Air Force News

Air Force's next generation air dominance fighter shows its stuff

Released: 14 Oct 1998

by Staff Sgt. Tom Mullican
Air Combat Command Public Affairs

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. (AFPN) -- The Air Force's next generation of air dominance aircraft is performing better than expected.

"We have two F-22s out at Edwards (Air Force Base, Calif.), and the aircraft are flying very well," said Gen. Dick Hawley, Air Combat Command commander. "We have no major deficiencies."

The aircraft are flying so well that in the first two weeks of the test program, they were flying twice in a day.

"That's a pretty remarkable accomplishment for a new airplane," said Hawley. "Usually, you fly it and it takes two days to get it back in shape to fly it again."

The F-22 Raptor has been put through its paces. It has flown at 40,000 feet, been air refueled, flown at high angles of attack, flown at 1.1 Mach, and accomplished engine shutdowns and restarts in flight. It's ahead of the game in terms of what was planned to be accomplished by this time in the program, said the general.

"The first three airplanes will be used primarily to test the aerodynamics," said Hawley. "We're looking at how well the airplane flies. Then we'll get into airplanes that show us how stealthy it is, and how well the avionics work."

The fourth aircraft will be the first full-production representative aircraft with complete stealth and avionics capabilities.

The first operational squadron of F-22s is scheduled for late 2005, with the last wing of airplanes to be delivered in 2013.

"We're 15 years away from putting the last of those three wings of airplanes in the field," said Hawley. "What that means is that the F-15's going to have to keep doing its work for a long time to come."

When the F-22 becomes operational, it will replace the F-15 in its air superiority role.

"The F-22 is going to give us an ability to retain our dominance in the air," said Hawley. "It has been proven through much hard won experience that the force owning the air is going to own the battlefield. Dominance in the air enables everything else we do -- on land, at sea, or in the air."

Other aerospace powers are developing fighters with low radar signatures, good maneuverability, range, weapons and avionics, said the general.

"They are as good or better than the best that we've got today -- the F-15 and the F-16. So, we've got to ratchet up the bar a little bit, and that's what the F-22 is going to do. It's going to set that new mark on the wall like the F-15 did more than 20 years ago.

"When the F-15 came along it was a world beater. It was better than anything else in the world, and it showed," said Hawley. "We've yet to lose an F-15 in air to air combat, and it's racked up countless kills. That situation won't hold forever. So, we need to replace it. The F-22 will do that. We'll remain dominant for the next 30 years."

To complement the F-22, the Joint Strike Fighter is another weapon system the Air Force is purchasing together with the other military departments.

"We have been very successful with a concept called the high-low mix," said Hawley.

Currently, the high part of that mix is the F-15 with its air superiority and long-range interdiction mission. The low part is the F-16 which does the close air support, battlefield attack and suppression of enemy air defenses.

"It's the same thing with the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. The F-22 is that high-end airplane," said Hawley. "That's the one that's going to raise the bar so that nobody can challenge us at that top end of the conflict spectrum. (The Joint Strike Fighter) complements the F-22 by filling the need for a multi-role, stealthy and affordable airframe. We need them both."

When the F-22 goes into full production, the funding for the aircraft will be only a small percentage of the Air Force's and Defense Department's total budget.

"In its highest cost year -- its first year of full-rate production -- the F-22 will consume only 6.5 percent of the Air Force's total budget," said Hawley. "It's average consumption of the budget through 2010 is only about 3.5 percent. In terms of the DOD budget, it averages less than 1 percent from now through the end of production in 2010.

"Is 1 percent of DOD's budget too much to pay for guaranteed air dominance over any future battlefield? I don't think so." (Courtesy of ACC News Service)


* F-15 Eagle
* F-16 Fighting Falcon
* Air Combat Command
* Department of Defense
* Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
* Joint Strike Fighter
* Langley Air Force Base, Va.