The F-22 Raptor: Key Capabilities

Discussion in 'Americas' started by average american, Feb 22, 2013.

  1. average american

    average american Senior Member Senior Member

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    The F-22 Raptor: Key Capabilities

    The Raptor had a long development history , and been the focus of controversy, cost concerns, Congressional cutbacks, and some lessons learned.

    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.


    APG-77 AESA Test

    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, with supercruise slightly above Mach 1 when flying at high altitude, and armed with just 4 underbody MRAAM and 2 wingtip SRAAM missiles. 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 outside studies are less confident, and transonic sustainability remains the key tactical question. As fighters like the Russo-Indian T50/PAK-FA come on board, and 4+ generation fighters get major updates, more fighters may become capable of tactical supercruise.
    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.

    At present, the Russian SU-30MKA/I/M aircraft bought by Algeria, India and Malaysia offer full 360-degree thrust vectoring nozzles (TVN), albeit with a less durable system. Other SU-30 family variants like the SU-35, and UAC’s new MiG-35, use similar technology. Eurofighter GmbH is researching and promoting a thrust-vectoring retrofit option, but hasn’t even tested one yet. The F-35 Lightning II won’t offer combat thrust vectoring, relying instead on electronics that will try to leverage embedded sensors and datalinked missiles to give the plane 360 targeting, and make maneuvering unnecessary.

    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 can’t 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 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-22 Raptor: Program & Events
     
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  3. Damian

    Damian Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    As far as I know F-22A's will receive soon another upgrade, increment 3.2 I think it is called. And there were some rumors about finally installin a side looking radar antennas and some other improvements. Also stealth coating is said to be replaced by some newer type.
     
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  4. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    The biggest drawback of current F22 configuration is the lack of HMD. This is the reason why the current F22 cannot take full advantage of the capabilities of AIM9x. F22s right now should avoid WVR combat especially with fighters armed with HMD and all-aspect lock-after-lunch AAM.
     
  5. Damian

    Damian Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    @asianobserve

    Increments 3.2A and 3.2B will have improvements that will give F-22A full capability to use AIM-9X and AIM-120D with their full potential.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
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  6. average american

    average american Senior Member Senior Member

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    Thats the entire idea of the F22 and F35 is to avoid WVR.
     
  7. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    Agree that the strategy should be to avoid WVR combat. But actual combat don't always follow strategy and American fighters may be engaged in WVR combat with 4.5++, Su35, PAKFA or J20 class fighters then they should be prepared.
     
  8. average american

    average american Senior Member Senior Member

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  9. average american

    average american Senior Member Senior Member

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  10. average american

    average american Senior Member Senior Member

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  11. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    You have to read informed discussions on the matter, especially on the disadvantage of F22 as it has no integrated HMD yet. In a WVR combat with HMD and off boresight lock-after-lunch capabilities of new generation IR missiles that have super maneuverabilities (it is doubtful that jets now can evade this new generation of agile and jam-resistant missiles), you don't need to maneuver very much. All you need to do to fire your missile is look at the enemy. That's why in a WVR combat an F35 without TVC can easily take on an F22 even with its TVC, and this is true even for 4.5++ gen fighters with HMD and latest generation IR missiles.

    Maybe the F22 pilot engaged in WVR combat should pray that his opponent ran out of short range AAM so that he can take full advantage of the extreme maneuverability capability brought on by the F22s TV nozzles when using its cannon.
     
  12. lookieloo

    lookieloo Regular Member

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    Apparently, there's some kind of "cockpit mapping issue" preventing integration. I don't know the details, but it's a serious shortcoming in modern WVR combat.
     
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  13. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    The benefits of TVC in WVR combat is negated by HMD and off-boresight lock-after-lunch IR missiles. Besides, when you're actively using your TVC in subsonic maneuvers your jet tends to lose momentum easily. In the meantime, all that your enemy needs to do is look at your jet to be able to fire at you... Pretty disadvantaged position if you're to ask me to be in an F22 in WVR combat against 4.5++ or F35 class new fighters armed with 5th generation short range A2A missiles. Lockheed must quickly find a solution to the integration of their F35's JHMD to USAF's F22 fleet.
     
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  14. lookieloo

    lookieloo Regular Member

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    In ye olden' days, LM might have at least bodged a poor-man's Mig-29 style sight onto the F-22's helmet; but modern defense contractors don't do jack-s*** without $$$$.
     
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  15. Damian

    Damian Defence Professionals Defence Professionals

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    As I said, F-22A with Increments 3.2A and 3.2B will receive capability to use AIM-9X and AIM-120D, this is more a software issue and hardware, so integration of JHMD should not be a problem, at least not significant one.

    We should remember that due to costs F-22A is not equipped with all goodies designed for it. There are still cavities in it's main frame for side lookin AESA for example. Not to mention that F-22A lujst like F-35 can be equipped with EOT and DAS systems.

    So it is more of a time issue also, in nearest future I am certain that F-22A will be upgraded with all these systems, making it better than it is.
     
  16. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    Don't forget the capabilities of pilot asphyxiation and making ground crews sick around hot engines.
     
  17. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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    I think this one is already solved, ie. until the next pilot gets sick...
     
  18. average american

    average american Senior Member Senior Member

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    When your only hope is your enemys weapons are worse then yours, then you can figure you are in big trouble.
     
  19. Armand2REP

    Armand2REP CHINI EXPERT Veteran Member

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    Unless they changed the RAM coat, it isn't fixed.
     
  20. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    I don't know about the issue with ground crews but that OBOGS problem was identified to be a problem with the F-22's G-suits.

    F-22 is still not cleared for high altitude flight though. Must be a different problem there.
     

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