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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 stromgald on 2/5/2007 1:11:47 AM , Rating: 0
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.

Although UAVs could theoretically pull more g's and do more maneuvers than current aircraft, that's not likely to happen because there's no point to doing so. Between electronic countermeasures, stealth coatings, and speed, it is extremely difficult to shoot down any American made fighter designed in the last decades. If you have to resort to pulling extreme g's and dogfighting in a UAV, you might as well let the thing get shot down. I say this because current UCAVs being designed can't handle many more g's than what a F-16 can. It'll just rip apart structurally.

The main reason for switching to UAVs is to keep soldiers out of harms way and to carry more weapons, fuel, radars, etc. It takes alot of room and equipment to keep a person happy and healthy at 40,000 ft. for several hours.

RE: Over budget
By cheetah2k on 2/5/2007 1:19:54 AM , Rating: 5
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
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
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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