F-22 Raptor: Capabilities and Controversies
The 5th-generation F-22A Raptor fighter program has been the subject of fierce controversy, with advocates and detractors aplenty. On the one hand, the aircraft offers full stealth, revolutionary radar and sensor capabilities, dual air-air and air-ground SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) excellence, the ability to cruise above Mach 1 without afterburners, thrust-vectoring super-maneuverability… and a ridiculously lopsided kill record in exercises against the best American fighters. On the other hand, critics charged that it was too expensive, too limited, and cripples the USAF’s overall force structure.
This public-access DID Backgrounder offers a profile of the USAF’s most advanced fighter, and covers both sides of the F-22 Raptor’s controversies in the USA and abroad. A separate article tracks continuing maintenance and fleet upgrade programs, contracts, and timely news.
The F-22 Raptor: Key Capabilities
At the same time, the Raptor has done extremely well in exercises against F-15s, with reported kill ratios of up to 108:0 during Exercise Northern Edge 2006. While it’s always wise to take such figures with a grain of salt until one has reviewed the exercise setup and conditions in full, the raw number is impressive. During the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, F-15s matched up against far less sophisticated F-5s generally had kill ratios of about 8:1, which dropped close to parity when greatly outnumbered. That hasn’t happened with the F-22, even when paired against the USA’s most advanced current fighters. Advocates contend that the F-22’s combination of stealth, vectored thrust, range, advanced surveillance electronics with potential electronic warfare applications, and sustained supersonic flight (aka “supercruise”) arguably place it in a class by itself among the world’s combat aircraft. Key advantages include:
Embedded Sensors + Sensor Fusion: The goal is to have the pilot focus on dealing with the enemy, rather than dealing with the aircraft. Right now, fighters have multiple sensors and information-sharing links, shown on multiple displays that often require button pressing to switch back and forth. The F-22’s central integrated processor (CIP) offers the equivalent of 2 Cray supercomputers, used for “sensor fusion” that aims to put all of the information the plane is gathering into one simple display. Furthermore, a radical design departure embeds passive sensors for various wavelengths all around the plane’s structure. This greatly improves first detection ability, even with its radar off; and the combination with sensor fusion means that F-22 pilots are almost certain to know where their opponents are, long before the reverse is true.
The F-35 shares this approach. It uses even more modern internal electronics, and a wider array of sensors. Including infrared and TV sensors that can be used to target both aerial and ground foes at the same level as top-end targeting pods and air-to-air IRST (Infra-Red Search and Track) systems.
All-Aspect Stealth: The F-22A offers full stealth, unlike the F-35 which has a very good radar profile from the front, a less stealthy profile from the sides, and a least stealthy profile from the rear quarter. Note that stealth is not invisibility. It merely shortens the range at which an aircraft can be detected by opponents on the ground or in the air, and makes radar lock for engagements harder to achieve and to keep. The F-22’s stealth level shortens those ranges considerably from all enemy positions, even those that use new VHF radars. See this surprising review from Red Flag “Colonial Flag” 2007, as an Australian exchange pilot offers his impressions:
“I can’t see the [expletive deleted] thing,” said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Chappell, exchange F-15 pilot in the 65th Aggressor Squadron. “It won’t let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me.”
Note that an EA-18G aircraft has managed a radar-guided missile kill on an F-22 in combat exercises, so it can be done. Again, stealth isn’t invisibility. What it can do, is make the F-22 a very slippery opponent, able to engage or disengage from combat much more easily than previous radar-age fighters. That’s especially important during attacks against the most sophisticated anti-aircraft missile sites, enemy AWACS aircraft, and other difficult targets. Those high-end scenarios would become problematic in a plane that had position-dependent vulnerabilities on the way in, or became a much bigger target when it’s flying away.
Agile-beam AESA Radar: Turning on a radar can be like turning on a flashlight in a dark field – it can be seen farther than the holder can see with it. Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-77 radar uses hard-to-detect “agile frequency” beams that are very hard for enemies to “see”. Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars are becoming more common on fighters, due to their improved reliability, power, and flexibility; F-15s are being retrofitted, and the F-35 will carry the smaller but similar AN/APG-81. Future AESA capabilities may also include electronic warfare and high-bandwidth communications.
