On one hand, you’ve got the world’s premier aircraft in air dominance, and on the other hand, you’ve got the most expensive weapons procurement program in world history. Even though the two jets have many things in common, both are still very different. The sole reason for the F-35 was to fill the void left by the F-22. Both hold sheer dominance over other rivals and are among the elite. The F-22 and the F-35 are 5th generation fighters, meaning they include major technologies developed during the first part of the 21st century. Other 5th generation fighters include China’s Chengdu J-20 and Russia’s Sukhoi SU-57. What details separate the two? Let’s find out.
The F-35 is no match for speed with the F-22. The F-22 can reach Mach 2.25 and can climb at a rate of 62,000 feet per minute whereas the F-35 reaches a speed of Mach 1.6 while climbing at 45,000 feet per minute. The main reason for the F-35 lacking speed is its purpose. It was not designed for speed.
The Raptor is fitted with a specially-designed AN/APG-77 radar while the F-35 is with Northrop Grumman’s latest, AN/APG-81. The system on the F-22 gives it a nearly impossible advantage – it can locate and engage the enemy without that aircraft ever even seeing the F-22 on its radar. The AN/APG-77 uses an active and electronically scanned antenna array of 2,000 transmitter/receiver modules. It can also communicate data information over a secure link and jam enemy electronics systems. The 81 model contains all the same air-to-air modes as the AN/APG-71 but also includes high-resolution mapping of the ground, an Advanced Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), and a custom-designed AN/ASQ-239 Barracuda electronic warfare system. These systems, along with others, provide the F-35 with never-before-seen 360 degrees of situational awareness. The F-35 also contains multispectral imaging countermeasures. The F-22 also contains countermeasures. If heat-seeking missile locks on to an F-22 Raptor, it releases flares to misdirect the heat-seekers. If radar-guided missile locks on to an F-22 Raptor, it releases chaff (small pieces of reflective material) to scurry the radar waves.
The weaponry bay is the biggest difference between the two jets. The Raptor is designed to be raw and a bully while the F-35, is a sensible approach to things. Designed for air-to-air combat, the F-22 has a weapons bay designed accordingly. The main bay, located on the bottom of the fuselage, can hold six LAU-142/A launchers for missiles designed for enemies that are out of visual range. The F-35, designed for a more versatile engagement approach, has a unique weapons bay. The bay on the F-35 is deeper and narrower than the F-22, to carry heavier bombs mean for air-to-ground combat. The F-35 can carry any of the following air-to-ground bombs: AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-132 ASRAAM Brimstone anti-tank missiles, cluster munitions, Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and Paveway series of bombs. Some of these weigh up to 2,000 pounds. The heaviest bomb an F-22 can handle is 1,000 pounds. The F-35 has won this round quite convincingly.
The most obvious difference between the Raptor and the F-35 is that the F-35 can land and take off vertically. It can hover like a helicopter while the F-22 simply cannot. To be precise, the B variant of the fighter (F-35B) is the one capable of short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL). Similar in size to the A variant, the B sacrifices about a third of the A variant’s fuel volume to accommodate the SDLF.
The Raptor and F-35 are arguably the best fighter jets ever created by the US. Both were created with one purpose in mind, to excel. If your nation’s military has either of the two, consider yourself lucky.