Raptors wield 'unfair' advantage at Red Flag

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Sep 17, 2004
Moorpark, CA
Raptors wield 'unfair' advantage at Red Flag
F-22s make mark at Red Flag
by By Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke
Air Combat Command Public Affairs

2/21/2007 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (ACCNS) -- "Undercover" is an understatement for the F-22A Raptor.

A point clearly illustrated by pilots of the 94th Fighter Squadron, who delivered an aerial sucker punch to the seasoned Red Force opponents during the F-22A's debut at Red Flag here Feb. 3 -16.

Among the Blue Force participants were foreign pilots from the Royal Air Force of England and Royal Australian Air Force, flying the GR-4 and F-111C respectively. In addition, the F-22s flew with the B-2 Spirit and F-117 Nighthawk, the aircraft that pioneered stealth.

Though better known for its stealth capability, the F-22 packs a list of surprises cherished by Raptor pilots and coveted by others. In addition to radar evasion, this fifth-generation fighter features unmatched maneuverability, surprising power (supercruise) and integrated avionics or sensor fusion (multiple displays combined into one). Even aircraft maintainers said they enjoy superior logistics such as computerized technical orders, reduced trouble shooting and faster remove-and-replace components, such as engine changes. These Raptor advantages were demonstrated and sharpened at Red Flag.

Fourteen Raptors and 197 people were present from the 94th FS. The F-22's debut at the Red Flag exercise is a significant milestone for the jet, according to Lt. Col. Dirk Smith, 94th FS commander.

The exercise is an advanced, realistic combat training exercise designed for fighter pilots, and conducted over the vast Nellis Range Complex, which measures 60 by 100 nautical miles. The training involves air-to-air engagements as well as engagement with ground targets, such as mock airfields, convoys, and other ground defensive positions.

Invisibility - even with eyes on

When the Raptor finds itself in a dogfight, it is no longer beyond visual range, but the advantage of stealth isn't diminished. It maintains "high ground" even at close range.

"I can't see the [expletive deleted] thing," said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Chappell, exchange F-15 pilot in the 65th Aggressor Squadron. "It won't let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me."

Lt. Col. Larry Bruce, 65th AS commander, admits flying against the Raptor is a very frustrating experience. Reluctantly, he admitted "it's humbling to fly against the F-22," - humbling, not only because of its stealth, but also its unmatched maneuverability and power.

Turn and burn

Thrust vectoring, internal weapons mounting and increased power all contribute to the Raptor's maneuvering advantage. From the cockpit of the F-22, Capt. Brian Budde, 94th FS pilot, explained the F-22 is able to sustain more than nine Gs for much longer than the F-15, without running out of airspeed. From the pilot's perspective, the F-22 "is more power than you know what to do with," said Captain Budde. So much power, in fact, the F-22 enjoys capabilities alien to legacy fighters.

This boost of thrust enables the Raptor to take off with a full load of weapons and fuel. Furthermore, mach speeds are attainable without afterburners (supercruise) and coincidently, the F-22 features better fuel efficiency than legacy fighters. This increased fuel efficiency raises eyebrows considering the F-22 boasts 20,000 more pounds of thrust than the F-15 Eagle it's replacing.

Sensor Fusion: 'One display vs. many'

"The F-22 is an air-to-air machine compared to the legacy fighters [used today],"said Captain Budde.

One of the Raptor's prized novelties is sensor fusion, or integrated avionics. Tech. Sgt. Al Perkins, 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 specialist, explained sensor fusion, or integrated avionics, as a computerized gathering of all information from each avionics system and consolidating them on one display for the convenience of the pilot.

"[The F-15 pilot] has to gather his own data from different displays in the cockpit and draw his own conclusions about his situation, and then take action," said Sergeant Perkins. "But in the F-22, all the information is coordinated and available from a single source." He explained this capability frees the pilot from the tedious task of calculating and enables faster decisions making in the air.

Not surprisingly, the Air Force is convinced that the F-22's integrated avionics system is one of the key elements that will give the F-22 the tactical advantage against threats of the future.

Superior Logistics: A maintainer's friend

"I've been to Red Flag before as an F-15 crew chief," said Senior Airman Ryan Thomas, 94th Aircraft Maintenance Unit F-22 crew chief, "and it's fast-paced and full of long hours - 12 plus hours every day."

