01/05/01 - WASHINGTON (AFPN) - The Air Force's F-22 program soared past another milestone with the first flight of an F-22 Raptor equipped with combat-capable avionics, according to Air Force officials.
The successful first flight of Raptor 4005 from the Lockheed Martin facility in Marietta, Ga., took place Jan. 5.
The flight incorporated Block 3.0 software components, which provide functions such as radar processing and sensor fusion, electronic warfare and countermeasures, communication, navigation and identification, and pilot/vehicle interface. It was one of three remaining tasks required before a decision to start F-22 low-rate initial production.
"Flying Raptor 4005 with the Block 3.0 (software) represented the program's current most technically demanding challenge," said Brig. Gen. Jay Jabour, F-22 System program director. "This successful flight, in addition to our other recent achievements, demonstrates the program is ready for low-rate production."
The F-22 is the next step in the Air Force's transformation to the expeditionary aerospace force of the future. Fielding the Raptor in sufficient numbers will help guarantee future U.S. air dominance, said officials. As a force enabler, it will reduce the risk to U.S. and friendly forces in conflicts of all sizes and lead to dramatically fewer allied casualties, he added. "Block 3.0 is the software that provides and controls the 'first look, first shot, first kill' warfighting capability of the F-22 Raptor," said Tom McDermott, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics' F-22 avionics product manager. "Block 3.0 provides the multi-sensor fusion Raptor pilots will need to accurately acquire, track, identify and engage multiple targets."
Besides Block 3.0's ability to launch and guide multiple weapons - such as the AIM-120 and AIM-9 air-to-air intercept missiles - this software package enables the aircraft to automatically detect and defeat incoming missiles by initiating the Raptor's countermeasures, according to McDermott.
The Boeing Company integrates and tests the Raptor's avionics at the Avionics Integration Lab in Seattle and on a modified aircraft known as the Flying Test Bed. Both the AIL and FTB are helping reduce avionics risks and contain development costs by enabling extensive evaluation and troubleshooting before full avionics are installed on the F-22.
The decision to enter low-rate initial production rests with the Defense Acquisition Board. The DAB, previously scheduled for Jan. 3, has been postponed until next week. Weather was the driving factor in postponing the meeting.
"The good news is the F-22 is the most tested aircraft the DOD has ever developed. It features proven technology that promises to give America the most-advanced fighter aircraft in the world," said Secretary of the Air Force Whit Peters.
The Air Force is confident the F-22 program will meet all performance requirements while delivering all production aircraft within the congressional funding cap, the secretary added.
Peters and other senior Air Force officials are interpreting Congress' recent approval of bridge funding to keep the F-22 on track as a sign of its belief in the value of the program and the aircraft.
Last year, the F-22 program faced the challenging task of completing 11 DAB criteria needed to satisfy a low-rate initial production decision by Dec. 31. Despite several delays, including recent snowstorms, it is now within days of completing the final two.
The Raptor contractor team, consisting of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co.; Boeing Co., Seattle; and Pratt & Whitney, Hartford, Conn.; produce the F-22. Eleven major subsystem suppliers from across the country developed the Block 3.0 software.
The F-22 will replace the F-15 as the Air Force's next air superiority fighter aircraft.
The F-22 program is managed by the F-22 System Program Office, Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.