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Four F-22s prepare for take-off - image courtesy Lockheed Martin
The Raptor is still shaping up to be a fine aircraft platform

The United States Air Force (USAF) F-22A Raptor has only been in operational service for a little over a year now, and the advanced fighter aircraft is already shaping up to be quite a formidable weapon in the skies. The F-22 can supercruise (achieve supersonic speeds without afterburner) at Mach 1.58 and has a top speed of Mach 2+ thanks to its twin Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines.

Over the past year, F-22s have partaken in a number of simulated "wargames" to display the capabilities of the aircraft. In one two-week excursion in Alaska, designated Northern Edge, the "Blue Air" team which was led by F-22s simply obliterated its "Red Air" threat.

The Red Air threat was composed of a number of previous generation Air Force and Navy aircraft including the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 Super Hornet. During the exercise, in which more than 40 aircraft littered the skies, the Blue Team achieved a remarkable 241-to-2 kill ratio. It should be noted that the 2 aircraft lost on the Blue Team were F-15C aircraft and not the F-22s.

"They [the Red Air adversaries] couldn’t see us," Tolliver said. "And that’s what makes the F-22 special. I’m out there and I have weapons like an F-15C or an F-16, but ... I’m basically invisible to the other guy’s radar," said Toliver.

The F-22's also scored a 97% mission effective rate during Northern Edge, flying 102 out of 105 assigned sorties. No other new aircraft to enter service into the USAF has been able to achieve such high readiness levels.

Over the past year, the F-22 has had many other success stories. The aircraft has successfully handled alternating air-to-air and air-to-ground operations and have provided additional sensor coverage for trailing friendly aircraft. F-22s have also released JDAMs from an altitude of 50,000 feet while traveling at Mach 1.5 and successfully fired AIM-120C-5 and AIM-9M missiles at live drone aircraft.

Despite all of the successes, there is still room for improvement in the F-22 program. The aircraft's mechanical readiness is now pegged at 70 to 75%, which is slightly lower than the USAF's optimal 75 to 78% rating. Also, pilots are asking for dual-mode satellite/laser guided bombs for the aircraft as well as a helmet-mounted firing system for weapons. Other improvements already in queue include an upgraded radar system and enhanced capabilities in the event of an electronic attack.



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Over budget
By Red and black on 2/4/2007 10:37:00 PM , Rating: 3
The F-22 has gone over budget by a factor of four: the Air Force wanted to buy 700, but now will buy fewer than 200.




RE: Over budget
By Red and black on 2/4/2007 10:40:27 PM , Rating: 3
Also: problems with metal fatigue, that will require repairs of all the planes currently built: http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?F=1998462&C=a...


RE: Over budget
By Goty on 2/4/2007 10:42:27 PM , Rating: 3
But when you can take out roughly 120 enemy aircraft for every F-22 lost, you can "make do" with 200.


RE: Over budget
By Polynikes on 2/4/2007 11:15:07 PM , Rating: 2
But will they ever have the chance? Seems like dog fights went the way of the dodo a long time ago.


RE: Over budget
By ADDAvenger on 2/4/2007 11:54:51 PM , Rating: 5
That's what they said when they made the F-4s without guns (an external gun-pod was later added).

Also what they said when they made the F-14s with super-long-range tomahawk(?) missiles, missiles that can shoot stuff down before the pilot can even see it.

Also what they said around WWII when planes were flying twice as fast as any previous record.


RE: Over budget
By joust on 2/5/2007 12:02:55 AM , Rating: 4
Also, think about this critically. Why was this enormous exercise taking place in Alaska of all places, as opposed to, say, Virginia? Why such a huge exercise? Why tell everyone how amazing this fighter is? Why a couple weeks after China shot down a satellite?

Ah yes, the Chinese. This is a signal to them. They're largest threat that can field aircraft against the US.


RE: Over budget
By cheetah2k on 2/5/2007 1:14:31 AM , Rating: 3
Sure, China can shoot down satellites..

But come to think of it, i dont think China's rapidly ageing numbers of SU-27's and Migs are any match for the F-22



RE: Over budget
By ralith on 2/5/2007 9:44:27 AM , Rating: 2
I'm a bit out of the loop so I don't know how capable they are, but the Chinese have some home grown fighters.


RE: Over budget
By AssMonkey76 on 2/5/2007 7:37:40 PM , Rating: 3
China has the J-10, good aircraft but no match to the F-22 or F-15. Also, we shot down a satalite in the 70's with an F-15.


