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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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By AlmostExAMD on 2/5/2007 4:27:24 AM , Rating: 2
Speaking of shooting down Satellites, Wow China shot down a satellite, Hahahaha
Only 20+ years too late as both Russia and U.S.A. tested Anti-Satellite technology in the 80's! U.S. shot down one of it's own in 1985, Both countries stopped because of concern from falling debris!
As for only 200 F22's, THAT IS A LOT of firepower, Don't underestimate the capabilities that one fighter/bomber can do on it's own, They pack enough juice to wipe out a small city!
Also it would not surprise me if America has seen the light of day and realises that unmanned aircraft is the future, The only limiting factor of modern fighters IS THE PILOT not being able to handle the high G's, Unmanned craft would push that limit way beyond what is humanly possible!

RE: F22's
By Dribble on 2/5/2007 5:06:55 AM , Rating: 2
So America threatens china, china shoots down $100,000,000,000 worth of us satellites with a few cheap missiles. Obviously I doubt china ever would - but Iran could also develop this tech pretty easily and just might....

As for the F22 - great plane, but I bet in the real world with *tweaked* radars they aren't invisible any longer, and when that just makes them stupidly expensive for what they are.

RE: F22's
By JimFear on 2/5/2007 7:57:51 AM , Rating: 2
I thought they used some kind of laser to blast it rather than a conventional missile?

RE: F22's
By mino on 2/5/2007 8:45:24 PM , Rating: 2
Lasers are expensive, therefore US plans to use them.
Missiles alre el-cheapo, therefore the chinese will use them...

Simple as that.

Someone remmemer that joke with US spending milions to invent space-pen while russians using pencils?


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