Not this time. For maintenance Airmen at Red Flag this year, shifts have eased back to less than nine hours a day. The reason: F-22 airframes are more "friendly."

"This jet was designed to be maintenance friendly," he said. Systems, like hydraulic lines, are more accessible and the airframe is brand new, which makes it less susceptible to problems associated with the 25-year old F-15s. Not only this, but the F-22 enables "the fastest engine change I've ever seen," added Airman Thomas. "We change this engine in less than two hours, compared to six-hour engine change on the F-15." Engine changes, however, were none existent for Airmen in the 94th AMU - the Raptors required none.

But perhaps the most obvious maintenance advantage utilized daily by crew chiefs is the Portable Maintenance Aide. This computer device keeps all the aircraft forms - electronically. The Raptor is a paper free airplane; they each have their own hard drive that stores computer-identified malfunctions and gives the crew chief an exact explanation of the problem.

When the 94th FS flew F-15s at past Red Flags, maintenance crews faced longer hours because their jets broke so often, said Tech. Sgt. John Ferrara, 94th AMU avionics specialist. Plus, every broken jet required hours of trouble shooting. The F-22 is different.

"This jet is diagnosing itself before it's breaking," said Sergeant Ferrara. "We're going right to the fix every time." Ironically, some maintainers feel the F-22 robs them of a challenge.

"This thing takes the fun out of being a crew chief," said Staff Sgt. Jason Kraemer, 94th AMU crew chief. "You're not even dirty when you go home."

At Red Flag, and at war, this advantage means a faster maintenance turnaround, and eventually faster engagement, said Airman Thomas.

The Challenge - 'This ain't your daddy's Red Flag anymore'

Despite the F-22's "unfair advantage," flying against the Red Force aggressors of the 414th Combat Training Squadron is no walk in the park, according to Colonel Smith. Aggressor pilots are made up of F-16 and F-15 pilots, specially trained to replicate tactics and techniques of potential adversaries said Maj. Bill Woolf, 57th Adversary Tactics Group assistant director of operations. In addition, he said the Red Flag is involved in a major reformation, designed to duplicate the world's most lethal threats.

"These scenarios are not made to be easy," said Colonel Smith. "The [Red Force] pilots are well trained and good at their job."

Also, Red Forces aren't limited to aggressor pilots. There is no shortage of ground threats at Red Flag. These include electronically simulated surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery, communications jamming, Global Positioning System jamming and more said Major Woolf.

We're training now against emerging threats," said Major Woolf. "We need to understand what tactics are real-world threats, and duplicate them [for the Blue Forces]."

In fact, the Red Flag exercise is now so intense one 414th CTS critique quotes a squadron commander saying "This ain't your daddy's Red Flag anymore."

Thus it is understood the people of the Blue Forces, like those in the 94th, are pushed to the limit, working 12-hour days and fighting two "wars" in a 24-hour period. Colonel Smith added that humans still operate the F-22 - and the human mind is fallible.

The goal, he said, is sharpening the Air Force - and that involves grinding away imperfections. Is the exercise difficult for the F-22 pilots? "Yes," said Colonel Smith. "You bet it is. But [Peyton] Manning didn't make it to the Super Bowl by practicing against a scrub team."

Feature - Raptors wield 'unfair' advantage at Red Flag
Interesting EG, I read that while most all of your post is spot on, the manueaverability of the F-22 is not anything more than very good. The Alaskan exercises were noted as being not spectacular in maneauverability, but definitely no slouch. Most praise came from its ability to net centric info to other friendlies, take advantage of its AESA, supercruise, and stealthily roam the battlefield.
That was a "Hmmmm..." article. Why was it written (to tout the praises of the F22)? Those things are expensive. Doubtless the brass wants to get it out there in front of the public to let them know what they are getting for their money. Much like the B17, make it a superplane.

Not that it is a loser, the whole idea (if they have attained it in full) is revolutionary. Air Supremecy. The other guy doesn't even take off. Sounds like they got it, but we really won't know until the shooting starts.
The article was from the official AF website. I am sure that it was partly written as a was to tout the new aircraft and technology. Let's be honest, it has been many years since the US military has brought out a new fighter, so they want to generate a bit of a buzz about it, and rightfully so. The last USAF air superiority fighter built was the F-15, which goes back 30 years! Air supremacy is not a new idea. It goes way back in tactical manuals, if you control the sky, you will control the battlefield.
Agreed. Figuring these things are going to cost over 250 million dollars per copy, they need the hype big time. American tax payer is gonna croak if they ever get a look at that bill.

