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The Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz have recently approved an implementation plan developed by Air Combat Command officials that will allow the F-22 Raptor to resume flight operations after a four-month stand down.
“We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate,” Schwartz said. “We’re managing the risks with our aircrews, and we’re continuing to study the F-22′s oxygen systems and collect data to improve its performance.”
In a task force approach to implementation, Air Combat Command officials developed a comprehensive incremental return-to-fly plan that balances safety and the expedient qualification of pilots against the inherent risks of flying advanced combat aircraft, officials said.
The entire fleet will undergo an extensive inspection of the life support systems before returning to flight, with follow-on daily inspections, officials said. The aircraft is capable and authorized to fly above 50,000 feet.
Pilots will use additional protective equipment and undergo baseline physiological tests. The return-to-fly process will begin with instructor pilots and flight leads regaining their necessary proficiency, then follow with other F-22 wingmen.
The commander of Air Combat Command directed a stand-down of the F-22 fleet May 3 as a safety precaution, following 12 separate reported incidents where pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. The incidents occurred over a three-year period beginning in April 2008. Officials remain focused on the priorities of aircrew safety and combat readiness. The return-to-fly plan implements several risk mitigation actions, to include rigorous inspections, training on life support systems, and continued data collection.
Source: U.S. Air Force
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One aircraft whose absence is noticeable over the skies of Libya is the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor air dominance fighter. Analysts said the Raptor was likely excluded due to its inability to communicate with other coalition aircraft and its limited ability to hit ground targets.
“The designers of the F-22 had a dilemma, which is whether to have the connectivity that would allow versatility or to have the radio silence that would facilitate stealthiness. What they opted for was a limited set of tactical data links,” said Loren Thompson, an analyst and chief operating office at the Lexington Institute, Arlington Va.
On of the F-22’s limitation is it can only connect with other F-22s via an intra-flight data link, and can only receive, but not transmit, over the standard Link-16 data link found on most allied aircraft. Radio emissions from various data links could potentially give away the aircraft’s position. For that reason, while the Raptor is the stealthiest operational aircraft in the world, it lacks much of the connectivity found on other warplanes.
The aircraft also lacks a significant air-to-surface punch.
The F-22 aircraft can only use two 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are GPS-guided bombs, against fixed targets. It does not yet have the ability to carry the 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) or to create synthetic aperture radar maps, which are black and white photo-quality images of the Earth’s surface, needed to select its own ground targets.
Under the Air Force’s global strike task force doctrine, the Raptor would normally escort B-2 Spirit stealth bombers. However, U.S. Africa Command, which is running Operation Odyssey Dawn, confirmed the F-22 has not flown over Libya.
“I see no indication that F-22s were used as an escort for the B-2 nor do I see anything that indicates the Raptor will be used in future missions over Libya,” said Air Force Maj. Eric Hilliard, a spokesman for Africa Command.
On March 20, three B-2 Spirits flew bombing runs out of their base at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB), Mo., against targets in Libya.
Analysts agreed that the reason for the absence of the Raptor is that it was not needed to defeat Libya’s relatively pedestrian air defenses. The Libyans have a largely obsolete fleet of aircraft and only older model Soviet surface-to-air weaponry.
“Libya is not generally considered a highly capable adversary,” Thompson added.
- Source: AirForceTimes, photo via Google Images
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The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is logging a deployment-intensive pace in early 2011 following a busy 2010, and the company continues to provide key support to the fleet as the Raptor projects power globally.
In January and February, the U.S. Air Force had Raptors deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan, as part of a rotational deployment for a Pacific Air Forces Theater Security Package; to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, for capabilities enhancement testing; and to Nellis AFB, Nev., for Red Flag, an air combat training exercise. F-22s from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, deployed to Japan performed with exceptional readiness, flying 100 percent of a robust sortie schedule in January.
The world’s premier air dominance fighter and the only fully operational 5th generation fighter, the F-22 deployed around the world in 2010, including to Andersen AFB, Guam; Japan; South Korea; and the United Arab Emirates. In a first for the F-22 fleet, Raptors from Holloman AFB, N.M., performed a re-deployment, traveling from Japan to Guam last year. The Holloman Raptors combined with F-22s from Langley AFB to make for 24 total Raptors on Guam at the time.
As the weapon system support integrator, Lockheed Martin supports Raptor deployments through comprehensive and responsive sustainment services as part of a Performance-Based Logistics contract. The company received a $726.6 million contract modification from the Air Force in February for fleet sustainment this year.
When F-22 units deploy, Lockheed Martin field service representatives deploy with them, providing support in areas such as avionics, systems engineering, low observables maintenance, technical information and mission planning. Thanks in part to the contributions of the representatives, Raptor performance in recent global deployments often proved greater than even that of home-station operations.
“The Raptor is a high-demand asset in vital strategic theaters, projecting power, bringing deterrence and enhancing security for the United States and allies,” said Jeff Babione, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-22 program. “We have been working alongside U.S. Air Force F-22 maintainers to ensure aircraft availability, performance and reliability for pivotal operations around the world.”
