F22 analysis

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F22 analysis

Post by Picard » Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:56 pm

Program history

F22 program is a prime example of bad management – large developmental and production costs meant reduction in number of planes procured; that, in turn, increased per-aircraft cost even more, and led to further cuts. Result was that original number of airframes was cut from 750 to 680 during H. W. Bush' administration. In 1993-94, Clinton Administration cut number further, to 442 planes; 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review cut number to 339 aircraft – about three wings worth, althought it did leave option of buying two more wings if air-to-ground capability was introduced into F22. In 2002, there was another attempt to cut numbers further, but it did not pass, but in 2003, number was cut to 279, and in 2005 to 178 aircraft. Later, four aircraft were added to procurement plan.

In 1990s, Air Force cancelled program to develop multi-role replacement for F16, and, along with the navy, begun a new effort – Joint Advanced Strike Technology program, or JAST, which led to development of F35 Joint Strike Fighter. Marine Corps also joined in.

In December 2010, Program Budget Directive, pushed by Rumsfeld, slashed 10 billion USD from F22 procurement, leaving it at anemic levels of only 183 planes, number later raised to 187.

Here is how number of F22s to be procured changed over time:
1986 – 750 F22s
1991 – 648
1993 – 442
1997 – 339
2003 – 279
2005 - 178

Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell estimated that, by 2024, USAF will be short of its 2250 fighters requirement by some 800 aircraft (it must be noted that US policy had its military ready for two major theater wars – however, it is unlikely that either Russia or India will join China in the even of US-China far; actually, opposite is far more likely, especially in case of India). Problem is even worse since air superiority is crucial element of all US military plans.

Major problem was abandonment of "fly before you buy" policy, meaning that bugs were being discovered during production; same mistake is being repeated with F35. Prototype was tested, but it had little in common to finished plane – it did not have stealth skin, and was lighter than finished F22. Even shape was very different, and there was no demonstrative dogfight. Also, low-level production made it difficult to cancel outright, problem increased by fact that main goal of F22 program was to get money to contractors.

Capabilities also changed – in 2002, limited ground attack capacity was added, earning it designation of F/A-22, which was in 2005 changed to F-22A.

Whereas F15 entered service 5 years after development started, F22 waited full 24 years.

F22 is, as it is obvious to everyone who knows something about it, very costly airplane to both produce and use. But, what are real numbers?

F22 is perhaps more famous for its perpetual increase in costs than for its hyped abilities. There are many resons for such increase, such as false cost estimates made by Lockheed Martin, reduced orders and problems with aircraft itself. Official numbers are 150 million USD as a flyaway cost, and 350 million USD as unit procurement cost. However, these numbers are outdated.

Unit costs

Currently, one F22 has a flyaway cost of 250 million USD and unit procurement cost of 411 million USD, as opposed to official numbers of 150 million and 350 million USD, respectively. (F16, for comparasion, has flyaway cost of 60 million USD). Developmental costs have increased due to many patch-ups (such as structural strenghtening of real fuselage) and fixes.

Maintenance and operating costs

F22 is supposed to replace F15 fleet, but operating costs of brand-new F22s are already greater than F15s - namely, F22's operating cost is 61 000 USD per hour; compare that with operating cost 30 000 USD per hour for F15C.

In short, F22 costs two times more to operate than aircraft it is supposed to replace, while comparing F22 with F16 and its twelve times lower operating cost of 4 900 USD per hour just does not seem fair.

When we compare that to promises of Lockheed Martin about F22s lower operating costs when compared to F15, it becomes obvious, not only that Lockheed Martin cannot be trusted (that much already is obvious) but that military-industrial complex desperately wants to protect Cold War status quo, which allows them to get richer – by downplaying future consequences of current decisions, they can continue loading defense budget with even more costly and complex weapons.

Modernization costs

F22s electronics components are not federated – they are designed to work only with another component of same design, thus any electronics upgrade would see replacement of entire electronics system. Computer chips are already outdated.

Strategical analysis

Effects of numbers

Effects of numbers are various. First, fewer planes means that these same planes have to do more tasks and fly more often, therefore accumulating flight ours faster and reaching designed structural life limit faster. Also, smaller force will attrite faster; more flight hours per plane will mean less time avaliable for proper maintenance as well as greater wear and tear put on planes, further reducing already limited numbers.

In combat, side capable of putting and sustaining greater number of planes in the air will be able to put a larger sustained pressure on the enemy.

