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F-22 to fly again  (Source: USAF)
Raptor set to fly above 50,000 as restriction lifts

The grounding of the USAF F-22 Raptor fleet has dragged on for months as the investigation into what caused issues with the onboard oxygen generation system were investigated. At this point, there is still no clear answer on what gave multiple pilots hypoxia-like symptoms during flights. Affected pilots in several instances were found to have toxins in their blood.

Last week, reports indicated that USAF chief Gen. Norton Schwartz would be 
given options to grant flight status back to the F-22 fleet. Schwartz has approved a plan that will allow the 160 F-22 aircraft in the fleet to fly above 50,000 feet according to Defense News. The Raptor has a 60,000-foot ceiling.

The life support systems will be inspected daily on all of the aircraft, and all the systems will be extensively inspected before any of the jets take to the skies. The plan also calls for F-22 pilots to undergo physiological tests and to have additional protective equipment when they fly. Exactly what the extra equipment would be is unknown.

"We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate," Schwartz said. "We're managing the risks with our aircrews, and we're continuing to study the F-22's oxygen systems and collect data to improve its performance." 

As the F-22 fleet is preparing to return to the skies, the long-delayed and over budget F-35 fighter is again 
under pressure. USAF Secretary Michael Donley pledged support to the F-35 on September 19. However, with budget cuts coming and Washington looking for everything they can find to cut costs, Donley didn’t offer answers to what functionalities on the F-35 the USAF would be willing to lose to bring the cost of the fighters down.

Donley said that it would be difficult to eliminate core functionality from the program. "There are 12 core functions in the Air Force, there are none that we can just jettison," Donley said. "Each of those core functions is performing an important mission not just for the Air Force but the joint team."

Lockheed Martin says that as of now the F-35B STOVL version of the fighter is ahead on flight testing slightly and will be heading to sea trials in the first week of October if all goes as planned. The carrier-based F-35C will start sea trials next spring according to officials.



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RE: I hope
By nafhan on 9/20/2011 5:30:06 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Look for manned aircraft to be accompanied by unmanned escorts that will be directed similar to existing on-board weapon systems.
Why? I'm not seeing what advantage this has over keeping the human "pilots" physically separated from the action. In fact it seems to have a rather glaring disadvantage in that you'd essentially have a single point of failure for several aircraft.

I could see something along the lines of AWACS (where the human pilot would be in theater, yet still physically removed from combat) making sense in some situations, though.


RE: I hope
By Manch on 9/21/2011 9:08:14 AM , Rating: 3
Lag. The current UAV's still experience a good bit of lag from the command til execution. It still takes a couple seconds for that signal to get there from teh other side of the planet. That's a long time. Currently this is fine for a UAV that's doing 8's in the sky tracking targets on the ground but for a fighter AC that would be no good.

The ides behind this is, the flying would be largely autonomous, but the targeting would be controlled by the manned AC. Also, losing the "main AC" wouldnt mean the drones would become useless. They would merely go into an automatic mode and can still be command remotely from a home station to return, etc.

Here's a few scenarios this would be useful for:

A drone escort for bombers. Targeting officers could order teh drones to protect the bomber group if AWACS or the bomber itself detects incoming.

A fighter AC(F-22) with a bunch of drones could be used to enforce a no fly zone.

Also the drones could be used to protect the main AC from missiles etc by intercepting it with itself.

Basically all of this boild down to shortening the kill chain. a pilot could just as quickly target an enemy with a drone as a missile.


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