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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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Take off the blinders
By Maasracer on 2/6/2007 10:53:56 AM , Rating: 2
I love how some people (both pro and con) think of fighter jets like it's 1-on-1 only, like it's tennis or Greco-Roman wrestling. You have to think about ALL the players in a battle/war and the playing field itself.

The US Air Force isn't just 2000 fighters. It's also 600 aerial tankers, 150 dedicated bombers, and a bunch of radar and comm aircraft like the Sentrys and JStars. The AF gets help from a bunch of satellites that provide intel and comm. Don't forget that the US Navy has it's own air force that's better than all others save a few nations. The Navy also provides an impressive SAM capability with the Aegis combat system. Good luck to some poor stray SU30 that strays anywhere near a Naval Strike Group. And speaking of SAMs...

The USAF, I'd imagine, is more concerned about an adversary's radar/SAM network than whether they're flying 30-yr old Mirages or spankin new thrust-vectoring SU30s. So this whole jet vs jet argument is garbage. Top Gun was a MOVIE ! ! !




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