Defense Issues

Military and general security

CDI: The F-22: expensive, irrelevant and counterproductive

Posted by Picard578 on November 1, 2014

By PIERRE SPREY, JAMES STEVENSON and WINSLOW WHEELER

Special to the Star-Telegram

On Dec. 12, the Air Force announced with considerable fanfare at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia that its F-22 fighter had reached “full operational capability.” Air Combat Command commander Gen. John Corley called it a “key milestone.”

Brimming with pride, a spokesman for the manufacturer, Lockheed, stated: “The F-22 is ready for world-wide operations” — and then added, “… should it be called upon.”

His afterthought makes the point: There are, of course, two wars going on, and the F-22 has yet to fly a single sortie over the skies of Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor has the Air Force announced any intention of sending the F-22 to either theater.

The Air Force is quite right to keep the F-22 as far as possible from either conflict. The airplane is irrelevant to both, and were it to appear in those skies, it almost certainly would set U.S. and allied forces back.

Not only would it impose an unwanted burden on the already overstretched support forces in the region, but its primary mission — shooting down enemy aircraft — has no meaning in 21st-century warfare. Al Qaeda and the Taliban have no air force, nor do they want one.

Although the F-22 could carry two bombs to attack ground targets, that capability is so modest that our opponents in Iraq and Afghanistan might not even notice. It also would be ungracious to compare the F-22 to the ridiculously cheap, simple, and quite old A-10 close-air-support aircraft that has been operating in both wars — and even more ungracious to point out that each A-10 can deliver more than 10 times that load.

Destroying from the air enemy tactical units directly on the battlefield is an essential part of modern warfare — a mission that the Air Force was forced to embrace reluctantly when it developed the low- and slow-flying A-10, its first and only purpose-built close-air-support aircraft. Data from Afghanistan indicate that U.S. and allied forces might have killed more innocent civilians than the enemy has in the past year, and from Iraq we read report after report of civilians killed as a result of U.S. action. A major part of those “collateral” civilian casualties come from air attacks from aircraft flying too fast and too high to know and positively identify exactly what they are guiding their munitions to.

In a form of conflict in which winning over the civilian population is key to success, F-22 participation — along with that of other high-flying, high-speed aircraft — may be much worse than irrelevant.

Corley and other F-22 advocates would leap to argue that in its intended role — shooting down enemy fighters — it is unsurpassed. In fact, the airplane’s many advocates seek to expand the F-22 buy beyond 2009, when current production is scheduled to end.

Let’s pretend for the moment that there exists, or will soon, an enemy air force for which the F-22 would be relevant. How, then, could the F-22 help?

As an individual performer in real-world air-to-air combat, the F-22 is a huge disappointment. The Air Force vociferously disagrees — based on its untested-by-combat hypothesis that air wars can be fought and won by long-range, radar-controlled missiles fired at enemies you cannot see or reliably identify. If ever the F-22 finds itself in an air war against a serious opponent, all of us will find out who is right.

Three issues matter here:

Force size — The U.S. Air Force initially decided that to fight any serious opposing air force would require 750 F-22s. For development and procurement, Congress is providing $65.3 billion — a huge sum. However, because no stakeholder was interested in exercising discipline over the design, weight and cost of each F-22, that $65.3 billion will buy only 184 aircraft. Given the need to maintain a training base in the U.S., and considering the demonstrated daily sortie rate of similarly complex aircraft already in our inventory, the Air Force will be lucky to be able to fly 60 deployed F-22s per day at the start of a major conflict overseas.

That number would shrink as inevitable combat attrition and maintenance down-time take their toll. But even that generously estimated initial 60 sorties per day would not be a meaningful force against the major threat air force that the F-22 advocates hypothesize to make the F-22 relevant.

Pilot skill — We can expect that same tiny F-22 force to attrite all too rapidly in combat because the Air Force funds only 10 to 12 hours of flight training for F-22 pilots per month. That amount of realistic training is completely inadequate. At the height of their prowess in the 1970s, the Israelis gave their fighter pilots 40 to 50 hours of flight training per month.

The history of air warfare shows that the most important determinant of who wins an aerial dogfight is pilot skill, not aircraft performance. Because they have raided pilot training accounts to feed increasingly voracious procurement programs (such as the F-22), Congress and the Air Force have virtually guaranteed high pilot losses in any hypothesized, large-scale air-to-air war.

When we buy ultra-expensive fighters such as the F-22 that gobble up already scarce training and support funds, we make our own pilots more vulnerable. If the advocates of more first-line fighters for the U.S. were serious about winning air wars and saving pilots’ lives, they would double (and then triple) the amount of money available for pilot flight training before spending a penny on new aircraft. Instead, Congress cut Air Force training accounts in the new Department of Defense Appropriations Act by $400 million.

Cost — The current plan is to buy 184 F-22s for $65.3 billion, or $354.9 million per aircraft. The Air Force contends that such a calculation is unfair; it distributes the cost of all testing and development — thus far — equally to every aircraft.

The Air Force contends that a more meaningful calculation for a prospective purchase is what it calls “flyaway” cost, which considers the development cost to have been sunk and that the only cost that should count now is the “cost to go.” That cost, the Air Force contends in an October “fact sheet” on the F-22, is a mere $159.9 million per fighter.

Even at the Air Force’s advertised price, the F-22 remains history’s most expensive fighter aircraft. Considering the tiny inventory and reduced pilot training that the unprecedented cost implies, it’s still no bargain.

The Air Force has failed to reach a point in F-22 production where it can be bought more efficiently. There is no “bargain” in going beyond the 184 that the taxpayers have already paid for.

