, designed from the ground up to operate from the flight decks of the fleet’s supercarriers.

    A Sailor communicates with the pilot of an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The F-35C, now operational, represents the culmination of a meticulous process in selecting the most fitting airframe for the Navy’s complex and demanding carrier environment. Meanwhile, the formidable F-22 Raptor continues its dedicated service with the Air Force, its domain untouched by the complexities of carrier operations.

    F-22 Raptor Whisper Pass” by w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The F-22, as the world’s first operational fifth-generation fighter, set an unrivaled precedent in air combat capabilities with its stealth, supermaneuverability, and integrated avionics.

    F-35C launches from USS Carl Vinson” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Its performance is such that General Mark Welsh, former Air Force Chief of Staff, once underscored its distinction as an air superiority platform, not designed for the multirole missions characteristic of the F-35.

    Lockheed Martin F-22 ‘Raptor’” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    However, the Raptor’s envisioned ‘Sea’ transformation was fraught with challenges. As the Aviation Geek Club elucidates, converting the F-22 for carrier use would have necessitated substantial modifications.

    F-22 Raptor 004” by AirmanMagazine is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    These included structural changes to withstand the brutal dynamics of carrier landings—a process that could have undermined the aircraft’s stealth properties, increased its weight, and inevitably escalated costs.

    An F-35C prepares to land on the flight deck of USS George Washington.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Moreover, the F-22’s lack of folding wings and the necessary robust landing gear for carrier operations were significant impediments. The Navy’s preference for versatility and a broad mission profile found its answer in the F-35C.

    F-35C lands aboard USS Carl Vinson” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This carrier variant was engineered with enhanced low-speed control, a more ruggedized structure, and larger wings, ensuring its adaptability to the unforgiving maritime operational theater.

    An F-35C Lightning II assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 lands aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as VFA-314 deploys as part of Carrier Strike Group 3.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The F-35C also boasts advanced avionics and sensor fusion capabilities, which, according to Military Watch Magazine, offer a comprehensive situational awareness that supplements its role beyond that of aerial combat.

    F-35C Lands Onboard USS Nimitz” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Its versatility is further underlined by its ability to carry a wide array of ordnance, including the AGM-154 Joint Stand-off Weapon and JASSM cruise missiles, making it a formidable multirole fighter.

    An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant taxis on the flight deck of USS George Washington.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    In contrast, the F-22 is better equipped for air dominance roles, with a greater emphasis on air-to-air combat. It carries a potent arsenal of air-to-air missiles and has the added capability for precision ground attacks.

    An F-35C Lightning II taxis on the flight deck aboard USS Carl Vinson” by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    However, its limited air-to-ground munitions and absence of some multirole functions tilt the balance in favor of the F-35C’s comprehensive load-out and operational flexibility.

    Lockheed Martin F-35C ‘Lightning II’” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The F-35 program’s three variants serve the distinct needs of the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, with the F-35C standing out with its tailored features for carrier operations. As the next generation of air dominance fighters develops, the U.S. military’s engagement in the F/A-XX and Next Generation Air Dominance programs will further evolve its combat aircraft capabilities.

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