Supercruise: The ability to fly above Mach 1 without using afterburners. Most fighters stay below Mach 1 for the vast majority of their service lives – including in combat – because of how much fuel is consumed. The Raptor’s 2 Pratt & Whitney F119 engines offer 35,000 pounds of thrust each, giving F-22s the ability to cruise at Mach 1.5+ without using fuel-guzzling afterburners.
Advantages include missiles and bombs that fly farther when launched at supersonic speeds, longer range combat air patrols with more time spent over target, the ability to engage and disengage more easily against non-supercruising enemy fighters, and less time for enemies around high-value or highly-defended targets to spot an incoming F-22. When combined with the F-22’s stealth and stretched missile ranges, it becomes especially hard for enemies to protect high value aerial assets like AWACS planes and aerial tankers.
To date, the F-22 is the only operational aircraft capable of consistent supercruise while carrying a full load of weapons. The Eurofighter Typhoon comes closest, performing at Mach 1.2 when flying at 40,000 feet, and armed with just 4 underbody MRAAMs and 2 wingtip SRAAM missiles. As fighters like the Russo-Indian T50/PAK-FA enter service, and 4+ generation fighters get major updates, more fighters may become capable of tactical supercruise.
Note that the F-35 Lightning II will not supercruise, and design and airflow limitations mean that this won’t change. Lockheed Martin says the F-35 is designed for better transonic acceleration that current top-line fighters, but test results seem to belie that, even as transonic sustainability remains the key tactical question for rapid disengagement.
Super-maneuverability: The F119 engines can direct their thrust 20 degrees up or down using movable nozzles, an ability called thrust vectoring. That changes the plane’s aerodynamic limitations, allowing tighter and more sustained high-g turns, stall maneuvers that don’t stall the plane, and the ability to suddenly point the plane onto targets, in ways that other aircraft find hard to match or predict. German Eurofighter Typhoon pilots have come away from exercises expressing confidence in their ability to maneuver with the Raptor in close “knife-fights”, so the F-22 isn’t unbeatable. Having said that, exercises also show that its radar and infrared signature reduction continue to complicate opponents’ lives up close, to the point of denying missile locks that would work on other aircraft.
The Eurofighter is widely praised for its handling, power, maneuverability, and ergonomics, so the Luftwaffe’s success isn’t a complete surprise. Other aircraft are emerging to match its capabilities, however, as demonstrated by Britain’s Indra Dhanush exercises with India. At present, the Russian SU-30MKA/I/M aircraft bought by Algeria, India and Malaysia offer canard triplane designs with full 360-degree thrust vectoring nozzles (TVN), and have earned respect for their aerial capabilities. Other SU-30 family variants like the SU-35, and UAC’s new MiG-35, use similar TVN technology, as will Russia’s in-development PAK-FA stealth fighter. Eurofighter GmbH is researching and promoting a thrust-vectoring retrofit option of their own, but hasn’t even tested one yet.
Note that the USA F-35 Lightning II won’t offer combat thrust vectoring, relying instead on electronics that try to give the plane 360 degree targeting via embedded EO DAS sensors and datalinked missiles.
Intimidation: If the enemy won’t show up, or has to forego targets, you win before fighting even begins. A country trying to protect high-value assets like key installations, aerial tankers, or AWACS aircraft gains a considerable advantage if any strike against these valuable targets risks running into a superior defender who cannot be seen beforehand. The attacker must either risk failure in some attacks, or concentrate each attack and end up avoiding some targets. All before combat is even joined.
On a larger scale, the experience of the Iran-Iraq war is illustrative, and relevant. The Iranian F-14 Tomcats’ ultra long-range AN/AWG-9 radars, and missiles that included the AIM-54 Phoenix, meant that Iraqi planes would just start blowing up – without warning, and without the ability to see their “invisible” attacker. Losses were not extreme, but Farzad and Bishop’s research notes that once the USA started passing its own radar data to the Iraqis, the IqAF often stood down entire sectors when they were told that Iranian F-14 Tomcats were present.
Can the F-22A Raptor’s total package perform well enough to offer that kind of intimidation?