The most telling characteristic that Lockheed and the Air Force are pushing to acquire additional F-22s is demonstrated in recent newspaper articles and advertisements. Nowhere do these items talk about a dangerous threat that makes more F-22s mandatory. Instead, they address how money for additional F-22s would be spent for defense corporations and jobs in more than 40 states.

Perhaps these articles and advertisements really have it right: Congress’ lust for pork, and the perverted thinking that jobs and profits (not the threat) should drive defense spending, will determine the size of the F-22 fleet.

Not so fast …

Deputy Editorial Page Editor J.R. Labbe, writing Jan. 20, took a sharply contrasting viewpoint, arguing that the “F-22, with its speed, maneuverability and stealth … is the ideal first-day fighter against enemy air forces. It blows the screens off the porch and kicks down the doors on Day 1 to make sure that nothing jumps up to contest air superiority.”

She noted the argument that the Raptor is an aircraft for yesterday’s wars but asserted that “in the zeal to respond to the tactics of today’s enemy, the United States can’t be too quick to dismiss the potential for a well-funded nation-state to turn into tomorrow’s adversary.”

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57 Responses to “CDI: The F-22: expensive, irrelevant and counterproductive”

  1. Jiesheng said

    In this area I disagree with you. It is a necessary fighter for NORAD’s defence and has the armament and capabilities to counter external threats. Dogfighting is important, but so is stealth.

    • Yeah, I agree with you too. The F-22 is not irrelevant, not for air defense that is.

    • picard578 said

      I didn’t write this article, I’t from the old Center for Defense Information site. Anyway, stealth is important, but it does not mean what you (or most people) think it means. Most important areas of stealth are EMCON (achieved through usage of passive sensors and minimum of outbound communications), IR stealth (achieved through small size, low drag, high thrust-to-drag ratio and IR signature supression measures) and visual (achieved through small size, smokeless engine and good camo). F-22 lacks in all of them – it has no IRST and is very large. Radar stealth, which most people focus on, is only relevant against radar SAMs.

      • SpecOpsTriceratops said

        The F-22 does have IR suppression coatings and a fancy exhaust nozzle, but it’s basically putting lipstick on a pig.

        The US needs a good low signature, expendable missile carrier with a radio, IRST, and no other toys. And if the automation isn’t up to it yet, a small stealthed up F-5 sized drone controller.

  2. Firstly, F-22 pilots are mostly veteran F-15 pilots who fought in the gulf war.
    Secondly, Yes the F-22 can take on multiple fighters provided there is an AWACS in the area.
    Thirdly, The F-22 Raptor can match up and beat SU-35s and SU-27s.
    Fourth, If you’ve ever put an F-22 in a realistic combat scenario, and trust me I have, it will come out the winner.

    • picard578 said

      “Firstly, F-22 pilots are mostly veteran F-15 pilots who fought in the gulf war.”

      And what when these retire? Plus, if we take that the average age of a pilot in first Gulf War was 20 years (my a** it was, but…), then today they’d be 43 years old on average. Very much at the end of their flying careers.

      “Secondly, Yes the F-22 can take on multiple fighters provided there is an AWACS in the area.”

      8 AIM-120 give Pk of 0,64 total; a 4 missile salvo would have a Pk of 0,284, for 0,568 with two salvos. So a squadron of the F-22s can kill 6-8 enemy fighters before being forced to either retire or engage with guns (or Sidewinders, if it is carrying any externally).

      “Thirdly, The F-22 Raptor can match up and beat SU-35s and SU-27s.”

      F-22 cannot identify them at BVR, so depending on OLS-27/35 performance, Su-27/35 might have engagement range advantage.

      “Fourth, If you’ve ever put an F-22 in a realistic combat scenario, and trust me I have, it will come out the winner.”

      I’d like to see that realistic combat scenario.

      • “And what when these retire? Plus, if we take that the average age of a pilot in the gulf war was 20 (My ass it was, but…) then today they’d be 43 years old on average. Very much at the end of their flying careers.”

        Well Picard, Yes and no, I know 50 year old USAF pilots that still fly aircraft like the F-15, the F-16, and the F-22. Some pilots choose to retire early but a lot stay in the airforce to teach younger pilots or fly the newer planes.

        “8 AIM-120 give Pk of 0,64 total; a 4 missile salvo would have a Pk of 0,284, for 0,568 with two salvos. So a squadron of the F-22s can kill 6-8 enemy fighters before being forced to either retire or engage with guns (or Sidewinders, if it is carrying any externally).”

        Okay, fair enough. But please consider that the F-22 can still hit targets and most likely cause panic throughout larger numbers. Maybe enough panic to disorganize them and maybe bring in allied assets to take them out.

        “F-22 cannot identify them at BVR, so depending on OLS-27/35 performance, Su-27/35 might have engagement range advantage.”
        I don’t really know how effective they are, you? Because I am not really gonna judge something if I don’t know the effectiveness.

        “I’d like to see that realistic combat scenario”
        Bering Strait , November 8th 2015
        BLUFOR:
        1x E-3 Sentry
        2x F-22A Raptor
        OPFOR:
        2x SU-35
        1x Beriev A-50
        Description: Russian fighters are harassing a Canadian CP-140 Aurora.

      • picard578 said

        “Okay, fair enough. But please consider that the F-22 can still hit targets and most likely cause panic throughout larger numbers. Maybe enough panic to disorganize them and maybe bring in allied assets to take them out.”

        Maybe, maybe not. And that is precisely what USAF forgets: the enemy has a vote as well, and people are more important than hardware. If the enemy pilots are not well trained, they will panic and withdraw. If they are, they will extrapolate where the F-22s are from missile trajectories and then either engage the F-22s or shoot down the F-22s supporting assets.

        “I don’t really know how effective they are, you? Because I am not really gonna judge something if I don’t know the effectiveness.”

