F-22 fact spinning on USAF website

I was browsing http://www.af.mil, when I have found this page. While most, possibly all, of claims there have been addressed in my F-22 Analysis, I am aware that it is very long read, and as such I will examine claims here.

First claim is that “The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected.”. Problem with that claim is that F-22 has no sensor capable of tracking and identifying target without requiring either F-22 or enemy aircraft to actively use its radar. Thus, F-22 must either rely on (jammable) uplink from another unit or on enemies being willing to give it first strike possibility by radiating themselves. However, IRST-equipped aircraft can detect subsonic fighter aircraft from large distance, without being required to radiate themselves – Su-35 can do it from 50 kilometers head-on, and Eurofighter Typhoon from 90 kilometers, also head-on. From rear, Su-35 can detect subsonic fighters from 90 kilometers, which means that Typhoon can do the same thing from over 150 kilometers.

While F-22s radar can detect 1m2 target (which is approximately same as Typhoon’s frontal RCS when in air-to-air configuration) from 200 – 240 kilometers, jammers can reduce range required for a lock-on to be achieved to less than a third of range in non-jammed environment. That can be confirmed by recent exercises, where F-22 was unable to lock on clean-configured Typhoon from front until latter was 20 miles (32 kilometers) away; as Typhoon has frontal RCS (when clean) between 0,25 and 0,75 m2, it means that F-22’s radar range has been reduced by jammers to approximately 14,4 – 22,7 % of expected range. Thus, F-22 cannot be expected to lock on combat-configured Typhoon from range larger than 45 – 54 kilometers from front. Both ranges are well inside detection range of PIRATE IRST. With Su-35, situation is somewhat better, due to its larger RCS and lower-capability IRST; however, reduction of radar range by jammer, which means that F-22 may not be able to even launch all BVR missiles (and even if it does, 6 BVR missiles combined have Pk of 36 – 48 % against capable opponent) means that far more enemy aircraft than is assumed will be able to get to visual range with F-22.

While F-22 is a capable dogfighter for its size and weight, its low production run and high maintenance downtime mean that it will likely find itself outnumbered in any war against China – which is a primary justification for continuing production. For comparasion, while Su-35 has flyaway cost of 65 million USD at most, F-22 has flyaway cost of 250 million USD, and maintenance downtime of 45 hours per hour of flight. While I was unable to find any figures for Su-35s maintenance downtime, it most likely isn’t worse than 30 hours per hour of flight as required by USAF’s ancient F-15s. Thus, F-22 will find itself outnumbered 5:1 in best case, whereas Typhoons, with flyaway cost of 120 million USD and maintenance downtime of 10-15 hours per flight hour, might even be able to slightly outnumber Su-35s.

What is worse, Russians have air-to-air anti-radiation missile (R-27P), and are very willing to sell it over the world. As internal USAF exercises have shown during the Cold War, several aircraft equipped with anti-radiation missiles can force everyone to shut down radars. That, in turn, will force aircraft to return to visual-range dogfight, with IRST-equipped aircraft having very large advantage in situational awareness – even larger than usual.

Second claim that needs examining is the value of stealth. While I have already discussed value of stealth in air-to-air scenario, I have not addressed scenario with surface-to-air threats – mostly SAMs.

While it is true that stealth aircraft have increased survivability compared to legacy aircraft when confronted by X-band radars, it is not so with lower-frequency, long-wavelength radars. Namely, aircraft RCS depends on size and shape of aircraft, its position relative to radar waves as well as wavelength radar in question is using. Stealth aircraft are designed to scatter radar waves away from (monostatic) X-band radar, with stealth coating absorbing minor part of radar signal. However, that only works when wavelength is far shorter than dimensions of the shaping features of the aircraft. Against VHF radars, with their 1-2 meters long waves, fighter aircraft such as F-22 and F-35 will see majority of their shaping features fall into either resonance or Raleigh scattering region. In these regions, shape of feature in question becomes irrelevant, and skin becomes electrically charged by radar waves, increasing RCS even further. Against such radars, stealth aircraft are forced to use same tactics as legacy aircraft against any type of radar, making stealth irrelevant and even harmful.