F-22 pilot Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver responded to charges of sub-standard F-22 performance in a June 13/06 Virginian-Pilot article, and illustrated a number of the points above:
“In the Raptor, “I can outmaneuver an F-16, F-15, F-18. It doesn’t matter…” [and] the F-22’s radar works in a way that allows him to use it without revealing himself. Though its exact workings are classified, the F-22 is known to emit radar signals in extremely short bursts over multiple frequencies.
“Even if you detect me, you’re not going to know where I am a second from now,” said Joe Quimb, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin, the Raptor’s principal builder.
Tolliver said that radar and other sensors, along with information fed into the Raptor’s computers from ground-based radars and other planes, gives F-22 pilots an exceptional, unified view of potential threats and targets aloft and on the ground… “It’s amazing the information you have at your fingertips,” Tolliver said. In no-holds-barred mock battles with F-15s, F-16s and the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornets, he and other Raptor pilots generally “destroy” their adversaries before those foes even realize they’re around…”
That was proven in the June 2006 Northern Edge exercise, when even E-2C and E-3 AWACS aircraft reportedly weren’t much help against the F-22. After their missiles were fired, the F-22’s active & passive sensor capabilities functioned as the Raptor’s last weapon. Northern Edge 2006’s Raptors remained in the fight, flying as stealthy forward air controllers and guiding their colleagues to enemies sitting behind mountains and other “Blue Force” AWACS blind spots. When the AIM-120D AMRAAM missile enters wider service, F-22s will also have the option of actively guiding missiles fired by other aircraft.
Many of these capabilities also work together when facing top-end anti-aircraft systems on the ground.
Russian radar and missile systems like the SA-20 and S-400 are extending their ranges to hundreds of kilometers, and their missile performance makes it extremely dangerous for non-stealth aircraft to challenge that perimeter. That response range will even make them dangerous to stealthy aircraft, as their VHF radars improve and widen the detection distance for even reduced radar profiles. Fortunately, their positions are more fixed than an aerial opponent’s. All-aspect stealth helps shorten the F-22’s detection range from any angle, which can create gaps in enemy radar coverage, and is especially useful when the Raptor is trying to leave the danger zone. A hyperspectral suite of embedded sensors helps the aircraft map and exploit coverage gaps in real time, as sensor fusion displays the known safe and danger zones. Supercruise reduces detection times further, and shortens any time inadvertently spent in a danger zone. The hope is that these measures will allow the Raptor to get close enough to launch its own unpowered weapons first. An AN/APG-77 radar with future software upgrades may even be able to provide final-stage jamming of enemy radars.
The F-35 lacks all-aspect stealth, offering less from the side and even less from the rear. That has caused a number of observers to question its survivability, as the design increases both the danger of being surprised by an enemy radar in an unexpected place, and the danger level when trying to leave any area that’s still defended. The F-35 also lacks supercruise, which keeps it in the danger zone for longer period of time. On the other side of the equation, the anti-aircraft systems it was designed to beat have improved a great deal since the F-35 JSF’s major shape and design were frozen as “good enough.” In its favor, the F-35 has the best set of embedded sensors and sensor fusion of any fighter, and it will carry a wider range of weapons internally, including strike missiles with a longer reach. It will also be built for several nations, in numbers that make investments in new weapons and upgrades more likely.
The question is whether its first 2 fundamental limitations in stealth and supercruise end up making the F-35’s advantages over the F-22 irrelevant, especially as enemy systems and aircraft continue to improve. If so, the F-22A fleet will be expected to take up that slack.
Raptor, Redux: Upgrading the Fleet
Even though the F-22 is going out of production, the program itself will continue to attract spending on maintenance, spares, and upgrades. The F-22A began as a single-step program, with no need for significant future modernization. Reality intervened, and the USAF came up with a $5.4 billion modernization plan in 2004. As of December 2011, the current total estimated cost of F-22A modernization had more than doubled, to $11.7 billion (+117%). Around $6.2 billion remained to be spent: $1.3 billion for Increment 3.2B, $3.6 billion to maintain modernization and support infrastructure, and $1.3 billion to complete RAMMP design-for-maintenance improvements and structural repairs.