        No idea about identification range, but extrapolating from PIRATE (90/145 km detection range, 40 km identification range), OLS-35 should have identification range of 15-25 km. More likely towards the lower end, as shorter detection range compared to PIRATE and greater difference between head and tail aspect performance suggests inferior technology (IIRC, OLS-35 is a more traditional IRST; only OLS-50 is supposed to utilize QWIP technology, such as utilized in PIRATE). It is still longer than 400-800 m range for visual identification, though.

        Data about PIRATE is here:
        https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/pirate-irst/

        “Bering Strait , November 8th 2015
        BLUFOR:
        1x E-3 Sentry
        2x F-22A Raptor
        OPFOR:
        2x SU-35
        1x Beriev A-50
        Description: Russian fighters are harassing a Canadian CP-140 Aurora.”

        In other words, basically a peacetime patrol scenario. Not a wartime combat scenario. In war, you will rarely have pairs of fighters engaging, it will typically be flights, squadrons or entire wings, and only rarely will you know position of all enemies before engaging. And there are many other unknowns: missile Pk for example. I know that tests between the F-22 and the F-15 assumed:
        a) a force ratio of 2 F-15s for each F-22 (a realistic ratio would be 2,2x advantage in procurement numbers * 2,19x advantage in sortie rate = 5 F-15s for each F-22)
        b) a radar guided BVR missile Pk of 0,65 (it was 0,34 in Desert Storm against non-maneuvering (cooperative) targets with no countermeasures; incidentally, Pk of 0,65 gives the F-22 two salvos with Pk of 95,7% each, meaning that only one in 22 F-15s might come to the visual range, whereas Pk of 0,34 would give two salvos with Pk of 64,1% each, allowing one in 3 F-15s to the visual range – and that is assuming that they fired salvos instead of simple additive calculation of individual missiles, as in 0,65+0,65 = 100% Pk, or 3-4 targets shot down by each F-22, in which case 2 F-15s to 1 F-22 would result in no F-15s getting to the visual range)
        c) perfect BVR IFF (in reality, only visual IFF – either through Mk I eyeball, binoculars, telescope or IRST – is reliable, and the F-22 does not have last two)

        So it is quite obvious how seemingly not so large differences in Pk assumptions and force ratios can change results (in 5 F-15s vs 1 F-22 and radar missile Pk of 0,65, one in 5 F-15s would be getting to the visual range, with missile Pk of 0,34 one in 2-3 (avg 2,62) F-15s, and with missile Pk of 0,08, seven in 8 F-15s would be getting to the visual range). Which in turn invalidates all claims of the F-22s overwhelming superiority based on exercises.

        If your scenario was a wartime one, Su-35s would have went after the E-3, and F-22s after the A-50.

    • http://www.opex360.com/2013/06/18/un-f-22-raptor-en-mauvaise-posture-face-a-un-rafale/

      • Yes… A plane low on fuel with significantly reduced weight in a guns only exercise which he terminated because he ran out of combat fuel locked the F-22 multiple times in an unofficial exercise which could have been a demonstration on how to beat a maneuverable plane beat the F-22…
        /sarcasm

        • picard578 said

          It should be noted that it isn’t just that one example, IIRC French pilots said that had the MICA IR been allowed, they would have managed multiple kills against the F-22.

          And you have a video posted in two of the articles I wrote, you can see how the F-22 in the video struggles just to deny Rafale a shot let alone to get into an offensive position, and this is against Rafale squadron made of air-to-ground specialists… keep in mind, pilot matters more than the airplane.

      • What you wrote is certainly true for both fighters (Rafale and Raptor), Cheetahfang258.
        The video interests are: Raptor is not superiror in dogfight, thrust vectoring is not the solution, Rafale with superior aerodynamics, doesn’t waste its energy as the Raptor do, a good pilot in a good plane is needed.

      • Well yes the Rafale is a superior dogfighter, I can agree on that. Look at what it did to EF2000 and F-22 Raptors. I think the F-22 is relevant however for countering fighters of the SU-27 family.

        • picard578 said

          F-22 is relevant mainly because US don’t have any other choice – only fighter aircraft that could have countered Flankers got saddled with heavy air-to-ground compromises.

  3. Andrei said

    “Firstly, F-22 pilots are mostly veteran F-15 pilots who fought in the gulf war.”

    Wrong. The policy of the USAF was to put new pilots straight in the F-22 instead of retraining F-15 pilots, the reason was because new pilots, and I quote: “have less bad habits from the F-15 to unlearn”.
    And those veteran pilots of the gulf war aren’t they like 50 years old now, and either retired or past flight positions? Because I suppose we are talking of first gulf war veterans, seeing as the second gulf war didn’t see any air combat.

    “Secondly, Yes the F-22 can take on multiple fighters provided there is an AWACS in the area.”

    With what? It carries 8 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinders. Realistically the 8 AMRAAM would ensure only a single kill against a competent opponent with decent countermeasures. The Sidewinders will maybe ensure another kill, and after this 2 kills the F-22 will have to go back and rearm and be grounded for a few hours for maintenance. Considering that realistically the F-22 will be outnumbered 1 to 10 that is not very good.

    “Thirdly, The F-22 Raptor can match up and beat SU-35s and SU-27s.”

    What makes you say that? They never went head to head. That is a hypothesis that remains to be proven or dis-proven.

    “Fourth, If you’ve ever put an F-22 in a realistic combat scenario, and trust me I have, it will come out the winner.”