Third claim is that F-22’s engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. While it is true, F-22 is also heaviest fighter aircraft in existence, and these powerful engines give it thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,09 at loaded weight and 1,28 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinders and 4 AMRAAM. Later value is same as Eurofighter Typhoon, while former is inferior to Typhoon, which has TWR of 1,14 at loaded weight. Rafale has thrust to weight ratio of 1,1 at loaded weight, and 1,23 with 2 WVR, 6 BVR missiles (all MICA) and 50% fuel.

Fourth claim is that F-22 can outmaneuver all current and projected aircraft. It cannot; thrust vectoring is only useful as help with maneuvering at speeds below 150 knots; above 150 knots aircraft ends up with drifting motion – lower aircraft has TVC, upper doesn’t – which increases drag for no decrease in turn diameter. At the onset of the turn, aircraft looses lift and sinks in mid-air, with nose rotating up. Suffice to say, both of these effects are very dangerous in visual-range dogfight, especially in era of high off-bore missiles.

Fifth claim is that “The combination of stealth, integrated avionics and supercruise drastically shrinks surface-to-air missile engagement envelopes and minimizes enemy capabilities to track and engage the F-22 .” Stealth has already been addressed  as have sensors; supercruise is of interest here. While non-afterburner supercruise is useful, as it reduces fuel expenditure and heat signature of exhaust plume, it is not a game breaker. F-22 has low fuel fraction, is heavy and with large amount of drag, limiting duration of supercruise. Moreover, aircraft supercruising at Mach 1,7 can be tracked from 10% longer range than subsonic one, which means that Su-35 will detect it from 55, and Typhoon from 100 kilometers, head on. Reduction of engagement envelope can be achieved by increasing speed, supercruise or not; however, supercruise does reduce fuel expenditure, although such reduction is not very large.

Next is the claim that F-22 will have “better reliability and maintainability than any other fighter aircraft in history”. With F-22s maintenance costs and downtime being as they are (maintenance downtime of 45 hours per hour of flight, maintenance cost of 61 000 USD per hour of flight, and availability rate of 55,5%), claim is certainly false. Indeed, while Eurofighter Typhoon is a very complex aircraft, comparing it with F-22 produces shaming numbers: maintenance downtime of 10-15 hours per hour of flight, cost of 18 000 USD per hour of flight, and availability rate from 50% for Luftwaffe to 88% for RAF during Operation Elamy, RAF participation in Libya. Dassault Rafale costs 16 500 USD per hour of flight; unfortunately, I do not have figures for either maintenance downtime or availability rates.

Last is the characteristics table. While most of it seems correct – I won’t check it now – unit price is not. When debate has been held about ending F-22 production at 187 aircraft, proposal was to buy seven more F-22s for total price of 1,75 billion USD. Since it R&D expenses have already been paid, and production line was still active, sum shows an actual F-22 flyaway cost of 250 million USD per aircraft.

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “F-22 fact spinning on USAF website

  1. What makes me laugh every time is when I read this f****** stupid statement of the USAF, the F-22 was “unmatched by any known or projected fighter”… This sentences is senseless by its own content (How can you say, you have something better than something that you cannot evaluate?).

    • “Projected fighter” means that they analyze trends and ass-ume what future fighter aircraft might be like. But real reason is marketing… according to LM, F-22 is best fighter in the world, and F-35 is second best, despite F-35 actually being a bomber.

      • Well, to evaluate projected fighter programs is also a very vague matter… I think this statement was from 2005 or so, but in 2010 and 2011, Russia and China roled out their counterparts to the Raptor. Many specialists try now to estimate the electronical and aerodynamical performance, but this seems to be quite difficult , too (at least for the electronical part).
        Yeah, the ever lasting F-35 discussion… There will always be those who don´t want to accept this fact.

  2. Hi there, I believe your web site could be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however,
    when opening in IE, it has some overlapping issues.
    I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up!
    Aside from that, wonderful website!

  3. Excellent site you have here but I was wanting to know if
    you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics talked about in this article?
    I’d really like to be a part of community where I
    can get feedback from other experienced people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

    Thanks a lot!

  4. You’re side makes claims and the other side makes claims and both are likely full of Bull. Therefore you have to use common sense.

    Both Europe and the U.S. have technological bases of similar capabilities and both have vast experience in developing fighters. In fact much of the tech is shared and scientists and engineers sometimes go from working with BAE to working with Lockheed-Martin or vise versa. Its logical to suppose that the technologies used on both F-22 and Typhoon are very equal.