Right now, the USAF operates mostly Block-20 aircraft. The Block 10s are used for training at Tyndall AFB. The Block 20s, produced from 2007 on, use “Increment 2” hardware and software. That lets them launch GPS-guided JDAM bombs at supersonic speeds, and improves performance with the AIM-120C AMRAAM air-air missile. Increment 2 also helped fix some previous operations and maintenance issues.
Under the Common Configuration program, the F-22A Block 10s were retrofitted to Block 20/ Increment 2 status, but retain the original core processor. They could be used operationally as air superiority planes, but present plans call for them to remain as training and demonstration platforms. The USAF intends to retain 36 aircraft in this configuration.
As of 2012, the USAF intends to upgrade 143 aircraft with the full complement of modernized Block 35/ Increment 3 capabilities by FY 2020. The Raptor’s problem is that its Increment 3 set keeps changing, with items being added and subtracted while cost climbs, and the schedule lengthens.
Increment 3.1 began development in 2006, and finally reached OpEval in January 2011. It finished testing in November 2011, and fielding is taking place from July 2011 (via USAF waivers) through 2016. Upgrades include new ground-looking synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modes for the AN/APG-77, some electronic attack capability, geo-location of detected electro-magnetic emitters, and initial integration with the GPS-guided GBU-39 Small-Diameter Bomb (SDB-I). That last change expands the F-22’s ground attack arsenal from 1 JDAM per bay to 4 SDB-Is, though a pilot will only be able to release 2 weapons at a time.
Testing shows that this upgrade has also improved the F-22’s Mean Time Between Critical Failure rates. Increment 3.1 is being fielded over FY 2011 – 2016.
Increment 3.2 is still being fielded and developed, after rising costs forced a split into a 3.2A phase and 3.2B phase. These capabilities, their timelines, and possible upgrades beyond 3.2 are detailed in DID’s program coverage: “The F-22 Raptor: Program & Events.”
F-22: Criticisms & Controversies
CDI Combat Critique: Not everyone is convinced. The left-wing CDI believes the F-22’s performance will be subpar, though having seen their circulated presentations, DID believes their arguments as presented contain a number of important holes as well as some valid points. F-16 program analyst Pierre Sprey and author James Stevenson argued that the F-22’s fuel:weight ratio, wing loading, and acceleration are inferior to existing fighters. They believe that peacetime exercises are designed with predetermined outcomes in mind and can’t be relied on, and question the lethality of air-air missiles based on their war record. Sprey and Stevenson also question the F-22’s stealth on the grounds that its own radar will give it away when used, adding that the unreliability of IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) has generally meant that combats are fought at close ranges where stealth is largely negated. They contend that numbers, acceleration, fast changes in energy state, and a 360 degree cockpit view count for more in such situations – and find the F-22 wanting on all counts.
Some caveats are in order regarding these criticisms. The APG-77 radar’s “agile beam” technology appears to negate Sprey and Stevenson’s stealth criticisms for now, as does the F-22’s ability to use passive sensors. Meanwhile, thrust vectoring and supercruise create energy state options that mere wing loading and acceleration figures don’t measure. On the missile front, they are correct that Rules of Engagement have made beyond-visual range engagements the exception rather than the rule in actual combat. The problem is that the war record of air-air missiles is almost exclusively concentrated in the 1960s-1980s, when available technologies almost forced those rules. Wariness about missile-related promises is justified by past experience, and by the ever-evolving state of countermeasures, but good analysis must also accept that technology can change – and has.
Limited Weapon Set: Qualified weapons for the F-22 are limited: short-range AIM-9 Sidewinder and medium range AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, and the JDAM family of bombs including the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb glide weapon. An F-22 can carry up to 8 GBU-39s, or 2 GBU-32 JDAMs.
Key ground-looking radar modes are just being integrated, and new weapons like the GBU-54 laser JDAM and GBU-53 Small Diameter Bomb II will add independent attack capability against moving targets. Even so, None of its internally-carried strike weapons are powered, and radar-killing missiles like the AGM-88 HARM/AARGM aren’t even on the drawing board as options. Important additions like wider field side-looking radar arrays and helmet-mounted sights will not appear until and unless upgrades are funded beyond Increment 3.2.
