More than 24 months since the last hypoxia-like incident occurred, the U.S. Air Force has decided to equip its F-22s with a backup oxygen system.
The Raptor fleet will soon receive a brand new backup oxygen system as part of multiple contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin (worth 30 Million USD) DefenseNews reported.
F-22s belonging to the 3rd Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, have already received the new system, that will be implemented by the rest of the radar-evading planes by the second quarter of year 2015.
Being automatic, the new system does not require pilot intervention; a big improvement from the previous one that had to be activated by the pilot, which might be quite difficult, if not impossible if the latter was experiencing hypoxia-like/oxygen deprivation symptoms.
Because of the mysterious problem that plagued the stealthy fleet to such an extent the radar-evading aircraft were grounded back in 2011 following a deadly incident involving an Alaska-based, the Pentagon initially grounded the F-22s, and then, after lifting the flight ban, it restricted Air Force Raptors to fly near a “proximate landing location” in order to give pilots the possibility to land quickly if their planes’ On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) fail.
The installation of the new automatic backup oxygen system is not the only upgrade the U.S. Raptors will get in 2015: according to DefenseNews, along with advanced electronic warfare protection and improved ground threat geolocation, F-22s should also get the ability to carry AIM-120D and AIM-9X advanced missiles.
According to some rumors, the six F-22 Raptor stealth jets that left the U.S. on Saturday were deploying near Russia following the Crimean crisis. But the aircraft were simply heading to the Middle East.
On Mar. 30, six F-22 from Langley Air Force Base made a stopover at Moron air base, in Spain. The Raptors had departed as Mazda 01 from the U.S. as a flight of 8 (2 were spares) on Mar. 29 and had crossed the Atlantic Ocean alongside the accompanying tankers: two KC-10 (Gold 51 and 52, 87-0118 and 85-0032) from McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, and a spare KC-135R (Gold 53 62-3547) from Pease Air National Guard Base, NH.
Milair UHF and VHF band listeners on the East Coast monitored the F-22 formation through initial contact with Giant Killer, rejoin with the tankers and subsequent Oceanic Clearance to destination.
According to the French pilots, aerial combat with the Raptor is extremely important, regardless of the outcome of the dogfight: training with the F-22 gives French Mirage 2000 the possibility to learn to fight against a superior fighter: “Sometimes a battle begins even before meeting the adversary, when it is necessary to convince themselves that the opponent is not so terrible, and despite the gap of performance, the technological chasm, one is able to get the game.”
Most of the images you can find online showing a F-22 stealth fighter firing a missile either depict a Raptor prototype or the air-to-air missile is an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile).
That’s why the image on top is interesting: shot in 2009, it shows a F-22 Raptor 4007 launching an AIM-9L Sidewinder missile during a test at Edwards AFB, California.
The photo shows also the open side bay door housing the canted trapeze that the F-22 Raptors use to put the AIM-9 Sidewinder seeker into the airstream: indeed, stealth jets rely on weapons bay to carry bombs and missiles and preserve low-observability.
Although the missile in the picture is an AIM-9L, in the future, U.S. Air Force Raptors should be able to carry the AIM-9X Block II which features the Lock On After Launch capability meaning that the bay doors remain open just the time it is needed to eject the missile into the airstream.
The image below shows an F-22 launching an AIM-9M missile.
Top image credit: Darin Russell via Lockheed Martin; below U.S. Navy.
The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.
In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.
First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“.
Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.
Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2″ and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.
Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35″ since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.
But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.