F/A/R/C/E-22 Raptor…cleans windows too!

A friend gave me the idea for the Fighter/Attack/Recon/Cargo/Electronic warfare version of the F-22 Raptor not long after the added the ‘A’ designation. Now they’re hyping it as an electronic anti-IED platform, noted at the POGO blog. The source material is only available via paid subscription, so I can’t give you any details. But at a time while some are calling for cuts in F-35 production to build additional F-22s, I’ve got to wonder how serious this claim really is. I don’t always agree with POGO (folks, that’s ‘understatement‘), but I’ve got to agree with them on this one.

First, let me be very clear: If the F-22’s electronics suite is capable of countering IEDs, let’s bring it on. If all that’s needed is a slight modification to the existing hardware or some new software, that’s a no-brainer. The POGO entry seems to make it sound like they’re talking about an anti-IED specialty variant of the Raptor. I find that extremely unlikely. Most probably they’re talking about upgrading them all to include the capability.

Second, they’ve been hyping the electronics capabilities of the Raptor for some time, and that’s a good thing. Here are a couple interesting ones from C4ISR Journal: Supersonic SIGINT Is Back: ISR Sensors Built Into F/A-22, JSF Fuselages and Agile radar beams: Active electronically scanned arrays energize fighter performance.

But this claim, coming right now, seems a bit contrived. Maybe Murdoc’s just a bit jaded. I’d sure like to know more details about the proposal, but, then, I’m sure the IED makers would, too.

Anyway, if Raptors can do it, let’s go for it. However, I’m not expecting to see F-22s screaming down to clear roads ahead of supply convoys. And, as useful as anti-IED capabilities may be, they aren’t a good reason to make decisions regarding hundred-million dollar air superiority fighters.

Now, if they’d just add a camera and a little cargo bay, the Raptor would really and truly be a F/A/R/C/E. It’s not that the F-22 is a farce. Despite the high cost, no one seems to be debating the fact that it’s an awesome machine. But these attempts to sell the thing as a major player in the type of war we’re currently fighting appear to be little more than shallow PR campaigns. I’ve had a little yellow post-it note on my computer monitor for a long time as a reminder of the farce idea, just waiting for the right moment. This seems to be it.

UPDATE: Noah at Defense Tech points out that this is another “part of a broader move to try to jam IEDs from above — a move that has met with only limited success.” It’s been noted on Defense Tech here and here previously.

He also reminds me that a quick check of the Raptor Watch category on Defense Tech will yield additional wacky justifications for the F-22. Like any good multi-billion dollar defense program, there’s no shortage of them.

Finally, I got a look at the source article (paid subscription required) and Lockheed is looking to add this anti-IED capability beginning with the Block 30 model, but declines to give any specifics:

Block 30 Raptors will add air-to-ground radar, better attack capabilities against integrated air defense systems, Link 16 data link and a core Small Diameter Bomb ability through 2009. The EA capability against IEDs, not one of the aircraft’s main missions as originally outlined, comes as the company looks to solidify its advanced fighter’s relevance over the next 40 years, especially while the United States engages in a global war on terrorism.

They also continue to push for a bomber version of the Raptor.

UPDATE 2 : Received this in an email:

How about minesweeper, too?

Heh. I’ll see your “minesweeper” and raise you a “hedgerow cutter”!

UPDATE 3: Also via e-mail: Defense Industry Daily had a great post on F-22 and F-35 electronic warfare back in October.

Cross-posted to Defense Tech


  1. Surely, if there would be some kind of aircraft it would make sense to add IED-jamming or whatever to, it would be something like the A-10 or even a turboprop. That way it would be slow enough to fly ahead of a convoy (although it would still have to make S-turns or circles), have loiter time to hang around overhead, be tough enough to get down low where the jamming would be most effective, and have plenty of space to hang pods from. I’m smelling a rat here, too…

  2. I got a note from POGO clarifying that they *don’t* think a separate anti-IED Raptor is being proposed. I didn’t mean to say that I though they thought one was. I meant to say that POGO was reporting that Lockheed Martin might be proposing one, while the likely result was a fleet-wide solution. Clear as mud?

  3. Nicholas: You’ve hit the answer that everyone everywhere seems to be coming up with. Lots of folks are pretty skeptical of the whole ‘anti-IED from the air’ scenario to begin with, but if it can be worked in with the existing EW suite, then why not? However, anti-IED should not be a selling point for air superiority fighters, even if they are capable. Hang the stupid anti-IED thingy on an ultra-light. Or a UAV. Anything but a hundred million dollar fighter moving past at 1000 miles per hour. And, depending on the power of the unit, who knows how low they’ll need to be to be effective? Are we bringing Raptors in low and slow to clear a road for a convoy? Give me a break.

  4. Is the IED thing about jamming them, or detecting them. Its not really clear to me. Seems like look-down radar would make a lot of sense for detecting. But you’d need to be pretty close, since the targets are so small. JointSTARS, for example, flies to far away to see something a foot wide or less. Raptor flying right overhead, though …

  5. We already have aircraft able to exceed the limits of the pilots-the Raptor is great,however can we not retrofit some of the goodies inti existing airframes?There comes a point of diminishing returns.It sure is a awesome machine however-Kevin