Low Usefulness in “Small Wars”: The F-22 lacks key systems for engaging the kind of small, fleeting targets that characterize modern counter-insurgency warfare. Its ground-looking SAR radar mode and GPS-guided weapons offer some options, but it lacks the built-in optics and laser targeting possessed by attack helicopters, UAVs, and the F-35.
Even with some moving target capability, the question is whether F-22 deployments make sense in Small Wars scenarios. The longer-term question is whether deploying any of America’s future F-22/F-35 stealth fighters makes sense in “small wars” scenarios, given their high purchase costs, high operating costs, and low endurance compared to UAVs. Even deployment of previous-generation fighters has been open to legitimate question, given cheaper and more effective manned fighter options like A-10Cs and EMB-314 Super Tucanos.
Maintenance & Readiness: As operational experience has built up, the F-22’s maintenance and operational costs have come under fire. The most celebrated instance involved a July 2009 Washington Post story that gave various details, followed by reports from the USAF that some of the Post’s statistics and allegations were untrue.
Official USAF responses say that maintenance and readiness targets must be met only when the aircraft reaches 1000,000 flight hours, but adds that from 2004 – 2009, F-22 readiness improved from 62% to 70%, while mean time between maintenance rose to 3.22 hours in Lot 6 (FY 2007) aircraft, which is better than the KPP (Key Performance Parameter) goal of 3 hours. Direct maintenance man-hours per flying hour dropped from 18.1 in 2008 to 10.46 in 2009, which is better than the target rate of 12 hours. According to the Washington Post, however:
“The Air Force says the F-22 cost $44,259 per flying hour in 2008; the Office of the Secretary of Defense said the figure was $49,808. The F-15, the F-22’s predecessor, has a fleet average cost of $30,818.”
The USAF responds that USAF data shows that F-22 flight hour costs include base standup and other one-time deployment costs, which the F-15 no longer needs. The USAF says that variable cost per flying hour is a better comparison, and 2008 figures were $19,750 for the F-22 and $17,465 for the F-15. Of course, that’s still higher, and the Raptor program had promised flying hour costs below the F-15.
That reality is not surprising. The F-22’s stealth coatings and tapes are part of this equation, something that has been true for all stealth aircraft to date, and may yet affect the F-35 program as well. Even without the stealth equation, however, every new American fighter for the past several decades has promised lower maintenance costs and higher availability rates than its predecessors – and failed to deliver. In practice, rising complexity means costs are consistently higher, and availability rates consistently lower. That lack of readiness makes the problem of smaller fighter stocks worse, creating an even deeper reduction in fielded numbers. On which topic…
Numbers: Sprey and Stevenson’s sharpest criticism notes that the F-22’s small production run of under 200 planes make it the Me-262 Sturmvogel of its time. The Me-262 was the world’s first production jet fighter, with performance that could dominate any allied propeller plane. Yet the 200 or so Me-262s produced were swept from the World War 2 skies, by 2,000+ P-51 Mustangs, P-47 Thunderbolts, etc. Subsequent articles from CDI also address issues of pilot training given the pilots’ limited flight hours, and actual flyaway costs per plane which they believe to be between $180-215 million.
Low production numbers and no exports also create a future investment dilemma, by limiting the overall force’s return from investing in new F-22 capabilities, and creating a single-buyer bottleneck for any upgrade programs.
The RAND Corporation’s famous “Pacific Vision 08” study did echo Sprey and Stevenson, and also noted limitations on rational expectations for the performance of air-air missiles. That has implications for the ability of a small force to beat a large one, and its most telling point also traces back to the numbers equation. RAND’s Taiwan Strait scenario assumed perfect combat defense by the F-22s, and 100% kill ratios for every missile an F-22 launched. RAND itself acknowledged the assumptions as as wildly unrealistic, but used them to make their central point: every F-22 still died, due to their limited numbers. The available Raptors on station ran out of missiles before the Chinese ran out of planes, whereupon the Chinese fighters simply shot down the aerial tankers that the F-22s needed, preventing the F-22s’ safe return to Guam. Zai jian.
On a brighter note, the 2006 Northern Edge gambit of using F-22s as “bird dogs” once their missiles were gone offers one potential solution to this dilemma. The flip side is that less stealthy aircraft will need to be equipped with long range air-air missiles, in order to take full advantage.
