Pushing the envelope with the YF-22

I keep a few folders on my computer, as well as a paper folder, with pictures and drawings of possible future LEGO projects. That paper folder has held a three-view drawing of a USAF F-22 Raptor fighter for at least ten years now. The drawing included a few measurements, for how large it would be if I were to build it LEGO. The reason it was in its folder for so long is that I could never figure out how to actually build it. However, I am still learning new tricks. Furthermore, LEGO keeps coming up with elements that make previously impossible things possible.

Now, I didn’t actually build the F-22. Other people have done admirable jobs on that (notably Corvin Stichert and Lennart Cort). I wanted something different, so instead, I built the YF-22 prototype. This won the “Advanced Tactical Fighter” competition in 1991, to replace the USAF’s F-15 fighters. The F-22 Raptor is its production version. The jet’s design really pushed the envelope, with low observability (“stealth”) combined with high speed and high agility. And building it, I feel I pushed the envelope too.

As a stealth aircraft, it carried its weapons internally. The weapons bays and their many doors were a major challenge in building the model.

Another challenge was that, while the shape of stealth aircraft usually involves lots of straight lines, they tend to be oriented at inconvenient angles. This is particularly true for the forward fuselage and around the air intakes. And finally, I wanted it to be mostly studless, to fit the style of the competing YF-23 prototype that I built more than a year ago. Very little about this model was easy. Ten years ago, I simply couldn’t do it. I could only do it now thanks to brackets, triangular tiles, and small wedges, and curved slopes that LEGO introduced in the last few years.