RE: Over budget
By saratoga on 2/5/2007 2:47:43 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Also, think about this critically. Why was this enormous exercise taking place in Alaska of all places, as opposed to, say, Virginia?


Because there is little air traffic over Alaska. Conversely, the nations capital and east coast do occasionally have air craft around them.

quote:
Why such a huge exercise? Why tell everyone how amazing this fighter is? Why a couple weeks after China shot down a satellite?


Thats silly. The F22 program has been in the works for more then a decade. The Chinese already know all about it.

More likely this is an exercise designed to convince the new Democratic Congress not to reduce funding for F-22 purchases.


RE: Over budget
By SLI on 2/5/2007 7:21:01 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Thats silly. The F22 program has been in the works for more then a decade. The Chinese already know all about it.


I can tell you from personal experience this plane has been in development since (at least) 1989. ;-)


RE: Over budget
By jarman on 2/5/2007 12:15:09 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
More likely this is an exercise designed to convince the new Democratic Congress not to reduce funding for F-22 purchases.


You hit the nail on the head. Kudos pal.


RE: Over budget
By JimFear on 2/5/2007 7:50:13 AM , Rating: 1
The Red Dragon is sleeping ;)


RE: Over budget
By dare2savefreedom on 2/5/07, Rating: 0
RE: Over budget
By ss284 on 2/5/2007 10:57:24 PM , Rating: 2
And somehow this huge infantry is gonna cross the largest ocean on this planet? Brings a whole new meaning to fresh off the boat.


RE: Over budget
By PrinceGaz on 2/6/2007 3:23:51 AM , Rating: 2
China doesn't need to fight a military battle against the US because they are already winning the economic war. It is almost certainly the US which would need to cross the pacific in any military confrontation.


RE: Over budget
By Regs on 2/5/2007 3:24:01 AM , Rating: 2
I remember that. They couldn't fire their missles because the fighters closed in so fast.


RE: Over budget
By ralith on 2/5/2007 9:39:05 AM , Rating: 3
F-14's carried the AIM-54 Phoenix for long range AA. The tomahawk is a cruise missile.


RE: Over budget
By timmiser on 2/5/2007 5:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
Yep. Also, even though it is a relatively old a/a missile and now retired (since it was so large it could only be mounted on an F-14), it is still classified and the USN still won't admit the actual effective range of that missile although rumoured to be about 150 miles! That's about 5-6 times further than the AMRAAM's. The Phoenix was one big muther!


RE: Over budget
By alcalde on 2/5/2007 3:05:08 PM , Rating: 2
But times have changed since WWII and Korea. We're not going to be fighting massive battles against regular forces in the foreseeable future. Conflict short-of-war against irregular forces using unconvential tactics in urban environments is the present and will be the future.

Such situations do not call for massive dogfight battles.


RE: Over budget
By Samus on 2/6/2007 4:56:55 AM , Rating: 2
They F22 is excellent at taking out ABM's and LRM's as well as aircraft. It's payload can also be equips for anti-tank and anti-ship deployment.


RE: Over budget
By stromgald on 2/5/2007 12:53:09 AM , Rating: 2
The F-22 could achieve an average 120-1 kill ratio over it's life, but that doesn't mean that 200 is enough. In a full scale war against a significant enemy like China, Russia, or some of the European countries, 200 is a very low number. The JSF/F-35 is what's supposed to make up for the loss in numbers but probably won't in the end.

Then again, the likelihood of conflict against any of those nations is exteremely low.


RE: Over budget
By nomagic on 2/5/2007 2:09:23 AM , Rating: 3
Fighter planes can be built rather quickly when the situation demands so. I think it is more important to get more experienced pilots to feel comfortable with F-22 now. After all, training pilots takes more time than building fighter planes.


RE: Over budget
By tmarat on 2/5/07, Rating: -1
RE: Over budget
By gorobei on 2/5/2007 6:08:51 AM , Rating: 3
it was a f117 that was shot down. mostly due to the fact that its generation1 stealthtech was based on reflecting the radar away from the emmiter/receiver dish. the enemy simply waited until the 117 flew past and used another radar to light it up from an angle that the missile receiver could see it from.

the f22 and f35 use second gen stealth that work by absorbing radar energy. so the "light it up from behind" trick wont work.