Beyond this summary, links to in-depth articles and research favoring or opposing the F-22 can be found in the Additional Readings section, below.
Additional Readings & Sources
The F-22 Raptor: Program & Events steps beyond this background, covering the F-22 program since 2005, expected and potential fleet upgrades, and ongoing contracts and support efforts. Production may have stopped, but fleet upgrades and maintenance remain multi-billion dollar efforts.
Background: The F-22
- USAF Fact Sheets – F-22 Raptor.
- Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
- Air Force Technology – F-22A Raptor Advanced Tactical Fighter Aircraft, USA
- US Air Force Link – F-22A mini-site. Includes articles, photos, background information. Good idea, but ended in 2008.
- UTC Pratt & Whitney – F119 Engine. Vectored-thrust jet engine.
- Global Security – F-22 Avionics
- DID (Feb 7/06) – EDO’s AVEL Missile Ejection System: Extending the Raptor’s Claws. Covers the development of an important F-22 sub-system, which was a success by any project measure. Despite AVEL’s performance, Pierre Sprey et. al. make a plausible argument that the split-second nature of air combat may make even the seconds of opening and launch time created by the stealth-enhancing weapons bays a problem.
- DID (Dec 15/05) – Elec Tricks: Turning AESA Radars Into Broadband Comlinks. The F-22’s large AESA radar may have an important capability that it’s builders hadn’t suspected. If so, the Raptor’s ability to securely share information with other AESA-equipped planes like the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and some F-15s could rise by several orders of magnitude.
Background: Official Reports
- US Government Accountability Office (May 2/12, #GAO-12-447) – F-22A Modernization Program Faces Cost, Technical, and Sustainment Risks.
- US Government Accountability Office (Dec 16/10, #GAO-11-171R) – Defense Management: DOD Needs to Monitor and Assess Corrective Actions Resulting from Its Corrosion Study of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It’s actually about the F-22’s corrosion problems, for the most part.
- US Congressional Research Service (July 16/09) – Air Force F-22 Fighter Program: Background and Issues for Congress. Includes discussion of foreign sales, upgrade plans.
- RAND Pacific View 2008 briefing – Air Combat: Past, Present & Future. This analysis uses a hypothetical “F-22s over Taiwan” scenario and historical data to look at the core assumptions underlying the USA’s fighter doctrine of “stealth + beyond visual range engagement” as the keys to victory. It concluded that numbers still mattered, and that the “Lanchester Square” principle still applied. It is reported that one of its key analysts was fired in retaliation for its conclusions, once they became public.
- US Government Accountability Office releases (April 2/07, #GAO-07-415) – ‘Tactical Aircraft: DOD Needs a Joint and Integrated Investment Strategy’. Includes a number of details re: the F-22A program, including the issue of cracking near the tail.
- RAND Project Air Force (2005) – The Challenges of Developing New Weapon Systems: Lessons Learned from the F/A-22 and F/A-18E/F
- United States Government Accountability Office (March 3/05, #GAO-05-390T) – Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives: Status of the F/A-22 and JSF Acquisition Programs and Implications for Tactical Aircraft Modernization. “Significant changes in the F/A-22 program have severely weakened its original business case…”
Background: F-22 Program
- DID Spotlight – F-22 Raptors to Japan? The Japanese, Australia, Israel, and South Korea all lobbied at one time or another for an “F-22EX”. Exports were prohibited right to the end of the program, and Japan ended up buying F-35As.
- DID Spotlight – The Australian Debate: Abandon F-35, Buy F-22s?. The opposition Labor party favored a request for F-22s over the previous government’s purchase of 24 F/A-18F Block II Super Hornets, and question the proposed timing and numbers for the proposed F-35. DID compiles the various arguments and briefings over time, pro and con, from the politicians, DoD, civilian defense experts, the media, et. al.
- Aviation Week (Feb 8/09) – F-22 Design Shows More Than Expected [dead link]. Desired radar signature from certain critical angles is -40 dBsm., supercruise at Mach 1.78 rather than Mach 1.5, better acceleration, operation from about 65,000 feet using afterburner, 5% greater range from its APG-77 AESA radar.
