Warplanes: F-22 Prepped For CAS

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October 1, 2007: The U.S. Air Force is getting its new F-22 stealth fighter ready for service in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though air force generals insist this is not likely to happen. Last month, an F-22 successfully dropped its first SDB (small diameter bomb). This is a completely new smart bomb design, weighing only 250 pound (PHOTO). This weapon has a shape that's more like that of a missile than a bomb (70 inches long, 190 millimeters in diameter), with the guidance system built in.

The smaller blast from the SDB is still pretty substantial (51 pounds of explosives). A new SDB design has a Focused Lethality Munition (FLM) warhead, which reduces the number of metal fragments created when the bomb explodes, and increases the blast effect. This is meant to reduce casualties to nearby civilians.

An F-22 can carry eight SDBs in its internal bomb bays, in addition to four air-to-air missiles. But why send F-22 into Iraq and Afghanistan? There are several reasons. One is combat experience. OK, there are plenty of A-10s, F-16s and F-18s available to drop smart bombs, so why use an F-22? Because the F-22 has not been in a combat zone yet, and you need to see how the aircraft reacts to the stresses and conditions only found in a combat zone. But there are other reasons as well. Iraq is right next to Syria and Iran, two countries with lots of Russian air defense radars that F-22s can play with. Afghanistan also has Iran as a neighbor, as well as a small border with China. Letting those countries get a look at the F-22 also has some psychological impact.

Moreover, lacking an air-to-air opponent, dropping smart bombs for ground troops might be the only work F-22s will get for a while. This CAS (Close Air Support) mission is all the air force has been doing for the past four years. Might as well get the F-22 in shape for it.


 


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