Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

China unveils its brand new stealth fighter: the J-31 “Falcon Eagle”. But it’s a copy of the F-22 Raptor

Pictures of a previously unknown brand new fighter jet have started to appear online over the weekend.

Built by the Shenyang company, the new aircraft, could be the answer of the aerospace firm to the Chengdu J-20, whose two prototypes have already become quite famous across the world since the first images of the large, short-take off and landing stealth plane, leaked on the Chinese defense forums about two years ago.

Image credit: Tixue.net

The new aircraft, coded 31001 (hence, believed to be designated J-31) it’s a sort of copy of the F-22 Raptor the most advanced (and troubled), (multi-role) fighter jet in the U.S. Air Force inventory: same nose section, same twin tails and trapezoidal wings along with the distinctive lines of the stealth design. Anyway, even if it has two engines, the new aircraft doesn’t seem to feature thrust vectoring capabilities. At least on this first prototype.

It has also some F-35-like features, as the air intakes and wings dimensions.

The J-31 is smaller than the J-20, from which it differs for the grey paint job and the presence of a colored emblem on the tails (in place of the typical red star) with the text 鹘鹰, Chinese for “Falcon Eagle”

Image credit: Tixue.net

Although it’s almost impossible to say whether the new aircraft will eventually reach production phase, for sure it proves that China has at least two stealth projects for future combat capable aircraft.

Considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects in the last years, one could believe Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of the Raptor. Still, it would be the avionics, radar-evading features, equipment and weapons, rather than the shape, to make the difference in a dogfight. Unless the Chinese will build some thousand examples such jets.

Alaska’s F-22 stealth fighter jets became the first operational Raptors to drop GBU-39 small diameter bombs

The 3rd Wing F-22 stealthy multi-role fighters based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson became the first operational Raptor unit to drop GBU-39 small diameter bombs.

It happened during exercise Combat Hammer, a weapon system evaluation program sponsored by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron, in the Utah Test and Training Range, “the only location in the U.S. where the F-22s can employ SDBs at speeds and altitudes unique to the Raptor,” said Maj. Wade Bridges, a Reserve F-22 pilot assigned to the 302nd Fighter Squadron.

The Alaska’s F-22s have received the software increment 3.1 that enables them to drop the 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating, blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets; equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range.

Among the Lessons Learned of the Air War in Libya, there was the need to employ SDBs to improve accuracy and reduce collateral damage.

The SDB is currently integrated on the F-15E Strike Eagle whereas all the remaining U.S. bombers (including the F-35) will get the GBU-39 in the future. The Italian and Israeli air forces have procured this kind of weapon as well.

Separation tests on the Raptor began in Sept. 2007.

The training event allowed for Total Force Integration across the F-22 fleet: pilots from both the 302nd and the 525th Fighter Squadrons and maintainers from the 3rd Maintenance Group and the 477th Fighter Group deployed from Alaska to take part in the exercise, alongside the Hawaii’s 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons pilots and associated ground personnel who took part to this Combat Hammer as well.

The successful delivery of air-to-ground weapons marks an important step for the Hawaiian Raptors towards declaration of Initial Operational Capability.

As the debate about the F-22 “invicibility” goes on after the confrontation with the Eurofighter Typhoon during the Red Flag Alaska, the integration of the SDB is another good news for the troubled stealthy fleet which follows the one about a gradual lifting of restrictions imposed by the hypoxia like symptoms plaguiing the aircraft missions in the last two years.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney sued by F-22 pilot's widow

AirForce Times has run an article stating that the wife of Capt. Jeff Haney who died when his F-22 Raptor crashed in Alaska in November 2010 has agreed to a binding settlement after launching a lawsuit with the main contractors for the jet.

Anna Haney wife of Capt. Jeff Haney filed the lawsuit in May, stating that the jet is “dangerous and defective” and was the reason that her husband had been killed.

In the AFT article John Gagliano, the attorney for Anna Haney, confirmed that a settlement had been reached but refused to provide any further details as to what the settlement terms are.

In fact according to court documents from the U.S District court for the northern district of Illinois, the settlement terms are confidential and the recording of the proceedings that took place on Aug. 8 is to be sealed. It’s though that the settlement will be approved during September in a special meeting.