- DID (Oct 24/06) – Supersonic SIGINT: Will F-35, F-22 Also Play EW Role? The F-22’s abilities in this area had been kept under wraps, but emerged as a result of budget lobbying. The F-22 may have latent electronic warfare capabilities out of the box that rival dedicated aircraft like the EA-6B Prowler, and strong eavesdropping and scanning capabilities.
- Aviation Week (Oct 20/06) – F-22 Maintainers Focus More On Avionics, Less On Engines [dead link]. Good history to date of F-22 maintenance benefits and issues, notes avionics as 70% of the non-stealth maintenance workload.
- DID (Dec 6/05) – $96.7M for Theory of Constraints & 6-Sigma Support in US Naval Aviation. What is Theory of Constraints, and why is it so powerful? DID explains, and notes the method’s use as part of the F-22 Raptor program, via Critical Chain project management.
- DID (Oct 18/05) – RAND PAF: Lessons Learned from the F/A-22 and F/A-18 Super Hornet Programs.
- MIT Lean Aerospace Initiative (March 23/05) – Cost Reduction Task Force Key to Raptor Affordability [HTML Google cache | PDF format, 8.6 MB]
- US Air War College, Maxwell AFB (June 2003, Paper #30) – The Air Superiority Fighter and Defense Transformation: Why DOD Requirements Demand the F/A-22 Raptor
- Air University School Of Advanced Airpower Studies, Maxwell AFB (June 2000) – U.S. Military Aircraft For Sale: Crafting an F-22 Export Policy [PDF format]. Excellent discussion of the F-22’s capabilities, as well as potential export issues and the considerations that will influence US policymakers.
- Crosstalk Journal of Defense Software Engineering, via WayBack (May 2000) – F-22 Software Risk Reduction. The plane’s software is fundamentally based on the VAX system; the article explains why, and notes the modernization challenge ahead.
- Northrop-Grumman Analysis Center (April 2000) – Analogues of Stealth [PDF]. This paper briefly explores antisubmarine warfare, examines the development and fielding of low-observable “stealth” aircraft and emerging countermeasures, and suggests analogues between past experience with stealthy platforms and countermeasures in the sea and the future of stealthy platforms in the air.
- Australian Aviation (1999) – Deedle, Deedle, Deedle, BANG! The Paradigm Shift in Air Superiority. Discusses the evolution of missiles, how this has affected aircraft design, and the significance of the F-22’s capabilities against aerial and ground targets.
- Lockheed Martin Code One Magazine (April 1998) – F-22 Design Evolution. This wasn’t even the end of that evolution, merely the end of the first stage that eliminated the Northrop / General Dynamics’ F-23 Black Widow II/ Grey Ghost.
- YouTube – Northrop YF-23 Black Widow II. Very good documentary about the competing YF-23. The YF-23 was noticeably faster and stealthier than the YF-22, but less maneuverable. The Navy reportedly thought it was also less amenable to modification for carrier use, though the NATF program was canceled shortly thereafter in 1991.
News & Views
- DID – Aging F-15s: Ripples Hitting the F-22, F-35 Programs. The unexpected, months-long grounding of the USA’s F-15 A-D Eagle fleet triggered some rethinks, and delayed the planned end of F-22 production.
- WIRED Danger Room (July 30/12) – How to Defeat the Air Force’s Powerful Stealth Fighter (Updated). German Eurofighters come away from an exercise with confidence. Maj. Marc Gruene: “As soon as you get to the merge… the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22”. Of course, you do have to make it to a merge, against a fighter the Eurofighter’s radar wouldn’t see at range. Still, an interesting data point.
- Air Power Australia (Feb 15/10) – Assessing the Sukhoi PAK-FA. Russia’s 5th-generation plane. “While the failure to account for the imminent arrival of this design in United States TACAIR force structure planning qualifies the PAK-FA as a “known capability surprise”, the important advances in PAK-FA aerodynamic, kinematic and low observables design also qualify it as a “surprising capability surprise”.
- Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, via WayBack (July 31/09) – What Happened to the F-22? “…successful defense programs require three pillars: “the service that wants and will advocate for the program, a contractor for whom the program is major business, and members of Congress”…”
- The Moderate Voice, via WayBack (Sept 26/09) – The Demise of the F-22 Raptor: The Story Behind the Story. Includes an excerpt from Fred Kaplan’s Sept 19/09 Newsweek article, as well as a number of other relevant links.
