F-22 RAPTOR secrets revealed
F/A-22 Secrets Revealed
By David A. Fulghum
With long-term military budget cuts looming once again, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin are finally talking about some of the F/A-22 Raptor's closely held secrets that they hope will keep Congress paying for the $132-million stealth aircraft.
While these conversations, many of them informal, didn't touch on "even one-third of its classified capabilities," according to one pilot, they included the ability to hunt down and destroy cruise missiles well behind enemy lines, the introduction of a new missile that allows the head-on attack and destruction of stealthy enemy missiles, a tailless bomber derivative design, a planned electronic attack capability so powerful that it actually damages enemy electronics, and modifications that would allow the aircraft's electronic package to invade enemy computer networks.
The tone of the conversations was sharpened by a still-unreleased report about the series of air combat training engagements earlier this year between Indian air force Su-30MKs and F-15Cs from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; the latter were equipped with the U.S.' newest long-range, high-definition radars.
Those who have read draft copies of the report say the Su-30MKs and F-15 pilots were seeing each other at the same time with their radars, but the Indian pilots were getting off the simulated first shot with their AA-10 Alamo missiles and often winning the long-range engagements. The Indian pilots also had more flight time in the previous year than the U.S. pilots, roughly 300 hr. compared with 250 hr., the pilot said.
Those factors are causing the U.S. to rethink the formula that they always will be facing less well-trained pilots and inferior weaponry. They also reinforce the argument that the U.S. needs a fighter with greater radar range (the F/A-22's is more than 100 naut. mi.), stealth (the F-15 has a huge radar cross section) and fused sensors so that pilots can easily grasp what's going on around them.
Key to the F/A-22's capabilities is a complex of passive sensors, basically for electronic surveillance, that line the outside edges of the fighter's wings and tail surfaces. They gather electronic emissions at frequencies up to 18 GHz., sort them by time and angle of arrival for location, and analyze the signature automatically for rapid identification. Electronic data are fused with detailed RCS signatures gathered by the radar for additional identification.
HOW MANY F/A-22S the Air Force eventually gets is still a crap shoot. Estimates range from a service requirement for more than 400 to pessimistic predictions of only 100-150 if the congressional budgeters, soured by the growing cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are unsympathetic.
A primary mission for the F/A-22 is slated to be cruise missile interception well behind enemy lines. "A cruise missile has stealth in only one direction--straight ahead," says Lt. Col. Mike Stapleton, operations officer for the 43rd Fighter Sqdn. The F-22s would operate in an extended picket line so they can look at cruise missiles to either side of their patrol area from a beam aspect where the missile is not low-observable. In addition, the new, 200-naut.-mi. AESA radar, in development for the E-10 surveillance aircraft, is to provide key cueing of cruise missile locations.
Tactics used by cruise missile operators are instructive. One option is to send waves of 10 missiles that would pull defenses to one side while a following wave slips through. Another is to disperse a large launch into many directions so that some actually approach the targets from behind. Those tactics have led the U.S. to plan a multi-layered defense that begins with F-22s deep in enemy territory.
While F-22s would normally operate at the 45,000-50,000-ft. level, for cruise missile defense they would drop into the middle altitudes around 25,000-30,000 ft. That would allow them the flexibility to combat both AS-4 "Kitchen" or CAS-1 "Kraken"-type, high-speed, air-launched missiles (predictable course, but little time to react) or to pick "Silkworm"-type missiles (low speed, but unpredictable course) out of ground clutter. Detailed information on missiles that leaked through the F/A-22 line would be sent by data link to second and third defensive layers comprising AESA-radar-equipped F-15s and F/A-18Es operating in less well-defended areas.
Four of the initial seven cadre pilots in the 43nd Fighter Sqdn., the Air Force's first F/A-22 squadron, came from the AESA-equipped F-15 squadrons in Alaska, where they developed concepts for airborne cruise missile defense, Stapleton says. While F/A-22 crews will train to attack cruise missiles with AIM-9s and 20-mm. cannon, the primary weapon will be the AIM-120C Amraam. A variant, the AIM-120C-6 (available by 2006), has been specialized with an improved seeker to optimize the explosive cone of destruction for small, slow targets in a head-on engagement with the F/A-22. The upgraded Amraam incorporates improved fuzing through a new quadrant target-detection device. One tactic for the F-22s will be to approach a wave of cruise missiles head-on, get in a first shot and then turn at Mach 1.7 supercruise speed for a second and third shot from behind.
