Raptors ready to hit the ground

Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Rates F-22A “Mission Capable”


KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center recently completed the F-22A Raptor Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation and has rated the Air Force’s newest fighter as mission capable in the air-to-ground role.

This “Mission Capable” rating is part of AFOTEC’s newly developed system now being applied to programs under test at AFOTEC. The new rating methodology starts with traditional effectiveness and suitability measures as a foundation for determining potential operational impacts on mission accomplishment in the expected operational environment. This new methodology was developed by AFOTEC in an effort to provide warfighters and senior Air Force leaders with capability-based evaluations that are accurate, balanced, and more operationally focused.

The capabilities evaluated during the operational test included the areas of deployability, sortie generation, and Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) employment. [emphasis Murdoc’s]

As has been discussed to no end, the role of the F-22 in the current War on TerrorTM is rather limited. But there are a few spots where it might come in handy. Any ideas?

The test also evaluated deferred Initial Operational Test and Evaluation items that were corrected and informed Air Combat Command’s Initial Operational Capability declaration.

“This was a significant milestone in terms of validating the F-22A’s combat capability,” said Major General Robin Scott, AFOTEC commander. “We are confident we have provided Air Combat Command and senior Air Force leaders with an accurate and complete picture not only of the Raptor’s impressive operational capabilities but also where additional resources can be focused to further mature and sustain this 21st Century fighter.”

According to Col Matthew Black, AFOTEC’s Detachment 6 commander at Nellis AFB, Nev., that conducted the FOT&E, “It was the outstanding teamwork between AFOTEC and ACC testers that enabled us to conduct the most complex operational test ever on a tactical aircraft.”

They’re ready if needed.

Plus, it recently occurred to me that, since we’re going to be retiring them early, if it might not make sense to give/sell our slightly used F-117s to Israel. There’s much speculation that a first strike on ol’ Persia might be flown by the Israelis, but they’d be doing it with F-15s and F-16s if it’s going to be made with planes. A few more-stealthy attack birds in their inventory might be in our best interest.

The same goes for the Brits and Australia. I realize that there’s a lot of downside regarding training and maintenance and the potential for security leaks concerning our old stealth technology, but given the fact that we’re way ahead of that these days, stealth-capable allies might be nice to have. Or is the expense too great? The risk of the technology falling into the wrong hands? Thoughts?


  1. In the spirit of the WWII ‘Lend Lease’ program…I think sending the F-117’s to Israel would be a nice thing. Even nicer would be one B-2…

  2. In time I think a ground attack mission can be added to the F-22. I am thinking of the F-8, the NAVY intended it and it was designed as a fleet defese fighter, later they devloped a ground attack role used in Vietnam.

  3. It seems to me the USAF already tried and failed at finding a ground attack role for the F-22A, formerly the F/A-22. It carries it’s weapons inside only, unlike the F-8. Most of the internal space is taken up by the monster intakes required to stealthily feed the F-119 engines. It is what it is, an offensive fighter.

  4. I think the F-22 will only be used for really critical strikes, like Special Forces with wings. Their job would be to penetrate air defense networks in order to eliminate said networks. Once the Raptors shut down the radar and the SAMs, other planes–with larger payloads–will be free to operate without harassment. Also, the Raptors could stick around to deal with any enemy aircraft, though in Iran’s case even the aging F-15s and F-16s can handle anything they’ve got, exluding SAMs. I’ve got to think that if the US mounts a strike against Iran, the Raptor will play some kind of role. This is a brand new aircraft, and it would be foolish to ignore a potentially rewarding opportunity to see what it’s capable of in a real combat situation, albeit an uneven one.

  5. I think justifying the F-22 in light of the W.0.T. is pointless. It’s imperative that we (the US) keep our machines of war on the bleeding edge of technology regardless. If we’re going to make a fighter aircraft, we must make the best damn fighter ever. Which is what we’ve done with the F-22.

  6. I cannot understand all this criticism of the F-22. After all, the F-22 is a giant improvement over existing models and you simply got to have a superior fighter in the inventory. I-

  7. Well, the F-35 has to be cheap to replace the F-16/F-18 which are designed to be cheap but effective, and therefore plentiful and flexible. The F-35 is certainly not as capable as the F-22, but it is more flexible. It should have more internal room so it can carry enough air-to-ground ordinance without losing its stealthiness. The F-22 can only carry a minimal A/G load, however it excels at its interceptor/air superiority role, while retaining a non-useless strike role. These aircraft have been in the pipe for 25 or so years. You can’t really complain they’re not right for a war which started 3 years ago. You CAN complain about how long these things take to design and build, I suppose, but they’re pretty sophisticated so it’s somewhat understandable. Look, imagine if this GWOT means we end up fighting Iran. They have a pretty decent air defense network. Nothing the US and partners can’t defeat, but having stealthy aircraft is going to help a lot if a fight does break out. So they’re far from useless. So, both new aircraft will be useful. There will be more F-35s, and they’ll be used mainly for strike/ground-attack/carrier-based warfare. The F-22s will provide cover and carry out the high risk strikes where F-35s just aren’t capable enough. B-52s, B-1s and B-2s will do the heavy lifting, depending on the threat envelope around their targets. The F-35 may not be as big a technological leap but it will still be useful, for its improved speed, range and much greater stealth. It will allow strikes early in a conflict, where previously F-16s and F-18s could not go due to the hostile air defense environment. You could argue, while being technologically not as much of a leap, in terms of capability it wlil be just as big an improvement if not bigger. After all, ground-attack fighters face much worse air defense challenges than air superiority fighters which can stay much higher and faster, and choose their paths with much greater freedom.

  8. I agree with Nicholas’ post. People should also note that the aviation industry is constantly advancing. ie. CFD (computational fluid dynamics) is constantly becoming more and more accurate. This gives us better and better aerofoils. Aerofoils from 5 years ago are already aging. The only way we can keep ahead of the competition, also in the civilian market, is to give funding for development. While financial returns are delayed we should not cut funds simply because we cannot see immediate benefit. A good example is Carbon Composite development: It is still on a small scale at the moment, and information on it is still minimal compared to metal, costs are also high. Still, in 5 years time, economy of scale will deem that costs will fall, and it will have been a very sound investment. The applications some 5 years ago were minimal, but the applications in the future are nearly limitless. (think about it if we decided to neglect these ideas when they were still in their infancy) Who knows what is in the F-22 technology that will benefit us all in the coming years?

  9. Interestingly, the F-22 has a bog standard airfoil profile. (NACA 6-series dating from the 1940s). I think this just represents that with that much thrust available, the airfoil doesn’t really matter very much. But I’m not sure. Any illumination on this topic would be fantastic 🙂 Vstress, civilian use of carbon composites is probably going to increase enough to bring costs down across the board. I predict greater use in vehicles like bicycles and motor cars, for less-critical components such as roof and floor panels which can bring down the overall weight and thus save fuel and improve handling.