F22s shortcomings – force size and quality

To stop aging of its fighter inventory, USAF should have had acquired 2500 fighter planes between 1998 and 2013. In contrast, only 187 F22s were produced, and even fewer F35s. Only low cost option is to restart production of F16 – for one F22, one can get four F16s; seven, if we go with F22s unit procurement cost.

Acquiring only 180 aircraft means that USAF will use 80 planes for training and home defense, 50 for European and 50 for Pacific theater. When these numbers are combined with low maintenance readiness, owing due to its complexity and stealth coating, it will reduce F22s operational avaliability and strategic impact to insignificance. Also, only 130 of these planes are combat-coded.

Not only that, but in 2009, its avaliability was 60%. It had serious maintenance problems, such as corrosion.

187 F22s in inventory can, at best, generate 60 combat sorties per day, which is pathetic number against any serious enemy – whereas F16s bought for same cost would generate 1000 combat sorties per day, F22s presence likely will not even be noticed in strategic sense. Number of sorties will also become even lower as combat attrition and increased maintenance take its tool. There is also fact that per-unit maintenance costs for new F22s are larger than those for 30-year-old F15s, and will increase as time passes.

Also, while simulators may be good for cockpit procedures training, they misrepresent reality of air combat; as such, F22s unreliability also harms pilots training.

Effects of training

As US commander in Gulf War said: "Had we exchanged our planes with the enemy, result would have been the same". Even best hardware on planet will not help if pilots are undertrained – and F22 pilots are on way to become that, due to F22s high maintenance requirements. When Israeli Air Force swept Syrian MiGs from sky in invasion of Lebanon in 1982 with exchange ratio of 82-0, Israeli Chief of Staff made same comment.

Between 1970 and 1980, Top Gun instructor pilots, who logged 40 to 60 hours of air combat manouvering a month, used F5s to consistently whip asses of students in F4s, F14s and F15s. Currenly, F22 pilots get only 12 to 14 hours of flight training per month. Between 1970 and 1980, instructors at Navy Fighter Weapons School, who got 40 to 60 hours of air combat manouvering per month, used F5s to whip students, who got only 14 to 20 hours per month, in their "more capable" F4s, F14s and F15s.

Tactical analysis

BVR combat

Since development of first BVR weapons, each new generation of fighters would make someone declare that "dogfighting is a thing of past". Invariably, they have been wrong. In 1960, F4 Phantom was designed without gun – and then Vietnam happened.

US went into Vietnam relying on a AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missile. Pre-war estimated Pk was 0,7 – Pk demonstrated in Vietnam was 0,08. Current AIM-120 has demnostrated Pk of 0,59 in combat do this date, with 17 missiles fired for 10 kills. However, that is misguiding.

Since advent of BVR missile until 2008, 588 air-to-air kills were claimed by BVR-equipped forces. 24 of these kills were by BVR missile. Before "AMRAAM era", four out of 527 kills were by BVR missile. Since 1991, 20 out of 61 kills were done by BVR missile, while US itself has recorded ten AIM-120 kills. However, four were NOT from beyond visual range; US fighters fired 13 missiles to achieve 6 BVR kills; Iraqi MiGs were fleeing and non-manouvering, Serb J-21 had no radar, as was the case with Army UH-60 (no radar, did not expect attack), while Serb Mig-29's radars were inoperative; there was no ECM use by any victim, no victim had comparable BVR weapon, and fights involved numerical parity or US numerical superiority.

In Vietnam, Pk was 28% for gun, 15% for Sidewinder, 11% for Falcon, 8% for Sparrow, and essentially zero for Phoenix. Cost of expendables per kill was few hundred dollars for gun, 15 000 USD for Sidewinder, 90 000 USD for Falcon, 500 000 USD for Sparrow, and several millions for Phoenix. Overall cost for destroying enemy with BVR missiles – including training, and required ground support – has never been computed.

In Cold War era conflicts involving BVR missiles – Vietnam, Yom Kipuur, Bekaa Valley – 144 (27%) of kills were guns, 308 (58%) heat-seeking missiles, and 73 (14%) radar-guided missiles. Vast majority of radar-guided missile kills (69 out of 73, or 95%) were initiated and scored within visual range. In true BVR shots, only four out of 61 were successful, for a Pk of 6,6 %.

In Desert Storm itself, F15s Pk for Sidewinders was 67% as compared to Pk for BVR Sparrow of 34%. However, Iraqi planes did not take evasive actions or use ECM, while there was persistent AWACS avaliability on Coalition part – none of which can be counted at in any serious war.
Post-Desert Storm, there were 6 BVR shots fired by US during operation Southern Watch – all missed.