F/A-22S ASSIGNED the cruise missile defense mission would carry at least six Amraams and possibly more when a compressed-carriage AIM-120 design is fielded, says J.R. McDonald, director of Lockheed Martin's F/A-22 program. The range of the F/A-22 can be extended with two 600-gal., low-observable fuel tanks carried on two inboard hard points that are plumbed to transfer fuel. However, there are a number of concepts for a larger, longer range FB-22 that could also carry a larger weapons payload. McDonald says the weapons bay on either the F/A-22 or FB-22 concepts could be enlarged to carry more missiles. Moreover, because of the improvements in stealth coatings, shaping and RCS predictability, the changes could be made while actually improving the signature of the aircraft, he says.
Some of the FB-22 derivative concepts being proposed by Lockheed Martin include both one- and two-seat options, with and without a vertical tail, McDonald said. The tailless version would be possible because the wing would be expanded and made large enough to carry sufficient flight control surfaces to provide adequate aerodynamic authority.
"We have a smorgasbord of options," McDonald said. The objective is to preserve all the attributes of the F/A-22--stealth, speed, integrated avionics--while giving up a bit of agility in order to field a stable bombing platform. The aircraft would also be designed to control a wide range of unmanned reconnaissance and strike aircraft.
Most intriguing about the F/A-22's future were hints from various sources that the fighter would have drastically improved electronic attack capability and would introduce computer network attack to its arsenal. Critics say some of the planning borders on the fanciful. Officials have acknowledged that the F/A-22's AESA radar has a projected capability to concentrate its transmission power onto a narrow spot--most likely the electronic radars and communication links associated with air defenses--with enough focus to jam them. The Thor jamming system is to be active in 2008. Those working on improvements say that with the addition of radar cheek arrays to the aircraft in 2010, it would be able to focus enough energy in a beam to actually damage electronic components in enemy sensors.
An associated capability is airborne computer network attack that, under project Suter, currently resides with the EC-130 Compass Call. However, the aircraft is large, slow and can't penetrate defended airspace. Futurists say a further modified F/A-22 will be able to operate over key targets and carry out computer attack or surveillance with much less power. "If you're 5 mi. from the threat, you don't need the power of Compass Call" to penetrate an enemy computer network, says one official.
And nothing even remotely secret was ever stated!!!!
It does give an *extremely* small taste of what the Raptor can do though.
And it won't be the first time that contractors are selling first-stage R&D as the actual capabilities of the planes. I won't be surprised that all those wonderful capabilities are concepts that had not even gotten to the prototype hardware stage as yet.
If you can't get the plane operational in the first place, all those wonderful capabilities will be moot.
Like I said, its an *extremely* small taste of what the Raptor can do NOW.
Very interesting :P :P :P
Sure - but while the engineers are cramming all these wonderful equipment into the plane, the real fighting is being done by such 'low-tech' aircraft as the A-10. No wonder Congress wants to pull the plug.
Originally Posted by AFACadet
I still say: Get it to the squadrons first, then talk about cramming in all the capabilities.
Nice image! Pretty sweet what she can carry
I still think YF 23 would have been better then 22 and it looked better too.
It was stealithier and slightly faster.
Originally Posted by sergey31
However, the YF-22 was more maneuverable. Not by much, but still, it was
i think the yf-23's stealth on radar was alot better than the f-22 from what i read. But compared to anything else available today it is bay far superior so it doesnt matter..for the next 15 years id say.
Originally Posted by Midav
Remember there is a huge difference on what people say can be done with the aircraft and what can actually be done.
Originally Posted by AFACadet
Anyone remember the Osprey? Plane/Helicopter of the future which ended killing dozens of US troops on training missions.