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WARPLANE: A Century of Military Aviation Advances
Parts One and Two: Wednesday, November 8th, 9-11pm   |   Parts Three and Four: Wednesday, November 15, 9-11pm

The Warplanes That Changed The World

F-22A Raptor
Type: Air-to-air fighter with secondary ground attack capability
Crew: One
Length: 62 feet 1 inch
Wingspan: 44 feet 6 inches
Range: 2000 miles
Maximum Speed: Mach 2+ (classified)
Ceiling: Greater than 60,000 feet (classified)
Armament: 1 20mm Vulcan cannon; eight AMRAAM and/or Sidewinder air-to-air missiles; can also carry guided bombs and other air-to-ground ordnance
Dates in Service: 2005-present

Eurofighter Typhoon
Type: Multi-Role Fighter
Crew: One or Two
Length: 52 feet 5 inches
Wingspan: 35 feet 11 inches
Range: 864 miles
Maximum Speed: Mach 2+
Ceiling: 60,000 feet
Armament: One 27mm cannon; up to twelve air-to-air or air-to-ground missiles; wide variety of bombs
Dates in Service: 2003-Present

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With the end of the Cold War, the dramatically increasing complexity and expense of creating modern warplanes, and the upgradability of '70s vintage aircraft like the F-15 and F-16, it has taken more than twenty years for new fighter designs to emerge. Two of the newest planes -- the US Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium of European companies - have been in development for decades and are just now beginning to enter service.

Proponents of the F-22 claim that the plane possesses capabilities head and shoulders above its predecessors. It can "supercruise" - ie, fly faster than the speed of sound without engaging its fuel-thirsty afterburners, and it makes extensive use of stealth features, such as carrying its missiles in internal bays. It also possesses an advanced radar and electronics suite that enables it to attack multiple targets at once while remaining undetected. But some critics question whether the plane is needed at all, given its enormous price tag and the fact that the USAF currently has no real competition. For now, the USAF only plans to purchase about 180 of the aircraft.

The Eurofighter, in contrast, is best thought of as being an update within the same family as today's non-stealth fighters - like the F-15 and F-16, only better. It too can supercruise (the only fighter besides the F-22 with this capability), but lacks the F-22's advanced electronics, high performance, range and stealth features.

Both of them are extremely capable aircraft and, given the amount of time they are expected to be in service, could also be among the last manned fighter planes to be produced.