    F-22 has been winning “realistic combat scenario”‘s for about 10 years now, whether or not it can win a real combat remains to be proven. My opinion is that it will win that real combat, but not as decisively as Lockheed and USAF keep on dreaming, and it will certainly not win the war in which that combat is fought because of it’s price, extensive supply and maintenance issues and low number. Think about it the Russian will produce twice as many Suhoi T-50 as the US has F-22s, India and China have hundreds of Su-27 in several variants. In any real war the F-22 fleet will win it’s first 3 or 4 fights which will be over 2 weeks of operations at after that it will be grounded because of lack of spare parts.

    • picard578 said

      “Wrong. The policy of the USAF was to put new pilots straight in the F-22 instead of retraining F-15 pilots, the reason was because new pilots, and I quote: “have less bad habits from the F-15 to unlearn”.”

      I believe that the F-22 units have a mix of experienced and rookie pilots… not sure where I read it, though.

    • Well Picard answered my first point.

      “With what? It carries 8 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinders. Realistically the 8 AMRAAM would ensure only a single kill against a competent opponent with decent countermeasures. The Sidewinders will maybe ensure another kill, and after this 2 kills the F-22 will have to go back and rearm and be grounded for a few hours for maintenance. Considering that realistically the F-22 will be outnumbered 1 to 10 that is not very good.”

      Well, The F-22A Raptor will most likely re-enter production in 2017(Yes I am serious) Dare I say development? My point being the F-22 can take them on and disorganize them then maybe go in for the kill. I’m not talking crazy numbers like 30 fighters, I am talking about a more moderate number like 6-10 fighters.

      “F-22 has been winning “realistic combat scenarios” for about 10 years now, whether or not it can win a real combat remains to be proven. My opinion is that it will win that real combat, but not as decisively as Lockheed and USAF keep on dreaming, and it will certainly not win the war in which that combat is fought because of it’s price, extensive supply and maintenance issues and low number. Think about it the Russian will produce twice as many Sukhoi T-50 as the US has F-22s, India and China have hundreds of Su-27 in several variants. In any real war the F-22 fleet will win it’s first 3 or 4 fights which will be over 2 weeks of operations at after that it will be grounded because of lack of spare parts.”

      Will it have a super major effect on larger nations? No. Of course not, The F-22 fleet may not be as decisive as Lockheed and the USAF keep on dreaming but its still needed to counter fighters like the SU-35, and SU-50. Like I said earlier its likely that the F-22 will reenter production in 2017, and I doubt Russia can produce a large SU-50 force as they say they can in such a short period of time. How can you produce such a large and hard to produce plane in such extreme numbers? Twice as many as the F-22? I doubt it. China may have hundreds of several variants but let’s be honest here, Chinese pilots are pretty crappy.

      • Andrei said

        ” Like I said earlier its likely that the F-22 will reenter production in 2017, and I doubt Russia can produce a large SU-50 force as they say they can in such a short period of time. How can you produce such a large and hard to produce plane in such extreme numbers? Twice as many as the F-22? I doubt it. China may have hundreds of several variants but let’s be honest here, Chinese pilots are pretty crappy.”

        What I quoted when I said twice as many is the official statement of the Russian ministry of defense, that went on record saying that they will produce 384 PAK-FA (Suhoi T-50 – T-50 is the prototype designation given by Suhoi using the designation Su-50 for the production aircraft is wrong is it will likely be lower in number an an odd number as odd number designate fighters and even numbers bombers/transporters ). As for whether or not they are capable keep in mind that most of the bill for the PAK-FA is paid by India which hopes it will get it’s hands on the technology to produce modern aircraft (their industry keeps demonstrating it’s not capable of that but they keep on dreaming). Also don’t translate the difficulties with the F-22 to the PAK-FA, unlike the US with the F-22 the Russians are actually using mature technology for the PAK-FA everything on it (IRST AESA engines EW suite etc) was developed and tested on the plethora of Su-27 derivatives in the past 20 years. They actually piggy-backed most of the development cost for the PAK-FA on their export orders.

      • picard578 said

        “but its still needed to counter fighters like the SU-35, and SU-50.”

        True, but only because US shot themselves in the foot by not developing the modern, so-called 4,5th generation, fighter aircraft to replace the F-16 – like France did with Rafale, UK and Germany with Typhoon and Sweden with Gripen.

        “How can you produce such a large and hard to produce plane in such extreme numbers? Twice as many as the F-22? I doubt it.”

        I don’t think PAK FA will be produced in large numbers, definetly not in large enough numbers to replace Flanker variants, but I also doubt that it is as hard to produce as the F-22.

        • Well, the F-16C in 2017 (2019?I forget somewhere between 2017-2019) might get an upgrade to its systems, or the airforce might look to buy the new F-16Vs which incorporate 5th generation technology. Good enough to counter MIG-35s? Even SU-35s? Perhaps so.

  4. Chris said

    There’s still the issue of only 8 hours of flight per month and most of the training in the simulator. Or if the article right 10-12 hours a month (still far from adequate).

    The problem with the F-22 is a single point of failure. You’re “betting it all” on the idea that radar-stealthy fighter (which has a large thermal signature) can get the first kill and get out with mostly radar guided missiles.

    The weakness being of course, if the plan doesn’t work, then the F-22 will be at a disadvantage due to numbers (from cost), sortie rate (high maintenance per hour of flight), low fuel fraction (0.29), and arguably its poor gun (20mm Gatling with a 0.5s spin-up time; Pk will no doubt lower than say, the 30mm GIAT). It also keeps the large fuselage needed for internal missile bays. Another problem is that there is no IRST, although I have heard that a “stealth” pod could be added later on. So that leaves a weakness too.

    On its side, it does have a high thrust to weight ratio and its aerodynamics are somewhat more refined than the F-15. That said, it’s possible that the competition, the PAK-FA, will also have a larger T/W ratio too, and perhaps more refined aerodynamics.