These things are getting beyond expensive.
While I will agree that they are expensive, I think about what the cost would be to the US if we didn't have the best technology.

That really is the arguement. It's a pretty much damned if you do, screwed if you don't situation. Kind of like the Sherman tank. The terrible losses the M4 took was one of the factors sited (in truth, amongst many) for the work that was put into the Abrams.

At some point, I am sorry to say, the answer will be "no". When that is, I don't know. But the expense, coupled with a slow, steady and painful deterioration of the manufacturing base means there will be less money available in the future for these things. The affect is already being seen with the downgrading of the British Fleet. It used to rule the waves, now it is just another navy (although a very, very good one) in Europe. 100 years ago, Britian was the largest or second largest manufacturing center in the world. Not any more.

We are right behind them.

Agree with Syscom. This is probably the last generation we will have with pilots in the cockpit. Read somewhere (about ten years ago) that the last fighter pilot to fly in the west was probably already born. Probably true.

On the other side, once you get the pilot out of there, you have a lot more options for the performance of the weapons system. So, it ain't all bad news. Just for pilots.
The intent of the AF, Navy, and industry is to never make a "fair" aircraft.

The article is typically AF selling a new toy. But, I have no doubts that it will dominate the air much as the F-15 has done. Most useful features will be stealth and sensor fusion, not manueverability. The F-22 and B-2 will be the intimidating spearpoint of the spearhead of any future confrontations. Every foe will have to weigh the risk of confronting these two aircraft, and, as they said on Tombstone, "Hell rides with them" as they will be followed by the F-35, B-1, et.al.
This may well be the last manned air superiority fighter.

Next designs will be semi autonomous, maybe with a pilot on the ground.

They've been saying this, but i dont believe it's true. There's something to be said for having a living, breathing intelligent human at the controls, able to make decisions. Granted, us pilots aren't exactly the smartest bunch. I guess we will see...
They've been saying this, but i dont believe it's true. There's something to be said for having a living, breathing intelligent human at the controls, able to make decisions. Granted, us pilots aren't exactly the smartest bunch. I guess we will see...

The technology is now mature enough for robotic air superiority fighters. The pilots of tomorrow will be in flight simulators "guiding" their aircraft into combat and then letting them go at it in a fight.

The mundane stuff like transports will still have a pilot in the cockpit.
I dont see this happening on a full scale level for atleast another 50 plus years. I see them start testing the technology in the near future but it wont end manned air supperiority for many years to come.
Ref the mention of the 'foreign pilots in Blue Force' in the start of this thread, I hope there weren't any Scots or Welsh pilots in the group from the RAF!? I don't think they will appreciate being referred to as English!
The RAF is not an English Air Force it is a British Air Force. One wonders if the writer needs a political lesson (the seat in the UN is under the name of United Kingdom not England) or just geography - a strange map that just states 'England'.
Ref the mention of the 'foreign pilots in Blue Force' in the start of this thread, I hope there weren't any Scots or Welsh pilots in the group from the RAF!? I don't think they will appreciate being referred to as English!
The RAF is not an English Air Force it is a British Air Force. One wonders if the writer needs a political lesson (the seat in the UN is under the name of United Kingdom not England) or just geography - a strange map that just states 'England'.

Well, here's the guy to write to....

"Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke
Air Combat Command Public Affairs"
I question whether we will ever get robotic combat aircraft. The main problem being that a robotic combat aircraft has a set routine programmed into it. There is no such thing as real artificial intelligence yet that can equal the presence of a pilot. For certain missions like spying a robot can do the job very well. Bombing difficult areas perhaps. But you will always need the pilot and their ability to apply their training to the situation at hand. Just look at that robotic vehicle race to see the problems and yet you are saying that a robot fighter could be effectively used? Even on a radio-controlled line that leaves too much scope for an enemy to black-out the control method. GPS was thought to be unjammable right? Wrong and it is the same with semi-autonomous robotic fighters. So it will be 2500 if at all before a robotic fighter aircraft makes its first appearance on the battlefield. This is being extremely short-term considering how much research has been going on in artificial intelligence and how little progress has really been made. In short robots at the moment lack the same ability to assess a situation that a human does and deal with it as a unique situation in its own merit.

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