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The F-22 Raptor
In the mid-1990s, Lockheed Martin teamed with Boeing to develop and build the F-22 Raptor, an extremely advanced tactical fighter that combined stealth, integrated avionics and maneuverability. The F-22 was intended as replacement for the F-15 as America’s front-line dominance fighter.
The first production F-22 was unveiled on Apr. 9, 1997, at a rollout ceremony hosted by Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Pratt & Whitney. It was the first of nine flyable F-22s built for flight testing.
The F-22 entered service in 2005, and it won the prestigious Collier Trophy for 2006.
F-22A Raptor firing an AIM-9 Sidewinder while inverted
Rail-launched weapons (essentially just the AIM-9X and AIM-132 on British F-35s) can be launched from both F-22 and F-35 while upside down. On the F-35 AIM-9Xs are launched off outer wing pylons, on the F-22 they’re launched off specialised rails that extend and angle the AIM-9X outwards from the F-22’s side bays.
Internal weapons are only certified to function under positive G forces
‘However, as far as ejected weapons such as AIM-120s (carried internally) go, the jets are only certified / qualified to function under positive G forces,’ James Smith, an aviation expert explains on Quora. ‘That said, positive G forces can be attained when upside down, if the jet is pitching its nose upwards (relative to the pilot’s point of view) fast enough.
‘But if there weren’t any software safeties and the pilot didn’t care whether it had been flight tested, could it still work?
‘The F-22’s LAU-142 AVEL (internal weapons bay ejector for the AIM-120) is capable of launching an AMRAAM out of the bay at 25ft/s (7.62m/s), with a peak acceleration of 40Gs. If an AMRAAM left the bay of an inverted F-22 at 7.62m/s, it would travel approximately 3m away from F-22 before falling back towards it.
‘Gravity also normally assists the missile’s ejection, meaning that the velocity it leaves the bay of an inverted F-22 will be less than 7.62m/s, meaning the missile would get less than 3m away from the F-22 before falling again.
‘That said, the AMRAAM is not a rock; it has control surfaces. This means that once it’s ejected, the AMRAAM could theoretically be programmed to pitch away from the F-22, so long as the missile can maintain stability, and isn’t sucked back towards the F-22 via the aircraft’s wake.’
Best case/worst case scenario
‘However it is uncertain, if not unlikely, that the AIM-120 has this kind of programming already, so the final answer is that while it might be possible, in a best case scenario the F-22 (or F-35 if it has similar weapon ejectors to the LAU-142) might successfully launch the missile, but potentially suffer mild damage to its stealth coatings. In a worst case scenario, the missile impacts the jet and either just damages the skin, or perhaps causes serious damage to a horizontal stabiliser.’