Only last month the Pentagon announced that a primary cause of the hypoxia type symptoms suffered by some Raptor pilots was that of a faulty valve on the G vest worn by the pilots. There are some pilots who still are reluctant to believe that this is the cause of the problems that have affected the jet.

Based on the Air Force investigation, Capt. Jeff Haney crashed as a consequence of a human error.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

F-22 to deploy to Japan. With a solution to the oxygen problem (and some concerns about the AMRAAM missile)

As the debate about the F-22 “invicibility” goes on after the confrontation with the Eurofighter Typhoon during the Red Flag Alaska, some good news should ease some tension will help ease tension within the Raptor community.

First of all, the U.S. Air Force has finally narrowed down the root cause of the hypoxia like symptoms that have been plaguing the F-22 missions in the last couple of years.

“We have eliminated one of the hypotheses that the air force scientific advisory board postulated as a potential root cause for the hypoxia-related incidents and that was contamination. We have the data that has confirmed that” said USAF chief of staff Gen. Norton Schwartz in an article appeared on Flighglobal.

Indeed, USAF has collected data which suggests the problem is with the pilot’s life support system and specifically hardware defects associated with it. “Part of that is the upper pressure garment of the g-suit assembly […] Part of that has to do with hose and valve and connection hardware in the cockpit.”

The modifications are going to be fully tested and should be starting to be installed next fall. In the meanwhile, the current restrictions to 40,000 feet, to fly within 30 minutes from an airport as well as some maneuvering limitations which are in force on the F-22 fleet will continue until the modifications are implemented on the aircrews equipment.

With the changes, SECDEF Leon E. Panetta gave the go ahead to the deployment of a squadron of F-22s to Kadena, in Japan, that will take place in the next coming days. Panetta has in fact approved the Air Force’s plan which foresees a gradual lifting of restriction which will allow the service to resume normal F-22 operations over time (including the air space patrol flights in Alaska, currently undertaken by other types of aircraft), ensuring the safety of the pilots.

The hop to Kadena, Okinawa, was allowed along a route over northern Pacific and by lifting the limitation about the distance from the nearest landing field (extended to 1.5 hrs). The aircraft will be accompanied by KC-135 tankers that will have to carry at least one F-22 pilot, whose task will be to give Raptor pilots advice should the need arise.

It’s not clear how the F-22 (more or less secretly) deployed to UAE last spring, considered the restrictions to fleet.

The oxygen deprivation problem isn’t the only problem that continues to affect the U.S. Air Force.

Something which has been going on as long but has received far less publicity is the series of issues experienced by the AMRAAM missile.

The problem with the AMRAAM, described by Strategy Page isn’t F-22 specific to be fair (although the AIM-120 is the Raptor’s main air-to-air missile), as it deals with the rocket motor that powers the missile in flight.

It has been found that if the missile experiences low temperatures (like those that can be found at high altitude)  the motor becomes unreliable.

The USAF tests a few missile when ever it receives a new batch of missiles, it was during this test that the problem was found, as such there have been no deliveries for 2 years whilst the manufacturer looks into the cause.

Although the AMRAAM entered service some 20 years ago (1992) the missile has gone through some upgrades during that time and it’s likely that components in the rocket motor have been slightly changed. And the result is this problem.

The manufacturer continues to look into the problem whilst the USAF holds onto the funding to pay for these faulty missiles.

Written with David Cenciotti

Image credit: Richard Clements

F-22 Raptor kill markings shown off by German Eurofighter Typhoons. "The F-22 is not invincible" saga continues.

As the majority of the readers of The Aviationist already know, there are very different opinions as to the outcomes of the dogfights between the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors and the German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons during the recent Red Flag – Alaska.

Was the F-22 “overwhelming” or was it “salad” for the Eurofighter’s pilots lunch (that recounted several Raptor kills)?

Anyway, as the following photos taken by Dietmar Fenners at Neuburg on Jul. 18 seems to show, the German Air Force is particularly proud of the simulated shot down of several F-22s achieved during the mock engaments.

To such an extent two planes boast some F-22 Raptor kills.

Hence, at least in a (possibly unrealistic) WVR (Within Visual Range) air-to-air engagement with the Typhoon, the Raptor is not invincible.

However, as already explained several times, simulated  kills scored during dissimilar BFM engagements don’t prove a fighter plane is better than another one, and are almost meaningless unless the actual Rules Of Engagement (ROE) and the training scenario are known.

Image credit: Dietmar Fenners