Warplanes: F-22 Secrets Revealed

February 12, 2009: The U.S. Air Force has released some performance data on the F-22. The stealthiness factor of the F-22 has turned out to be better than predicted. For radar purposes, the F-22 is about the size of a steel marble. The F-35 comes out as a steel golf ball. The AESA radar turned out to have a longer effective range of about 210 kilometers, versus a 200 on the official spec sheet. The AESA radar is also able to detect enemy radars at a considerable distance, meaning that, if an approaching enemy aircraft is using its radar, an F-22 can detect it about 300 kilometers distant. That gives the F-22 more time to get into position for a decisive first shot at the enemy aircraft.

These goodies are being released as the 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 air force also points out that their simulations (which are classified, so it's difficult for anyone check their accuracy) indicate the an F-22 would destroy 30 Su-27/MiG-29 type aircraft for getting destroyed. But the F-35 would only have a 3:1 ratio, while the F-15 and F-16 would only have a 1:1 ratio (there are a lot of F-15 and F-16 pilots who would dispute this). Thus the need for more F-22s, even if it means fewer F-35s (in the near and long term).

The air force also points out that, with a force of 183 F-22s (all Congress will allow them to build at the moment), only about a hundred would be available for combat (the rest would be down for maintenance or used for training.) By building another 60-100 F-22s, and reducing initial F-35 production by that much, American air superiority would be much improved, at no (well, not much) additional expense. Or so goes the pitch.

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