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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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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.


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