RE: Over budget
By masher2 (blog) on 2/5/2007 9:19:15 AM , Rating: 2
> "it was a f117 that was shot down..."

Wasn't there some question over whether the F117 was even detected on radar or not? I seem to recall some evidence that it was simply hit with a lucky AA shot, and not a radar-guided SAM.


RE: Over budget
By BladeVenom on 2/5/2007 11:06:16 AM , Rating: 3
It was dropping a bomb when it got shot down. The bomb bay doors were open, negating it's stealth.


RE: Over budget
By beemercer on 2/5/2007 3:28:30 PM , Rating: 2
It was a combination of the open bomb bay doors and that the F-117 in question was also wet, and when the radar absorbent paint gets wet it loses some of it's ability to absorb radar.


RE: Over budget
By WhiteBoyFunk on 2/5/07, Rating: 0
RE: Over budget
By stromgald on 2/5/2007 7:06:56 PM , Rating: 2
Radar abosrbing paint is not "horse crap" as you put it. It's one of the main features of the F-22 and Su-47. Read up on stealth before you go mouthing off. I'm not sure if water affects radar absorbant paint, but it's effect is unlikely to significant IMO.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealth_technology#Ra...

You're right in that the F-117 wasn't shot down with bomb bay doors open. That was the tactic the Iraqis used in the first Gulf War. When the bomb bay doors were open, they shot up flak like crazy to try to clip/damage the F-117s.

The one that came down in Yugoslavia was targeted using a combination of visual sightings and multiple radar sources to help 'paint' the F-117. This greatly reduced the effectiveness of the F-117's faceted stealth.


RE: Over budget
By gorobei on 2/6/2007 8:25:41 AM , Rating: 2
they're right about the RAM(RadarAbsorbingMaterial). Just as certain materials convert UV radiation into heat, there are others that convert the radar EM into non-returnable bounce. the reason the F117 is the least stealthy is that the only RAM on it is the paint. It either ablates or abrrades off, and the plane has to be repainted on a regular schedule. (And rain does seriously affect it; why do you think weather radar is so effective?)

2nd gen stealth uses RAM and radar absorbing structures to avoid reflecting the radar back to the enemy. The leading edge of the B2 has tiny faceted funnel structures inside the leading edge to trap the radar energy. There are also materials that are radar transparent.

and on the F117 shootdown: it wasn't exactly a "lucky" shot. the political airspace restrictions at the time forced the US to fly in from the same direction every time. they knew where he was coming from and where he was going, so it was easy to setup the radar sources along the path to paint him. The airforce knew it was a bad idea but they didn't have much of a choice.


RE: Over budget
By tmarat on 2/5/2007 10:52:40 AM , Rating: 1
F117 must be made so that it reflects as less radio signals back and absorbs as much as it can. But frankly I don't believe a F117 is made so that it is invisible to radars from front and visible from back. I think that would be very stupid, to say the least. Any plane coming from behind would shoot it down. And in a battlefield stationery radar might happen to be located behind the plane.
I don't remember where but I read an article long time ago questioning all this stealth tech. Certainly it does achieve a low radar signature, but at a huge cost.


RE: Over budget
By stromgald on 2/5/2007 11:34:50 AM , Rating: 2
The F-117 shot down over Yugoslavia wasn't because of the bomb bay doors, it was because there were measures to counteract stealth technology. The Yugoslavian military used TV signals instead of normal radar to detect the F-117 and shoot it down. The UK and certain universities in the US have also developed stealth countering systems (one of which involves the separate emitters and receivers that I think a previous poster referred to). All these stealth countermeasures is one of the main reasons that the Russian Su-47 doesn't rely as much on stealth as US planes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stealth_aircraft#How_...


RE: Over budget
By alcalde on 2/5/2007 3:13:57 PM , Rating: 2
You're right about the likelihood of full-scale conflict against these countries. But in addition, remember that the kill ratio was achieved against F-15s, F-16s, F-18s. Russia isn't in shape to field massive numbers of anything at the moment (after repeated submarine missile launch failures one of their top folks stated that Russia's ability to defend its own borders was in doubt, let alone project force outward), and the majority of its airforce consists of older Migs. The bulk of China's airforce is also much less effective than the U.S. planes listed above. This leaves certain European countries. Here the ratio would apply with planes like the French Rafale, the UK/German/Spanish Eurofighter, the Swedish & Czech Gripen, and others.


