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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 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_...


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