February 13, 2009 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Hoping to win support for F-22 production beyond the current 183 aircraft, Lockheed Martin has revealed performance statistics that exceed baseline requirements established by the Air Force.
Two USAF F-22 Raptors fly over Kadena AB on January 15th, 2009. [USAF photo by SrA. Clay Lancaster]
Repeating from a statement from November, 2005, the company says that the F-22s over-performance includes a radar cross section that is "better" than was contracted for. That classified requirement has been calculated at a -40 dBsm, about the size of a steel marble. By contrast, the F-35 is thought to be a -30 dBsm, the size of a golf ball.
Supercruise is at Mach 1.78 rather than Mach 1.5. And acceleration – although company officials would not say from what speed or at what altitude – is 3.05 seconds quicker than the requirement of 54 seconds.
In full military power (no afterburner) the Raptor can operate at just more than 50,000 feet. However, it is known that the F-22 opened its aerial battles at about 65,000 feet during its first joint exercise in Alaska, apparently using its afterburner.
The Northrop-Grumman/Raytheon active electronically-scanned array (AESA
) radar also turns out to have a longer effective range of about 210 kilometers, versus a 200 on the official spec sheet. That means a cushion of an additional 10 kilometers (5-6 miles) of detection range against enemy aircraft and missile during which it can get into position for a decisive first shot..
This information was being released as the U.S. Air Force makes a pitch to delay some F-35 production in order to build more F-22s. The air force generals point out that the first 500 or so F-35s will cost $200 million each (without taking R&D into account), while F-22s only cost $145 million each (without taking R&D into account). The construction cost of the F-35 will eventually go to about $100 million each as more are produced.
The operational arguments focus on combat effectiveness against top foreign fighter aircraft such as the Russian Su-27 and MiG-29. Lockheed Martin and USAF analysts put the loss-exchange ratio at 30-1 for the F-22, 3-1 for the F-35 and 1-1 or less for the F-15, F/A-18 and F-16. Many F-15 and F-16 pilots would of course dispute the latter.
Russian opinions of the F-22's capabilities vary from awestruck to dismissive, according to a Jan. 26 article in Pravda