F-22 Raptor Weapon Carriage Capacity


The F-22 Raptor is equipped with four internal weapons bays. Two of these are center bays located in the lower fuselage while the other two are side bays located aft of the engine inlets. The side bays are each designed to carry a single AIM-9M or AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided all-aspect short-range air-to-air-missile. Only the AIM-9M will be carried when the F-22 enters service, but the latest generation of Sidewider, the AIM-9X, will be introduced once it becomes available.

F-22 firing an AIM-9M from the left side bay
F-22 firing an AIM-9M from the left side bay

The two center bays can each carry up to three AIM-120C AMRAAM radar-guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air-missiles. The AIM-120C variant uses shorter-span fins than earlier AMRAAM models and was built to better fit within internal bays like those of the F-22 and future stealthy aircraft. If necessary, the aircraft can also carry the AIM-120A, but only two of these larger missiles can be carried per bay. In the air-to-air combat mission, the F-22 can therefore carry a maximum of eight missiles and still retain its ideal stealth characteristics.

If stealth is not required, additional missiles can also be carried externally on underwing pylons. The F-22 can be equipped with four external pylons, two beneath each wing. These extra hardpoints are intended primarily for ferry missions, but each can be configured to carry two AIM-120 or AIM-9 missiles on a LAU-128/A launcher. This extra carriage capacity provides room for an additional eight air-to-air missiles, allowing a maximum of 16 between the internal and external loadouts.

F-22 weapons carriage arrangements
F-22 weapons carriage arrangements

Aside from an internal M61A2 Vulcan cannon, the only other weapon system carried by the F-22 as it enters service is the GBU-32 JDAM guided bomb. The GBU-32 is based on the 1,000-lb Mk 83 general purpose bomb but fitted with a tail kit that uses GPS-guidance to make precision strikes against ground targets. In air-to-ground attack mode, the F-22 can carry one GBU-32 plus a single AIM-120C in each of the main weapons bays. The maximum weapon loadout in a stealthy ground attack mission is two bombs plus four air-to-air missiles, including the side bays. The underwing pylons are also compatible with JDAM, but there are as yet no plans to carry bombs externally.

As mentioned earlier, the principal function of the underwing pylons is for long-range ferry missions where extra fuel is required. Each of the pylons can carry a 600-gal fuel tank or a fuel tank and two AIM-120 missiles. However, these missiles cannot be launched since the fins must be removed. A typical ferry mission would have the aircraft carry these extra missile bodies on the pylons with their fins stowed in the side bays. These missile components would be transported to a forward operating area for reassembly and use.

F-22 weapons carriage arrangements
F-22 weapons carriage arrangements

In a non-stealthy combat mission, it is likely that the aircraft would compromise between the maximum missile and fuel loads. The inboard pylons would be occupied by two fuel tanks while four missiles would be located on the two outer pylons, as illustrated above. This arrangement allows a maximum missile load of twelve: six AIM-120 internally, four AIM-120 externally, and two AIM-9 internally. It should also be noted that the F-22 will enter service in late 2005 with the ability to launch missiles from the internal bays only. It is assumed that the ability to launch weapons from the underwing pylons will be developed shortly thereafter.
- answer by Jeff Scott, 1 December 2002

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