    I should also note that the problem of the pilots getting hypoxia (or whatever it is they are getting) has yet to be addressed as well. Supposedly there will be a backup oxygen system:
    http://theaviationist.com/2014/04/09/f-22-backup-oxy-system/

    However, no matter what else, pilots must be in the state of mind for combat.

    For the sake of the argument however, let’s assume that the F-22’s hypoxia issues are solved. There still are the drawbacks above. Finally, given the high maintenance the stealth coatings need, there’s the risk that the aircraft could be destroyed while on the ground (no rough field capability possible, likely due to the fact that these fighters need specialized hangars; in any event the logistic tail would prevent this).

    • Andrei said

      “For the sake of the argument however, let’s assume that the F-22’s hypoxia issues are solved. There still are the drawbacks above. Finally, given the high maintenance the stealth coatings need, there’s the risk that the aircraft could be destroyed while on the ground (no rough field capability possible, likely due to the fact that these fighters need specialized hangars; in any event the logistic tail would prevent this).”

      It’s main competition the PAK-FA is developed with rough-field capabilities and puts more emphasis on aerodynamic design, high missile load (about 14 missiles carried internally 6 in two bays in the wing root and 8 in two bays between the engines), Emission control (it has both RWR and IRST and Anti-radiation air-to-air missiles) and low maintenance requirements then on stealth.

      • picard578 said

        In other words, PAK FA might be the first stealth fighter design that makes sense. I still don’t like its (lack of) rearward cockpit visibility and its large size, but latter at least is dictated by size of Russia itself (more specifically, Siberia), so I guess it can be forgiven.

        Any idea on PAK FA’s fuel fraction and cruise speed?

      • Chris said

        Nobody really knows as the specs are yet to be finalized.

        But Su-27 variants go anywhere from .35 to .42, so I’d imagine it would fall within that range, unless the internal bays add a lot of mass. Su-35BM was .42 though, which is solidly a supercruiser. Compared to the F-22, it’s probably safe to assume though that the PAK-FA would have a fuel fraction advantage.

        What is known:
        – Su-35 I think has 8.8 ton engines (14.5 with afterburner) x2
        – T-50 later variant has about 10.95 ton engines (18 with after burner) x2

        Wikipedia (inaccurate I know) says,
        28.3 ton take-off with maximum fuel
        10.3 ton fuel capacity

        So that is ~.36 in fuel fraction,

        That’s the same as what this poster on Defense Forum India Calculated:
        http://defenceforumindia.com/forum/military-aviation/8276-sukhoi-pak-fa-fgfa-fifth-generation-fighter-aircraft-183.html

        F-22 had a fuel fraction of 0.29, perhaps 0.28 now, so that’s a 0.08 fuel fraction advantage for the PAK-FA, plus the PAK-FA has more refined aerodynamics.

        Also from Wiki:
        Wing area: 78.8 m2 (848.1 ft2)

        Can someone calculate these numbers for 50% fuel? Wing loading and thrust to weight?

        This is what Wiki has:
        Wing loading: 317–444 kg/m2 (65–91 lb/ft2)
        TW ratio with izdeliye 30: 1.24 (1.41 at typical mission weight)

        I get the feeling though that the F-22 may be at a disadvantage by the math here though.

        I suppose there’s always the possibility that the pilots on this PAK-FA could also end up with hypoxia issues, but I’d imagine the Russians would also put a backup oxygen system in place.

        Anyways, other information worth considering
        – Prototypes are flying with OLS-35 IRST, but they do have something in development, OLS-50. I’m going to assume that it’s comparable to PIRATE. The fact that it has IRST though is an advantage.
        – Considering the Su-27 already has some degree of rough field capability, it’s probably reasonably to assume the PAK=FA would too, although I’m not sure of how the stealth coating would affect the logistical tail.
        – Big unknown here is the flight to maintenance ratio. Too early in the lifecycle perhaps to tell.

        Only other thing worth saying is, if the F-35 is to be the main fighter of the West, the West is in trouble.

      • Chris said

        Oh, and I should mention that the PAK FA is likely to have the same GSh-301 gun as the Su-27 family. That’s probably an advantage against the F-22 with the 20mm Gatling gun.

      • picard578 said

        23.150 kg combat weight, 293,78 kg/m2 wing loading, 1,56 TWR. In short, it would give the F-22 run for its money – better instantaneous turn rate, better acceleration, better cruise speed, better climb rate, probably better roll onset rate (esp. if fitted with independently adjustable TVC nozzles).

      • Chris said

        Well all of this assumes no technical problems of course, which are probably inevitable. Some of it may lead to weight gain. The engine stats were with the new engine, not the current engine.

        The other possibility is that the F-22 might get a new engine too. Of course, that does not fix the other issues, like the lower fuel fraction (actually that may worsen over time). On the other hand, with a production run as limited as the F-22, whether it justifies upgrading or not (versus the opportunity cost of spending the money elsewhere) is open to debate.

        I think the issue at heart is that the USAF made an aircraft most profitable for the MICC.

      • Andrei said

        “Any idea on PAK FA’s fuel fraction and cruise speed?”

        It’s likely to be high. Russian jets have requirements for at least 3000 km combat radius un-refuelled compared with 1000 km for similar western jets. And that comes from the geography of their North, which they would have to defend in the case of a war with USA (that’s were the bombers would be coming from). It stretches about 6000 km and has only two major bases Murmansk with Arkhangelsk as satellite base in the west and Vladivostok in the east, with nothing in between but very small secondary bases that would be difficult to resupply.