Deploying to new areas brings new challenges. Highlighting F-22 performance capabilities in an austere overseas climate, 12 Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron based at Langley AFB, Va., flew more than 600 sorties and 1,300 hours while deployed to Andersen AFB from early June to mid October last year.
According to Lt. Col. Pete M. Fesler, squadron commander, Lockheed Martin sustainment representatives proved helpful not only in keeping Raptors flying, but in helping squadron maintainers sharpen their skills.
- Lockheed Martin
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F-15s spark at Elmendorf AFB
Reservists assigned to the 477th Fighter Group at Joint Base Elmendorf, Alaska deployed this week to support the U.S. Pacific Command commander’s Theater Security Package program in the Western Pacific.
The 20 maintainers and eight pilots along with the 3rd Wing’s 525th Fighter Squadron will be deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan for three months.
The 477th FG’s Arctic Reservists are part of the Air Force Reserve Command’s first F-22 total force integration unit and have participated in normal flying operations and every major exercise and deployment since the activation of the 477th FG in 2007.
This is the 477th FG’s fourth theater security deployment.
“Our involvement is important because Total Force Enterprise is the future of the Air Force,” said Air Force Lt. Col. David Piffarerio, 302nd Fighter Squadron commander.
The integration of active duty and reserve personnel will prove necessary should a large scale combat operation dictate the need of the F-22′s.
“(Working together) we learn what each other can bring to the fight. Whether it’s tactical ability in flying an aircraft, fixing an engine, or basic deployment experiences, through effective communication and the compilation of lessons learned we make ourselves better.
Deploying to Kadena allows the active-duty and Reserve pilots and maintainers to generate sorties without having to fight the harsh Alaska winter weather and train with other types of aircraft, Piffarerio said.
“While deployed, we will train with our joint forces on a daily basis. This includes Air Force F-15′s, F-16′s, E-3 AWACS and Navy F-18′s, E-2′s, and EA-6B Prowlers,” Piffarerio added.
“We will fly basic fighter maneuvers and progress all the way up to joint large force exercises.
The training our pilots, intel, maintenance and aircrew flight equipment personnel receive while deployed is invaluable and we will serve the 477th and 3rd Wing proudly.”
This deployment to Kadena Air Base is not a response to any specific situation but is a part of the PACOM commander’s continuing force posture to address worldwide requirements.
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After two weeks of intense effort, a joint Air Force and Army team has suspended recovery and restoration efforts for the F-22 Raptor that crashed November 16 near Cantwell, Alaska.
An Air Force team did recover the remains of the pilot, Capt. Jeff Haney. Safety experts are now examining the wreckage of the plane as they seek to determine the cause of the accident.
Air Force officials say much as been done to clean up the crash site but caution some risks remain. Any debris discovered by snowmachiners or others in the area should not be handled, said Air Force Col. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the JBER medical group commander.
“Modern composite aircraft, including the F-22, use materials that can present health risks if they are mishandled,” Dr. Friedrichs said.
Although the risk of medical problems is low if someone picks up a part of the plane and immediately places it down, Air Force officials strongly encourage anyone who believes they may have found a piece of the plane not to handle it, due to risk of skin irritation or rash from the materials used to build the plane.
“When our technicians work with these materials, they wear eye protection, respirators and thick, industrial gloves,” said Master Sgt. Monty Wood, an F-22 maintenance supervisor.
Air Force officials also are concerned winter snow and runoff could expose other aircraft parts that may be hazardous. Sergeant Wood explained many aircraft parts contain highly pressurized gasses or flammable components that could be dangerous if disturbed.
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Last Oct. 30-31, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor performed its precision aerobatics at the Fort Worth Alliance Air Show, marking the first time the aircraft has demonstrated its aerial capabilities in the skies over the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
F-22 pilot Maj. David ‘Zeke’ Skalicky of the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Demonstration Team from Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va., flew the Raptor during the performance, entertaining an estimated total crowd of 110,000 that attended the air show over the two days.
An F-22 Raptor aircraft
George Shultz, Vice President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Program, said “Zeke and the F-22 Demonstration Team do an incredible job showcasing the Raptor’s unparalleled aerial maneuverability.” He also said “We are thrilled that the people of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and the employees of Lockheed Martin here in Fort Worth were able to witness this amazing airplane.” The F-22’s appearance proved particularly significant for Lockheed Martin employees working in the F-22 program at the company’s Fort Worth site, where the aircraft’s mid-fuselage is built.
Michael Cawood, Fort Worth site lead for the F-22 program, said “Seeing the Raptor fly at Alliance was a very meaningful opportunity for our program team here.” Cawood also said “This was the first time they were able to enjoy the F-22 aerial demonstration in Fort Worth. Our people take pride in helping to build, sustain and enhance the Raptor, and in providing an unmatched capability to the U.S. Air Force.” The F-22 boasts a unique combination of stealth, speed, agility, situational awareness and lethal long-range air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry to make it the world’s best air dominance fighter and to enable it to deter and defeat current and emerging threats.
Lockheed Martin is a global security company that employs about 133,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services.