Re: F-35s and F-22s...

Message posted by Magoo on February 03, 2006 at 14:22:58 PST:

OK, fair post. This is the reason why I don't post here anymore - seems I'm becoming an angry man in my old age! I'll add the information you asked for, but its' stuff I've researched myself, not links to other people's websites.

I visited Langley about eight weeks ago to research an article on the F-22A, and while I was there, the 27th FS of the 1st Fighter Wing was declared operational. I witnessed several flights, including the first 'Noble Eagle' flight by an F-22A. Two days later I flew the F-22A simulator at Crystal City in DC and had a full (unclassified) technical and program briefing on it from Lockheed Martin officials.

The F-22A started out as the ATF, or Advanced Tactical Fighter to replace the F-15C in the air defence role. However, during the years of its development (and the main reason for the delays and many of the cost overruns), an air-to-ground mission was added (otherwise known as scope creep!). The 'not a pound for air-to-ground' tag went out the window early in the program.

The aircraft is now deemed a multi-role aircraft, with an unequalled ability to kill airborne targets, and a superb air-to-ground capability as well. It has only been cleared for three types of weapons so far; the AIM-9M, the AIM-120C' and the 1000lb JDAM (GBU-38?). New weapons to come include the AIM-9X, Small Diameter Bomb (250lb) and no doubt the smaller versions of the JASSM when they enter service. Other weapons may not be added now, as the upcoming QDR has effectively capped the program at 183 airframes and no more development money.

Because of the aircraft's very low radar cross section, the USAF is planning to replace part or all of the F-117's capability with the F-22A as well, as it can go anywhere the F-117 can go, but further and much faster, and hit the same targets just as or even more effectively. The QDR is likely to give an early retirement for the very expensive F-117 force because of the F-22's capabilities, and I’m sure the F-22 will replace some of the older F-15Es as they’re retired early next decade too. There are probably other aircraft in the black world that may cover some of the F-117's role too.

Re the F/A-22 name being dropped; The F/A- name was only a marketing tool by the USAF and Lockheed Martin in an effort to sell more airplanes to the DoD. Once the aircraft was declared operational and it became clear that no more Raptors would be ordered, the USAF reverted to their more traditional naming system. It had nothing to do with the actual mission of the aircraft. The F-111 and the F-117 also have ‘F’ designations, but they do not carry air-to-air weapons. Also, the F-22 was not “created” at Groom Lake, and probably wasn’t even based there like the F-117 was, although it’s probably done quite a bit of testing over the RCS and other electronic ranges there. It was “created” at Palmdale.

As for the F-35 - I was also at Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant eight weeks ago for a full program brief on the JSF. This aircraft will replace the F-16C (fighter & strike), A-10 (CAS), AV-8B (CAS), the UK's Harrier (CAS) and Sea Harrier (fighter), Canada's and probably Australia's F/A-18 (fighter, strike, CAS), and several other countries' F-16 (fighter, strike) fleets in service as a true multi-role aircraft.

There are three variants of the JSF, not four – the CTOL F-35A for the USAF and most allies; the STOVL F-35B for the US Marine Corps, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and maybe Italy; and the CV F-35C carrier version for the US Navy.

JSF will be an aircraft which will probably carry air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons on most operational flights, being able to be 'swung' over to either role at the flick of a switch. It will be equally adept at the close air support or the air defence roles, much in the same way as later Block F-16s and the F/A-18 have proven to be, but with the advantage of stealth and networked and integrated avionics. In many ways, the F-35 is even more advanced than the F-22, especially in its ability to be a node in a networked battelspace, and its communications suite.

As for the F-15E, while it was designed primarily for the strike mission (hence it’s name, ‘Strike Eagle’), it retains its full air-to-air capability. Yes, it can carry 23,000lbs of weapons, but most of these are ‘dumb’ bombs. It can’t carry 23,000lbs of laser or GPS guided ‘precision’ weapons (mainly because it doesn’t need to, but also because the bomb racks aren’t all ‘smart’ bussed stations), so its lifting advantage against the F-22A and other platforms is negated somewhat. Plus, it carries everything outside, whereas the F-22A can carry just an internal payload (but can carry external weapons if air supremacy has been achieved). The F-15K is ONLY being produced for Korea – there are no outstanding orders for F-15s for the USAF.

The F-15E needs to fly low and fast to remain undetected, and then do a hit and run on its target from relatively close range, whereas the F-22 and F-35 will be able to cruise around at an optimum altitude and pick their targets off at near standoff ranges.

As for the air force not wanting air-to-ground any more, well, I would suggest the air-to-ground mission is even more important now than ever, as that’s where most of the fighting is done. The recent wars in Iraq just prove that when faced with a superior force, many air forces just won’t come out to play. It doesn’t mean you don’t build air-to-air into your aircraft anymore; you just place an equal emphasis on both missions in one platform. The coalition is still flying hundreds of sorties each day in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet when was the last time an air-to-air missile was fired?

In conclusion, the days of one-for-one replacement aircraft or of one specific type replacing another specific type are over. Future aircraft will be so expensive (and so capable) that they will have to be equally good at both air-to-air and air-to-ground just get off the drawing board, and they'll also need to be a quantum leap over legacy platforms they are replacing. Otherwise, software and weapons are so good now, that an upgrade to a legacy platform will give you almost the same effect as getting a new aircraft. In fact, with the now relatively low numbers of F-22s due to enter service (183), the F-15C/E will no doubt be upgraded further and be around for years, even decades to come yet.

I'll just crawl back into my observation position now.


In Reply to: Re: F-35s and F-22s... posted by Jason on February 03, 2006 at 6:20:11 PST:


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