    Ok, now lets look at other factors.

    The Typhoon is more of a legacy design aerodynamically. Therefore, its logical to think that there is much more time research and experience that can be put into its airframe. Its basically a modernization/improvement of platforms that have been around for 50 years. You would think that developing an F-22 that uses all types of never before used stealth shapping would be trickier and less effective. You also have to consider that the U.S. has been able to spend much more money (man hours of researchers, scientists, engineers, more expensive testing techniques, money also plays a part in hiring of the best talent, use of more expensive materials, etc, etc.) on development than European counterparts. Also, the Raptors airframe logically may not be as refined and aerodynamically capable but in that trade you get a high degree of stealth. Stealth is a powerful tool, especially in the crazy unplanned environments of real air warfare.

    The same arguments that apply to airframe apply to the engines used. Its likely that the Typhoons less complicated engine gives better conventional performance but without TV which is also very useful in many scenarios. I rather have it than not have it.

    Now lets look at Radar, Jamming, Targetting, Communications, etc. All the electronics, software, code stuff.

    The technological base on both sides is very similar here I would say. So the differences are probably slight and probably resulting from who put more time and money into R&D and techniques and tools used to actually build these complicated machines.

    Than you look at weapons that aircraft can deploy.

    Here again historically (i’m talking last 40-50 years) the technologies have been equal. Therefore, we go back to the stuff i just mentioned above.

    Another important factor is resources spent toward upgrading, maintenance, pilot training. Who puts more, funds (manpower, technologies) into this.

    You also have to consider political factors that can effect requirements and funding.

    You also can’t ignore that the F-22 costs more than twice as much as the Typhoon. That has to be a factor. All things equal, you usually get a better product when you put more funds into it.

    Using my common sense (since you can’t beleive anyone in industry or media), I would say that both planes are probably state of the art, top of the line machines with similar capabilities. Although the F-22 does bring certain new (and expensive) technologies to thefight that the Typhoon just cant.

    I just can’t overlook stealth. The F-22 stealth may not always be decisive but in many angagements it will be. Stealth is one of those things that if you don’t have it you can argue that you don’t need it but, if you have it you don’t want to give it up.

    As far as the Russian T-50 and Chinese J-20 “5th gen aircraft”.

    Common use some common sense, the Chinese cant even make a good copy of an Su-30. They can’t even figure out how to build a 4th Gen jet engine. Their best design (J-10) is barely 4th Gen and required significant foreign assistance. The J-20 is a movie plane.

    The Soviets built some highly effective and also high-tech aircraft. The post-soviet Russians do not (probably cannot) put the same level of resources into aircraft and associated technologies than the soviets did. Its unlikely that Russia has been able to develop all the technologies it takes to build a trully stealthy aircraft.

    The U.S. spent decades secretely developing stealth technologies before they were able to build a viable F-22 and the U.S. is able to employ almost endless resources. Especially into those black programs that are not official like stealth was for 20+ years. You are telling me that Russia in one decade developed a viable F-22 like aeroplane??

    • “The Typhoon is more of a legacy design aerodynamically.”

      Both Typhoon and the F-22 are more of legacy designs in aerodynamic terms, but Typhoon’s usage of long arm canards does provide it with advantage of longer moment arm.

      “You would think that developing an F-22 that uses all types of never before used stealth shapping would be trickier and less effective.”

      Both are legacy designs, in aerodynamic terms the F-22 is little more than a stealth!F-15, though it does use many of ideas that have proven themselves so effective on the F-16 (wing-body blending and highly-swep LERX). But if you want really aerodynamically advanced design, take a look at Rafale.

      “You also have to consider that the U.S. has been able to spend much more money (man hours of researchers, scientists, engineers, more expensive testing techniques, money also plays a part in hiring of the best talent, use of more expensive materials, etc, etc.) on development than European counterparts.”

      That is irrelevant, it is end product that counts. There are hundreds of examples where a weapon on whose development a far more time and money was spent has proven itself inferior to its cheaper counterpart, in fact it is almost a rule since best solutions tend to be simple, and simpler typically means cheaper.