        “I suppose there’s always the possibility that the pilots on this PAK-FA could also end up with hypoxia issues, but I’d imagine the Russians would also put a backup oxygen system in place. ”

        Unlikely. The problems with hypoxia on the F-22 comes from the new G-suite that the pilots use witch has a vest in addition to the pants. The problem is the vest that tightens when it shouldn’t. Basically the G-suite is not mature enough. The Russians on the other hand have had full-body g-suits (g-suits that tighten over the whole body, legs,arms, chest – they look like astronaut suits) since the MiG-21 era. They were so good that they exported them to MiG-21 users. I know this from my father that was doing his military term as ground crew when the first MiG-21s where delivered to Romania in the sixties.

        “– Considering the Su-27 already has some degree of rough field capability, it’s probably reasonably to assume the PAK=FA would too, although I’m not sure of how the stealth coating would affect the logistical tail.”

        Russians don’t give a hoot about the stealth coating, all their aircraft are build with reliability and easy maintenance in mind first, and their not changing their modus-operandi with the PAK-FA. The PAK-FA will likely be repairable by a “high-school student with a hammer” just like the Su-27. Their reasoning is that yes the F-22 might have some advantage in radar stealth in the first few days of the war but once maintenance issues catch up, the F-22s stealth will degrade to levels equal to or even inferior to the much more easily maintainable PAK-FA and from that point on it will be pilot skill, numbers and classical performance that decide the fight. So they reason that the exchange-ratio will favor the F-22 for the first few days and then it will switch in the PAK-FAs favor and with them having higher numbers …. oh well. This reasoning is based on assumptions witch give the F-22 all possible advantages, such as it’s stealth being of use.

      • picard578 said

        F-22s hypoxia issues are at least partly related to its stealth coating and OBOGS, which uses air from air intakes. Keep in mind, maintaners and factory workers producing the F-22s had same symptoms as the F-22 pilots. Apparently glue evaporates when aircraft is flying at high speeds.

    • picard578 said

      “and perhaps more refined aerodynamics.”

      Going by photos, PAK FA seems to be “flatter” than the F-22, and gives impression of being less draggy in level flight at least. Its higher wing sweep will also improve acceleration and cruise speed, though it will increase drag in turns.

      • Andrei said

        Comparison of front view of PAK-FA and F-22. Interesting to notice the smaller thickness of PAK-FA and it’s bigger weals indicating better rough field capability: http://www.google.ro/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2F1.bp.blogspot.com%2F_7SvKgIpSQ6k%2FS5hCPT0l1lI%2FAAAAAAAAAgY%2Fi7jnRHSk-uY%2Fs640%2FPAK-FA_Front_Comp.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fdefence.pk%2Fthreads%2Fpak-fa-vs-f22-raptor-a-detailed-analasis.60944%2F&h=250&w=640&tbnid=KXI_yZVqULvSaM%3A&zoom=1&docid=kxFcB4YCxKCMtM&ei=IxVaVOffM9bhatjdgOAN&tbm=isch&client=firefox-a&ved=0CFUQMygYMBg&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=608&page=1&start=0&ndsp=27

        Picture showing the PAK-FA from the front. Interesting to notice the all moving vertical tails, and forward moveable LERXs called LEVCONs placed in front of the intakes, in addition to the standard LERX of the wings which are behind the intakes which has a function similar to close coupled canard, mainly to control cortices generated by the leading edge root extensions, but is apparently more stealthy. Also probably is less of a drag penalty then close coupled canards in supersonic flight: control vortices generated by the leading edge root extensions: http://www.google.ro/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Ftheaviationist.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F09%2FPAK-FA-3.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Ftheaviationist.com%2F2013%2F09%2F03%2Fpak-fa-close%2F&h=853&w=1280&tbnid=_BFWdAJaQsnr9M%3A&zoom=1&docid=_JVOMOo1mJnBCM&ei=IxVaVOffM9bhatjdgOAN&tbm=isch&client=firefox-a&ved=0CIMBEDMoRjBG&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=1218&page=3&start=62&ndsp=35
        All this moving LEVCONs, moving vertical tails indicates a plane build for maneuverability, without relying on thrust vectoring.

        • picard578 said

          So PAK FA will likely have better acceleration, instantaneous turn and rough field capability than the F-22, while the F-22 will have better sustained turn capability (less wing sweep = less drag in turn and better lift-to-weight and lift-to-drag ratios at low AoA; that is why I always kept wing sweep in my fighter designs in the 40-50* range – not so much because of the sustained turning but for STOL capability).

      • Chris said

        Is sustained turn a huge advantage though?

        Transient performance looks like it would be better on the PAK-FA than it would be on the F-22.

        But to me, by far the most serious issue is going to be the flight to maintenance ratio. If the Russians keep it at Su-35 levels, then the F-22 is in serious trouble because the pilots will be able to fly more often and get better quality training.

      • picard578 said

        “Is sustained turn a huge advantage though?”

        No, not really, and wing sweep doesn’t tell the entire story anyway so it is actually possible for PAK FA to match or exceed F-22s sustained turn ability.

        In fact, in many-on-many dogfights sustained turning performance is useless as it makes it easy for an unseen attacker to line up a shot (either gun or missile, doesn’t matter). As a result, pilots will switch between maximum g, maximum acceleration and maximum roll with little to no time spent in between; when not fighting, they will cruise at maximum practical speed to avoid getting jumped from behind. So important metrics are passive sensors, cruise speed, instantaneous turn rate, 0 g accceleration, turn/pitch onset rate, roll onset rate and rearward visibility. PAK FA is likely to have advantage in all of these except the last, but the F-22 doesn’t have good rearward visibility either.