- Heritage Foundation, via WayBack (July 13/09) – Congress Should Support the Development of an Allied Variant of the F-22A
- Heritage Foundation, via WayBack (July 13/09) – US Air Force Fifth-Generation Fighter: The F-22A Raptor Requirements Retreat
- Air Force Association (July 13/09) – The F-22, A Bagel and a Smear“.
- Sen Orrin Hatch [R-UT] (July 9/09) – Issues & Legislation: F-22 Raptor. Includes F-22 Assertions and Facts [PDF], and a formal Air Force Rebuttal [PDF] to the Washington Post’s article.
- Washingtion Post (July 7/09) – Premier U.S. Fighter Jet Has Major Shortcomings. It alleges failure to meet key performance parameters, spiraling maintenance and operations costs, and failures of the plane’s stealth coatings in conditions like rain.
- Defense Review, via WayBack (May 29/09) – F-22 Raptor Program Cancellation: Will we learn from it? Can the USA re-learn how to field new aircraft designs in 5 years, from concept to combat?
- The Atlantic, via WayBack (March 2009) – Mark Bowden’s The Last Ace.
- Air Force Association Magazine, via WayBack (January 2009) – The John Young View. Discusses the F-22 in particular, and other programs as well. Also relates to the Nov 20/08 DWG transcript.
- US DoD (Nov 26/08) – John Young DWG transcript: EPX, CSAR-X, F-22. John Young, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition technology and logistics, speaks to the Defense Writer’s Group. Full DWG Transcript [PDF] | Partial transcript at The DEW Line.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Jan 27/08) – The F-22: expensive, irrelevant and counterproductive [dead link]. Here’s a similar op-ed from the trio on Defense Tech: Fighter Mafia Alumns on the Defense Budget.
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram op/ed (Jan 27/08) – F-22 is still what the U.S. needs [dead link].
- Lexington Institute (Oct 30/07) – Policymakers Suppress Expert Findings on Future Fighter. The think-tank charges that this is so because all 3 studies found a need for more than 183 F-22s.
- February 2007 Exercise Red (Colonial) Flag results (Feb 21/07) – USAF: Raptors wield ‘unfair’ advantage at Red Flag
- US AFA, Air Force Magazine, via WayBack (February 2007) – The Raptor in the Real World. Talks about Exercise Northern Edge, among other topics.
- DID (Aug 21/06) – David Axe’s F-22 Series: Raptor, or Turkey? He talks to a number of people involved with the program during this 4-part series, while looking at the associated controversies involving the aircraft.
- DID (Aug 7/06) – GKN Buys Stellex to Position Itself in Titanium. The article explains titanium’s importance to new civil and military aircraft. Titanium prices are a major component of the F-22’s costs.
- USAF (Aug 4/06) – Tyndall spearheads F-22 fighter tactics integration. It’s a bit different when you fly a stealth fighter; the rest of the force has to work with you in ways that don’t blow your cover.
- USAF (June 23/06) – F-22 excels at establishing air dominance. Includes Northern Edge 2006 exercise takeaways, and the $134 million flyaway cost figure for additional F-22s.
- The Virginian-Pilot, via WayBack (June 13/06) – Air Force jet funding on the line with Senate vote. Looks at the F-22’s funding profile, and also offers a god back-and-forth between the performance points made in Pierre Sprey & James Stevenson’s CDI briefing (see Apr 19/05 entry) and F-22A pilot Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver.
- USAF (June 16/06) Exercise highlights Raptor synergy, joint capabilities. Exercise Northern Edge 2006.
- DID (Jan 12/06) – US Plans to Retire B-52s, C-21s, F-117 & U-2 for more F-22s.
- Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University (April 19/05) – The F-22 Raptor is said to be invisible…until it isn’t. Covers the CDI event that featured Pierre Sprey’s and Jim Stevenson’s presentations re: the F-22. The file sizes of their Power Point presentations precludes making them available via DID, unless their size can be reduced or they are hosted at CDI (which they presently are not). See also their accompanying F-22 fact sheet.