RE: Over budget
By lewisc on 2/5/2007 5:25:29 PM , Rating: 2
Am I the only one (from Europe) wondering which European nation is lining up for a war with America? I know you were posing a hypothetical, but even so!


RE: Over budget
By bobm on 2/4/2007 11:34:17 PM , Rating: 3
One reason for the reduction in the number of aircraft ordered is in addition to the huge run up in cost the development of unmanned aircraft has advanced faster than expected and the F22 will serve as more of a transition force to tide the military over until UAV's enter service in number and to also demonstrate next generation technology which is being incorporated in UAV's. The cost overruns are disappointing and worrying but the next generation of aircraft for the military will be far more capable than the F22 without the risk to pilot lives and costs should be more manageable. And the fatigue problem you reference is not a design flaw but a manufacturing shortcoming that can be more easily corrected with tighter quality control.


RE: Over budget
By ADDAvenger on 2/4/2007 11:58:01 PM , Rating: 2
How do UAVs do in dogfights, isn't lag a problem? People curse satellite internet because its ping times are so high, I imagine there'd be the same problems with UAVs (ie over enemy territory where there are no land-based trancievers in range).


RE: Over budget
By stromgald on 2/5/07, Rating: -1
RE: Over budget
By saratoga on 2/5/2007 2:52:43 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
Lag isn't a significant problem because the signals sent and recieved are compressed and information is simplified to the bare essentials. It also helps that the military has much better bandwidth than you think.


Lag generally refers to latency, not bandwidth, so having lots of bandwidth does not make a large difference. Using compression tends to actually make it worse.

quote:
The reason satellite internet is so slow is because the US military restricts the frequencies used so that they can maintain much higher bandwidth for themselves. I think I read something about them releasing some rstricted frequencies back to the public a little while ago to help with satellite communications.


It has nothing to do with bandwidth. Sat is slow because you use a phone line to upload, or at best a very low power uplink transmitter. Then you have to do with the speed of light issue, which means your latency will always be horrible. Some systems have a 1+ second ping because of this. It doesn't matter if you have a 1GB/s downlink, with a 1 second ping, its going to feel slow.


RE: Over budget
By Araemo on 2/5/2007 9:15:10 AM , Rating: 4
You're all missing the point. Satellite usually = geosynchronous satellite.

Geosynchronous orbit is 35,786km above the surface of the earth.

Assuming your transmitter is at the equator, (35,786km from the satellite, best case scenario), your signal moving at the speed of light, the minimum one way delay(Base station to satellite to UAV/receiver) is ~.24 seconds.

Your 'ping' is a bare minimum of ~.48 seconds, or as is more normally listed: 480ms. That's significant lag to most FPS and flight sim players. ;P There is no way to reduce that short of putting the satellite in a lower orbit, or using direct-transmit rather than satellite-bounced communications. I find the latter far more likely on the battlefield.

If you move north or south from the equator, your physical straight line distance to the satellite only increases, so lag can never be better for a geosynchronous satellite.

To the guy who said its slow because you're uploading over dialup: You're only talking about consumer satellite broadband, and only some brands thereof. There are pure-satellite consumer broadband services, but they're overpriced and slow. ;)


RE: Over budget
By Dactyl on 2/5/2007 3:30:46 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
isn't lag a problem?
Only if the U.S.A.F. uses Yahoo! DSL.

Also, I heard they're equipping both the drones and ground stations with KillerNICs.

UAVs, for the next 10 years at the very least, will only use missiles and not cannons in air-to-air combat. The question is, how much autonomy can we give them (so they can think for themselves in terms of dodging/shooting with quick reflexes?). It would be nice if 1 computer operator could control a dozen combat UAVs, instead of flying each one like a video game.

I, for one, welcome our autonomous death machine overlords.


RE: Over budget
By The Sword 88 on 2/5/2007 12:00:40 AM , Rating: 2
UAV will never entirely replace pilots. A machine just cnat fly like a person can. Machines dotn ahve feelings or instincts or other thinsg a pilot needs.


RE: Over budget
By joust on 2/5/2007 12:13:19 AM , Rating: 3
Instinct and feelings are needed to stay alive. But when you're a drone (among 10,000 others) and survival is no longer vital, those no longer serve you.

Actually, the lag doesn't matter too much when you think about it. Just flood the area with thousands of drones. The 1 second delay might result in a couple getting killed, but so what? Your drone factory will just pump out another at a fraction of the cost of a manned aircraft (and pilot).