        In BVR combat, situation is similar. Once you detect the enemy, you want to point your nose at him, accelerate to maximum speed to extend missile’s range, fire a missile, turn back and run. This means roll onset, turn onset, instantaneous turn, acceleration and cruise speed are important metrics, as well as sensors capable of identifying the enemy at BVR (such as IRST). PAK FA has advantage in all metrics.

      • Chris said

        Either way it’s a problem for the F-22.

        Considering the PAK-FA’s superior fuel fraction, airframe design, and possibly TW ratio, it’s unlikely that an F-22 would be able to get many surprise kills even with poor rear visibility. Far more likely, the F-22 would be vulnerable to getting bounced from behind as it also has bad rear visibility.

        I mean, let’s assume that the OLS-50 is something comparable to the QWIP or SPECTRA. Probably not an unreasonable assumption. That is a major advantage that unless the F-22 were to get something similar would need to be addressed.

        We haven’t even begun to discuss the sortie rate, which may end up favoring the PAK FA either.

      • picard578 said

        True, PAK FA will likely be able to cruise at same, or even higher speed than, the F-22. Combined with all other advantages, it doesn’t look like the F-22 will be a good counter.

        And SPECTRA is Rafale’s self-defense suite (Système de Protection et d’Évitement des Conduites de Tir du Rafale) while QWIP is a type of technology used to make IRST (Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector). I’m fairly sure that the OLS-50 uses QWIP technology, but it can’t be “comparable to SPECTRA”.

      • Chris said

        My bad. It was a typo. Meant to say PIRATE, but the point is clear, the PAK-FA has the upper hand, at least in terms of specs.

        In any event, there’s so few F-22s being built, it may not matter. The F-35 may be the primary counter, and it is even worse. It will have to rely solely on numbers, but it too will be hampered.by poor maintenance to flight ratios and as far as the specs go – it’s not really an air superiority fighter, more of a bomber that can carry a couple of missiles.

        • picard578 said

          True. F-35 does have IR MAWS as opposed to F-22s UV MAWS, which is a distinct advantage as IR MAWS can serve as a 360* IRST with good software and HMD (and as much as people like to ignore it, that holds true for Rafale as much as for the F-35) and it can also detect missiles in ballistic flight (engines shut down), which UV MAWS cannot, but that and its IRST are literally the only advantages it has over the F-22. In the end, the F-35 will have a good situational awareness of the fighter that kills it.

      • picard578 said

        I think that primary counters will turn out to be the F-15 and the F-16 on USAF side of things, both the F-22 and F-35 are too costly and too hard to maintain, and as you said, latter is a bomber.

  5. Chris said

    Yeah I get the feeling that if the Russians don’t care too much about stealth coatings and it should be relatively easy to maintain, that they will have a huge advantage. That should mean a lower logistics tail and that the PAK FA should be able to avoid issues like the OBOGS problem. Throw in the superior range and you’ve got a good long-range bomber interceptor and fighter. That isn’t to say that there won’t be technical problems elsewhere, but I expect the normal set of issues when a new plane is introduced.

    The PAK-FA is essentially an evolution from the SU-27 family, an incremental step forward. It should retain most of the advantages of the SU-27 and build on them then. The F-22 you could argue in some ways derived from the F-15, but it’s a ground up design, and one that seems quite problem plagued.

    Ditto for the F-35 then, which not be a viable air to air fighter. That’s the huge issue. The USAF doesn’t really have that many F-22s. Most likely the PAK-FA would face more F-35s then anything else. Possibly older aircraft as well as the cost overruns render the F-35 unaffordable.

    • picard578 said

      F-22 is basically a stealth!F-15, wing position, air intake configuration, engine configuration, configuration of vertical and horizontal tails… all of it is more or less identical to the F-15s, except for changes due to stealth requirements. Both PAK FA and the F-22 are unlikely to have much in common with Su-27/F-15, respectively, though PAK FA might at least use the same engines as the Su-35.

      And ironically, main threat to PAK FA (as far as USAF aircraft are concerned) might be the F-15. F-22s are too few and hard to maintain, F-35 is little more than a practice target, F-16 is overweight in its later iterations and, more importantly, primarly used for air-to-ground work.

      • Chris said

        Issue is, the F-16 is more or less the best aircraft for air superiority in the inventory, but it’s pilots are mostly bomber oriented. Combine that with being a medium weight multirole fighter and its advantages are gone. F-15 and F-22 pilots are more multi-role, although some pilots do train for air to air.

        The recent use of the F-22 for bombing tells me the direction that they are going with that aircraft. That does not bode well.

        Perhaps I should note that seeing that all its going to be used for is fighting Islamic fundamentalists, that may not be a huge drawback, but of course, something like the OLX would be far better. You could buy dozens of OLX for a single F-22.

        So yes, that does leave F-15, but most of the air frames are aging and will probably have to be retired unless they restart the line. Perhaps the Super Hornet could also be added to this list.

        • picard578 said

          I did a proposal for the F-16A modifications. Pros are that it is a modification of an existing aircraft, so it would be easier to put into production than the FLX. Cons are that it is inferior to the FLX in just about every measure. I’m not sure when I’ll post it, though.

          And OLX (or a real-world counterpart, such as Super Tucano) would be the best choice for COIN, though ALX/A-10 might be a better choice if ISIL captured large numbers of air defense weapons.

          IIRC, F-15A/C pilots train exclusively for air-to-air. F-22 pilots do train for ground attack, though, but I don’t think they spend much time at it.

      • Chris said

        The OLX vs ALX debate goes down to what you are up against.

        The majority of insurgents are probably armed with 12.7mm machine guns. It’s when you start encountering medium caliber (20mm or higher) guns and perhaps MANPADs that the ALX becomes a better choice.

        But truth be told, the real counter to insurgents is to not anger off the locals to the point where they actual become insurgents. That means investing real efforts into their well-being rather than for enriching Western corporations. Of course, if that happened, a lot of these wars would not have happened in the first place.