      “Also, the Raptors airframe logically may not be as refined and aerodynamically capable but in that trade you get a high degree of stealth. Stealth is a powerful tool, especially in the crazy unplanned environments of real air warfare.”

      Indeed. But the F-22 isn’t stealthy, it only has low RCS. This is negated by its large size and relatively draggy airframe (due to internal missile carriage), which results in high visual and IR signatures, as well as the fact that it needs to use its radar for targeting since it lacks IRST. Plus it can’t reliably identify targets at BVR anyway (lack of optical sensors again). Its stealth is only a real advantage in SEAD/DEAD, and even there VHF radars reduce its usefulness.

      “The same arguments that apply to airframe apply to the engines used. Its likely that the Typhoons less complicated engine gives better conventional performance but without TV which is also very useful in many scenarios.”

      Thrust vectoring is only a patch-up used to improve performance of conventional configurations at supersonic speeds. Typhoon is better optimized for supersonic performance, so F-22s TVC will only give it advantage at very low speeds – very low being “helicopter slow”, as in below 150 kts. But you don’t get to these kinds of speeds in a furball if you can avoid it. I adressed it here:
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/usefulness-of-thrust-vectoring/

      “Another important factor is resources spent toward upgrading, maintenance, pilot training. Who puts more, funds (manpower, technologies) into this.”

      “Who puts in more funds” is the kind of single-dimensional thinking that invariably results in wrong conclusions. Pilots have to fly to remain proficient, simulators aren’t enough. But the F-22 costs 45.000 USD per hour of flight compared to Typhoon’s 18.000 USD. This means that 30 hours (a minimum pilot needs) will cost 1,35 million USD in the F-22 but only 540.000 USD in Typhoon. Further, F-22 needs 45 hours of maintenance per hour of flight, while Typhoon needs 9. So the F-22 pilot will, at best, fly 15 hours per month, compared to the maximum of 72 hours per month for Typhoon pilot. This is made even worse by the fact that the F-22 has 55,5% avaliability compared to Typhoon’s 70%. In fact, typical F-22 pilot flies 8-10 hours per month compared to 10-15 hours per month for the typical Typhoon pilot and 15-20 for RAF Typhoon pilots.

      “You also can’t ignore that the F-22 costs more than twice as much as the Typhoon. That has to be a factor. All things equal, you usually get a better product when you put more funds into it.”

      Not necessarily. In fact, there is a point after which more money put into the product results in product getting worse, not better. You should read following links (mind you, third one is *very* long and is not a must):
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/01/04/quality-versus-quantity-fallacy/
      http://www.airpower.au.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1983/sep-oct/lind.html
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/quality-and-quantity/

      “since you can’t beleive anyone in industry or media”

      At least one thing we can agree about.

      “Although the F-22 does bring certain new (and expensive) technologies to thefight that the Typhoon just cant.”

      Indeed, but that only matters if these technologies are relevant.

      “I just can’t overlook stealth. The F-22 stealth may not always be decisive but in many angagements it will be. Stealth is one of those things that if you don’t have it you can argue that you don’t need it but, if you have it you don’t want to give it up.”

      Stealth is far more complex than you make it out to be. In fact, it is a tactical and operational, not technological, characteristic. If you use your own radar, you are not stealthy since you will get detected by every competent radar warner within few hundred kilometers. But your enemy may be stealthy even if he’s not using stealth aircraft – when ECR-90 was trialled, it was discovered that known Soviet stealth techniques combined with standoff jamming could cut its detection range to less than 9 kilometers. AESA radars are more resistant to jamming, but will still suffer a multifold reduction in range. Both shortcomings can be can be avoided by using IRST instead of radar.

      “Common use some common sense”

      J-20 is 5th generation aircraft by US definition. And it isn’t like it is the only piece of trash that has been classified as a fifth generation fighter… *cough* F-35 *cough*.

      ” Its unlikely that Russia has been able to develop all the technologies it takes to build a trully stealthy aircraft.”

      1) Aircraft can only be “trully stealthy” if it never leaves an underground hangar. A stealth aircraft is an oxymoron as long as it is in the air. Some degree of stealth can be achieved, but… see above.
      2) T-50 design is aimed at moderate all-aspect RCS reduction combined with excellent sensor suite (3 IRSTs, L band radars) and very good cruise speed and maneuverability. It doesn’t need to be trully stealthy to match the F-22.

