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March 25, 2011

RIP: F-22 Raptor

Filed under: General — Tags: — Nate @ 10:55 am

This isn’t really directly related to the IT field but is related to technology so is relevant to the tag line of the site.

First off let me disclose I am not a pilot, and do not closely follow military stuff so I quite likely  have some things wrong, this is more of a comment(like most things) than me trying to report on something.

The F-22 Raptor, what seemed to be the most technologically advanced aircraft ever developed seems to be close to retirement before it ever saw action.

The F-22 Raptor

Like most people with the No Fly Zone over Libya I expected Hey, this is a great opportunity for the Raptor. After all with it’s next generation stealth technologies in theory the Raptor could enforce the no fly zone without even attacking the anti aircraft systems since they wouldn’t see it anyways(short of getting lucky with some flak or something).

I’ve looked at the Raptor in awe for what seems like almost 20 years now, I remember back in high school I was a pretty avid reader of Aviation Week and Space Technology (think I will subscribe to it now that I am thinking about it). I haven’t really read it since high school but I have to say the Raptor sounded so cool at the time, I still remember even today I had a laminated artist conception of the Raptor for years, it was beautiful.

As time went on I got bits of pieces of information here and there from various sources. More recently was a documentary called Dogfights of the future (one cool segment is available here) which renewed my enthusiasm for the fighter. I remember being quite disappointed when the Commanche was canned, but there was still hope with the Raptor!

But it seems the Raptor has too many issues, or is too expensive, or deemed not to be needed in the world today since we have such dominance in the sky, although with China working hard on building a stealth fighter and the general rise of China as a world power it wouldn’t surprise me if we have conflicts with them in the future if over nothing else over natural resources.

The one incident I do remember with the Raptor was several years ago when a bunch of them were flying to Asia, and when they crossed the international date line their computers all crashed.

Maj. Gen. Don Sheppard (ret.): ”…At the international date line, whoops, all systems dumped and when I say all systems, I mean all systems, their navigation, part of their communications, their fuel systems. They were—they could have been in real trouble. They were with their tankers. The tankers – they tried to reset their systems, couldn’t get them reset. The tankers brought them back to Hawaii.

It seems that support for the F-22 Raptor is all but gone at this point, another reason for my interest in the Raptor recently was that report from CNBC I saw it yesterday. I don’t see lack of communications with other aircraft as being a reason not to use the jet in Libya, after all it’s stealth, you don’t know it’s there. They can see you, you can’t see or shoot it, well unless you get in close with a heat seeker or get lucky with guns (assuming the stealth works as well as it is hyped anyways). It’s clear that almost 14 years after it’s first flight, the powers that be have lost patience and confidence in the program.

The next solution seems to be (I think?) the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which obviously doesn’t have nearly the amount of bling that makes the Raptor so bad ass(like Supercruise). I don’t know if it is still an issue but at one point some of the partners of the F-35 were threatening to stop support because they weren’t allowed access to the source code of the software that powers it. Not to mention the fact that the F-35 has it’s own delays associated with it and budget overruns.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

In a world where we can’t seem to kill a program because the people who make it have political vested interests in their districts, despite the fact the military says they have too many and don’t want any more, it makes me sad that something like the F-22 and the Commanche for that matter goes away.

The Air Force hasn’t asked for more money to buy C-17s since 2007. That year the Air Force wanted 12, and Congress bought it 22. In 2008, the Air Force wanted none, but Congress bought 15. In 2009, the request was also zero, and Congress bought eight. In 2010, the Air Force once again asked for no C-17s, and lawmakers bought 10.

I don’t know the inside story of course, maybe the systems really are plagued and it’s not realistic to fund them further, whatever the real reason is, it is too bad.

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