  6. Chris said

    You might be right that F-15A and C are still air to air. I do know that the E versions are mainly air to ground.

    To be honest, I am unsure of whether the F-15 will be a counter too. They are being rapidly retired:

    http://theaviationist.com/2014/03/12/fy15-adjustment-plan/
    http://www.airforcetimes.com/article/20140310/NEWS/303100029/Air-Force-details-fleet-cuts-states-hardest-hit
    http://www.stripes.com/nearly-half-of-air-force-s-planned-f-15c-eagle-cuts-could-come-from-overseas-1.272303

    That leaves a shrinking, aging fleet.

    Essentially they’ve created a hollow air force, although not for the reasons the political right in the US cites. The real reason is the defense industry.

  7. Henrik said

    “In the end, the F-35 will have a good situational awareness of the fighter that kills it.”

    Hilariously phrased, Picard 🙂

  8. Chris said

    If you think about it, what is urgently needed much more than weapons systems changes are cultural changes in how militaries organize themselves and think. It’s very second generation based.

  9. Andrei said

    Hey Picard when do we get some new material. I’m running out of ammo to counter F-35 fan-boys on other forums 😀 Doesn’t help that they seem to have 100% reality-proof armor 😀

    • picard578 said

      “Hey Picard when do we get some new material.”

      1-12-2014. I reduced frequency of posing to twice a month (1. and 15. of any given month) due to increased workload outside the blog.

      “I’m running out of ammo to counter F-35 fan-boys on other forums ”

      There should be a lot of ammo here already, F-35 is one of topics I have written most frequently about.

      “Doesn’t help that they seem to have 100% reality-proof armor”

      They do, I have noticed that long ago.

  10. Duviel Rodriguez said

    sounds like you guys seem to know the subject. I wonder what your objective is?

    Just can’t fathom that a US military that has been so effective in every air engagement its been in would make such horrible mistakes in building their future airpower.

    Also it seems like the rest of the world (anyone U.S. would sell to) is tripping over themselves to buy the very expensive F-35.

    You guys must be smarter than every professional the USAF and other world powers employs to advice on procurement. You guys should be making a billion dollars in consulting fees.

    • picard578 said

      Most of the time, US military has been effective despite, not because of, its hardware. Pilots come first, and US have always had good training programs.

      “Also it seems like the rest of the world (anyone U.S. would sell to) is tripping over themselves to buy the very expensive F-35.”

      Not exactly. Canada bought them under US pressure and is reconsidering the decision. Israel bought them under US pressure and is reconsidering the decision. Netherlands brought them under US pressure and are reconsidering the decision. Norway brought them under US pressure and some in Parliament aren’t happy about the purchase. Japan bought them under US pressure. Korea brought them under US pressure. Turkey brought them under US pressure. Italy brought them under US pressure. See the pattern here? Only exception to that is United Kingdom, which bought them because F-35 is the only STOVL aircraft in production.
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/on-f-35-export-success/

      • Andrei said

        “Just can’t fathom that a US military that has been so effective in every air engagement its been in would make such horrible mistakes in building their future airpower.”

        That’s a good joke the US military has been effective in air engagements only when it had numerical superiority and not even then. The air campaigns in WWII were won on numerical superiority. Were that could not be achieved, like over the Ploiesti oil fields in Romania the USAAF suffered crippling losses. Over Koreea again they enjoyed massive numerical superiority., in the later stages of the war, but in the early stages they had a lot of trouble even establishing air superiority let alone keeping it. Then comes Vietnam then can be called anything but a success. The USAF achieved at beast a draw in the air war despite numerical superiority. The kill ration of F-4 vs. Mig 21 was 1 to 1 which considering the F-4 had 2 pilots and cost 4 times as much as a MiG 21 was nothing short of disastrous. The shock of this disaster is what led to the excellent F-16. But the lessons of that long ago war are forgotten now because then came the “resounding success” of the Gulf War air campaign. An air campaign were the USAF enjoyed a 10 to 1 numerical superiority against an enemy coming out of an 8 year war with seriously badly maintained aircraft.
        The myth of the invincibility of the US air power is just that a myth established against weaker opponents and never challenged by an equal opponent. Make no mistake WWII Germany was not the equal of the US it was not even the equal of the USSR.

        • picard578 said

          Actually, superiority in sorties flown during Gulf War was much greater… as in, Iraqi air force flew 0,63% of combat sorties that US did (430 vs 68.149), giving Coalition a numerical advantage of 160:1. And out of said 68k Coalition sorties, 23.475 were counter-air.

          https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/why-gulf-wars-cannot-be-used-as-a-basis-for-estimating-effectiveness-of-beyond-visual-range-combat/

          To say that either Gulf War proves anything about air power is like saying that lifting a peacock’s tail feather makes you a power lifter. Kosovo war is similar in that regard, and these three wars are literally the only ones where USAFs performance was as expected by its senior staff and proponents. In World War II USAAF and RAF destroyed the Luftwaffe but had huge losses (due to strategic bombing paradigm). Basically, United States have always required massive numerical advantage to establish air superiority despite technologists stating that numerical advantage isn’t required. But even then, numerical advantage only worked because they could put up large number of aircraft with well-trained pilots. When you combine maintenance and training impacts of stealth coatings with cost impact of stealth design, stealth aircraft are unlikely to have a major impact in a war even if they work exactly as expected on a tactical level.

      • Andrei said

        ” But even then, numerical advantage only worked because they could put up large number of aircraft with well-trained pilots.”

        That’s why they lost the air-war in Vietnam despite numerical advantage, training was lacking due to over confidence on missiles.

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