      “The U.S. spent decades secretely developing stealth technologies before they were able to build a viable F-22 and the U.S. is able to employ almost endless resources. Especially into those black programs that are not official like stealth was for 20+ years. You are telling me that Russia in one decade developed a viable F-22 like aeroplane??”

      Possible. First “stealth” aircraft were designed in Germany during World War II, and both US and USSR had access to their designs. F-117s stealth design is based on research of a Soviet scientist that escaped into Unted States, but not before USSR military had a good look at his theories and designs.

  5. Picard, I understand that you only value IR detection. IR detection and missile systems are of far less range than radar systems. They can be defeated by IR jamming systems as well. Most radar systems require multiple bands – search and tracking. Lower band radars can be used for search but guidance systems require higher band radars which is where stealth comes into play. You might “see” a stealth plane on search but locking one up with weapons is a whole other pony trick altogether. As to emissions – – – there are ways to limit the detections of emissions such as frequency hopping. Further, sensor suites are designed to put multiple sensors along the fuselage and other locations of the plane to have quite an accurate detection of a threat’s location, heading, etc. without using emissions. This can be used to detect other emissions besides just radar.

    All this said, both the Eurofighter and the F22 are very capable aircraft with specific requirements. No airplane can contain all requirements to win the war by itself. Why I am glad that we have two very competent aircraft with different capabilities on the same team.

    • “Picard, I understand that you only value IR detection. IR detection and missile systems are of far less range than radar systems. They can be defeated by IR jamming systems as well.”

      Not really. Yes, radar has higher nominal range… but practical range is not that high, due to effects of clutter, jamming, beam spread etc – not to mention that it is basically a big neon “I AM HERE” sign. Meanwhile, IR jamming systems are very short-ranged because IR systems themselves are passive – there is no emission to jam, you have to target the sensor itself, and sensor is far smaller than the targets it detects (not to mention that you have to know the passive enemy is around before even thinking about jamming). So IR jammers are only really viable as end-game countermeasures against missiles.

      “Most radar systems require multiple bands – search and tracking. Lower band radars can be used for search but guidance systems require higher band radars which is where stealth comes into play. You might “see” a stealth plane on search but locking one up with weapons is a whole other pony trick altogether.”

      What you are talking about is a “targeting box”. Size of the box is very important with the SARH missiles, but not so much with ARH or IR missiles, as missile itself carries an independent sensor. So you only need to get the missile “close enough”, and modern VHF radars do have the resolution for that. Also, once you have detected a stealth aircraft, you can use constant track with X-band radar, as track time is also a function of detection range. Basically, stealth aircraft are actually detected by the radar, but in the X-band, their signature is so small that it falls under the clutter rejection threshold. Once you know location of the target however, clutter can be rejected either by comparing the tracks between VHF and X-band radar, or by prolonging the track time of X-band radar and comparing signatures over time.

      “As to emissions – – – there are ways to limit the detections of emissions such as frequency hopping.”

      Frequency hopping does not really help as modern RWRs can compare received emissions over time, and also have very wide frequency coverage.

      You might want to read these as well:
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/f-22-analysis/
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/stealth-in-the-air/

      “Further, sensor suites are designed to put multiple sensors along the fuselage and other locations of the plane to have quite an accurate detection of a threat’s location, heading, etc. without using emissions. This can be used to detect other emissions besides just radar. ”

      You are talking about the warning sensors. These are designed to warn of either enemy emissions – radar, laser – or of threats close to the aircraft (missiles). Because of that, they have wide angular coverage and are not good for detecting passive targets at long range (or any range at all, really, with the possible exception of IR MAWS, which could in theory be programmed to detect aircraft as well. But it is still short-ranged.).

      “All this said, both the Eurofighter and the F22 are very capable aircraft with specific requirements. No airplane can contain all requirements to win the war by itself. Why I am glad that we have two very competent aircraft with different capabilities on the same team.”

      Indeed. F-22 is actually designed for air combat deep within the enemy territory (USSR, to be specific), with a lot of ground radar-based threats. Due to combination of stealth, supercruise and high cruise altitude, it would be excellent at that. But expecting it to replace general-purpose air superiority fighters is idiotic. Expecting the F-35 to do the same is batshit insane.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s