You also don't need a man in the loop at all times; the system could be one where the target is predesignated. Additionally, with computers getting better yearly, you can really outsource most control (such as flying) to the computer. In fact, that's what autopilot is.


RE: Over budget
By Felofasofa on 2/5/2007 12:56:07 AM , Rating: 2
Wrong, UAV's can pull g's and maneuvers that no pilot can without passing out. Even current planes like F16's can pull a lot higher g's than pilots can withstand. Point is people are the weak link, the future is with the little robot planes, and you can bet your sweet ass China's gonna make zillions of em. Watch out boys the end of "Pax Americana" is coming, here comes the "Empire of the Chin"


RE: Over budget
By stromgald on 2/5/07, Rating: 0
RE: Over budget
By cheetah2k on 2/5/2007 1:19:54 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
I doubt China has even close to the technology required to build a UAV. At least not one that can fight


Hang on, you're talking about the country where the majority of radio controlled tech is made?

Don't under-estimate the chinese mate. They have more borrowed tech than any other country in the world. They are also highly advanced in the design & manufacture of electronics.

I live in Hong Kong mate. You would be surprised by the stuff you can find here.


RE: Over budget
By saratoga on 2/5/2007 2:54:17 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
I doubt China has even close to the technology required to build a UAV. At least not one that can fight. For recon, they can probably do it.


Yeah they only build all our wireless devices. What do they know about wireless devices.


RE: Over budget
By stromgald on 2/5/2007 11:25:30 AM , Rating: 2
Um, do you people not read what I post? I said they could probably make recon UAVs, but not UCAVs.

They have the technology for sending a receiving signals, but that doesn't really give them anywhere close to the knowledge required to build a flight control system or anything "fly-by-wire". The computers and more specifically, the software onboard a UCAV is what will be the deciding factor.

Flight dynamics is another critical area they are lacking. China has almost zero experience in building aircraft. The vast majority of their aircraft have come from the Russians, US, or Europe. I highly doubt that they have the experience needed to build a advanced flight control system. At best, they could have a remote controlled business jet with missiles in the next 10 years. It's possible that the Russians sell them something, but I don't think the Russians will spend the money on a advanced UCAV and sell large amounts to China.


RE: Over budget
By ira176 on 2/5/07, Rating: 0
RE: Over budget
By dgingeri on 2/5/2007 1:25:40 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
The F-22 has gone over budget by a factor of four: the Air Force wanted to buy 700, but now will buy fewer than 200.


you also have to figure in that the project for these have been going on since I wans in high school. it's been almost 20 years is development. I still have the Pop-Sci magazine where I first heard about this project with the X-22 and the X-23, dated in 1989. Inflation alone covers most of the new cost of these planes.

Then also figure in the lower defense budgets of recent years compared to the 80's and 90's. in adjusted dollars, the military has less than half the money to spend that they did in 1990.

The air force really doesn't need many more of these planes. 200 will defend us just fine.


RE: Over budget
By obeseotron on 2/5/2007 2:36:35 PM , Rating: 3
Virtually every military project goes over budget, it's sorta the nature of the beast.

Step 1. Military wants new stuff, writes up lowball estimate for Congress.
Step 2. Military contractors promise to make new stuff at lower price, because they need the contract.
Step 3. Congress says OK, but only if a piece of the new thing is made in practically every district in the country.
Step 4. With project approved, actual development and testing begins, almost always far exceeding the estimated cost.
Step 5. Congress gets upset, but is unwilling to cancel a project that brings home pork to their district. Eventually they scale back original goals of the project.

Everyone gets something they want, the military gets new stuff, albiet not as much as they wanted. Contractor gets his contract and makes money, and Congress gets it's pork.


RE: Over budget
By Mclendo06 on 2/6/2007 12:28:52 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
The F-22 has gone over budget by a factor of four: the Air Force wanted to buy 700, but now will buy fewer than 200.


You just alluded to a major reason that the aircraft is so over budget. It isn't simply an overrun in cost per aircraft. The more you build, the less each one costs. When the Air Force says they want 700, then decides that they only want 200, the cost is going to go up by a lot because you still have to pay the development costs for the aircraft no matter how many you build. I'm not saying this is the only reason, and yes, the plane does cost more than it was supposed to - even if there were still 700 being ordered, but it is pretty safe to say that the cuts in production have a lot to do with the factor of four cost overrun you are talking about.


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