News


Subject: Raptor Follies
From: Chuck Spinney <[email protected]>
[Personal opinion, not representing institutional affiliation]
Fri, 10 Apr 1998 


This attached article by George Wilson describes how far the
Pentagon will go to avoid realistic testing.  The F-22 Raptor is the most
technically challenging fighter development program conceived to date.  The
Raptor was put into concurrent engineering and manufacturing development
(EMD) in the Summer of 1991, after claiming the the flight tests of the
YF-22 showed that it was ready for EMD.  But the YF-22 was not a true
prototype, because it did not have any mission avionics or stealth
technologies--and it used an underpowered engine.  The YF-22 is more
accurately characterized as a supersonic cruise demonstrator.  After
demonstrating supersonic cruise capability, the logical engineering
approach to reducing technical and economic risks would have been to build
and test mission-capable prototypes.  In 1991, I wrote a report arguing for
a this approach rather than proceding directly into concurrent engineering
and manufacturing development, or EMD.  But EMD was a more attractive
option politically, because it allowed the contractor to reduce his
political risks by spreading subcontracts and production facilities around
the nation.  In effect, the EMD decision traded off lower political risks
for higher technical and economic risks. (This report was in my message of
3/26/98).

As this article shows, the AF now wants to reduce political risk even
further by rushing the F-22 into production before the flight tests of the
EMD aircraft have demonstrated its stealth capabilities or the
effectiveness its mission avionics.  Many people believe the riskiest part
the F-22 program is its integrated avionics.  But these avionics are not
even installed in the early EMD aircraft, yet these aircraft were
originally conceived as the pre-production test vehicles.   EMD Aircraft
#4, for example, will have the radar, but not a complete suite of avionics
and software.  Moreover, #4 will not be delivered until AFTER the
production decison.  According to an 18 February 1998 briefing by Randall
Shumacker (Information Technology Division of the Naval Research
Laboratory), the software of the F-22 will require almost three times as
many instructions as the B-1 bomber, and four times those of an Aegis
Missile Cruiser.  No one has ever built and flown a suite of integrated
avionics anything like those of the F-22.  Avionics systems now
flying--like the troubled defensive avionics of the B-1--are
easier-to-design "federated" architectures.  So, even when all the
integrated avionics are installed, it will probably take a long time to
debug the software and make the component functions work together
harmoniously and correctly.

Why would a production decision take place before the first full capabity
EMD test aircraft is even delivered, let alone tested? 

There is no military risk to justify such a reckless rush to judgement.  On
the other hand, a such production decison would reduce political risk even
further, because it would increase the pressure on Congress by magnifying
the number of F-22 related jobs as well as the profits in companies located
in hundreds of congressional districts around the United States.  

So we come full circle: After spending billions of dollars on development,
we are about to do a rerun of the 1991 decision.  This situation is now so
preposterous that, that the liguistics of George Orwell are being invoked
to rationalize the situation.  According to Wilson's report, the AF wants
to re-name the first production F-22s to "pre-production test vehicles."
If this is correct, acquistion reform has mutated itself into an circular
decision-making logic wherein we call a "demonstrator" a prototype to skip
the prototyping phase, then build the pre-production test vehicles in a
concurrent EMD program, which makes it easier to lock in an eventual
production decison by spreading subcontracts around the nation, then we
rush the program into production before testing of the full-up
pre-production vehicles has even begun, and finally close the circle by
having the temerity to call the production vehicles "pre-production test
vehicles."  This is political engineering run amok.

With decison making like this, it should be no surprise that that a cold
war budget can not support a post cold war force structure, without
shortages of spare parts, rising rates of cannibalizations, shrinking
forces, aging equipment, and most importantly, declining rates of training
and retention among the warriors and maintenance troops at the end of this
food chain.

Coming on top of the pre-mature production decision that lies at the center
of the F/A-18E/F wing drop fiasco, one would have hoped decison makers
would err more on the side of caution.  But if Wilson's reporting is
correct, it looks like this will not happen in the case of the F-22.  

At least we named the F-22 correctly--a raptor is a dinasaur.  

-------------------------[attachment]------------------------------

Pentagon Plans to Put F-22 Into Production -- But Will Call It a "Test"
By George C. Wilson LEGI-SLATE News Service WASHINGTON (April 9)