Breakdown in BVR combat, offered by Air Power Australia, produces (when corrected for few unrealistical assumptions) Pk for BVR missile of 0,077.

WVR combat

In Desert Storm, US forces fired 48 WVR missiles, achieving 11 kills, for Pk of 0,23. However, historically, Pk for IR missiles was 0,15, and 0,308 for cannon. While F16s fired 36 Sidewinders and scored zero kills, at least 20 of launches were accidental, due to bad joystick ergonomy, which was later modified.

Effects of numbers

In WVR, numbers are usually decisive. Thus, F22 relies on a (flawed, as shown above) concept of decisive BVR engagement to compensate for larger numbers of enemy fighter planes it can be expected to engage.

However, even in BVR, numbers do matter. Lanchester square criteria, which holds that qualitative advantage of outnumbered force has to be square of outnumbering force's numerical advantage, is even more applicable for BVR combat than for WVR, due to lack of space constrains. Thus, due to Su-27s costing 30 million USD, as opposed to F22s 250 million, F22s would have to enjoy 70:1 qualitative advantage just to break even – which is extremely unlikely. Historically, 3:1 was usually a limit of when quality could no longer compensate for enemy's quantitative advantage, in both BVR and WVR.

In short, F22 supporters have to learn to count.

F22s shortcomings in air combat

For beginning, four major characteristics were not met – one, 26 per cent increase in weight has led to wing loading and thrust-to-weight ratio slightly inferior to those of F15C; meaning that, for reasons of physics, there was no increase in manouverability – from outstanding, F22s manouverability was reduced to ordinary, except when it comes to air show tricks, that invariably bleed off energy. Weight increase also led to decrease in fuel fraction, from 0.36 to 0.28, which is too low even for a supercruise fighter. Even supercruise characteristic has failed – 50 year old F104 can match F22s supercruise radius, and F15C is one of worst fighters in terms of supercruise range. Stealth itself was not achieved because F22 is, due to its size, is very visible in visual, infrared and acoustic spectrum, and its radar can be sensed by advanced RWRs, as demonstrated by Eurofighter Typhoons at China Lake. Avionics system itself is outdated. Moreover, when cruising supersonically, loud sonic boom betrays its location.

Also, to fully exploit its stealth advantages, F22 has to remain passive, even with its LPI radar; due to its lack of IRST or other passive sensors, it is limited to being fed data by friendly aircraft, usually AWACS (while other fighters may do it, it is questionable they will be able to penetrate jamming). Such planes can be shot down, effectively forcing F22 to choose between radiating in EM spectrum or fighting blind when compared to IRST-equipped fighters.

F22s shortcomings in WVR combat

In WVR combat, F22 is pretty much very observable fighter – it is very large, which does not serve purpose of stealth. As noted above, its manouverability is comparable to that of F15C, and usage of gun doors and weapons bays increase response time, making snapshots within brief optimal "windows" a wishful thinking. While it is superior to F15E and F35, it is inferior in manouverability to F15A and F16A, and is inferior in physical size to all current US fighters; as TopGun saying goes: "Largest target in the sky is always first one to die".

That fact has been proven in exercises – whenever "Red" aircraft entered visual range, F22 invariably died (so far, list of F22 "killers" contains F16, EA18 "Growler", Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale). Even thought in one such instance, F22 managed to "destroy" three F16s out of four, fight in question started in BVR; when last F16 got to WVR, F22 died – fact that it is the largest fighter in US inventory certainly helped.

Also, missiles have minimum weapons engagement zone; usually around a mile or little less, as missile's warhead takes time to arm, and depending on missile's g-capacity. Thus, gun is often only remaining option – option which, in F22s case, is unsatisfactory, due to usage of Gattling design in combination with gun doors; both of that mean that F22 is unable to perform crucial split-of-second shots, due to combination of gun spin-up time and requiring doors to open increase time between press on a trigger and first bullet leaving barrel to around a second.

While missiles can perform 30-g manouvers, they move far faster than fighters, which means both increased turn diameter as well as increasing possibility of missile to miss target for no clear reason, even when target is not manouvering or using ECM. This, combined with probability of fighter simply running out of missiles – which is, with F22s low numbers, very likely - means that gun combat is far from outdated; and in it, F22 is handicapped.

Regarding manouverability; while F22 may have thrust vectoring, it bleeds off energy, is only really useful in post-stall manouvers (thought it may improve sustained turn rate somewhat), and non-VLO plane with thrust vectoring, such as Su-37, will always be more manouverable, as thrust vectoring cannot compensate for aerodynamical deficiencies and weight.

While post-stall manouvers look cool at exercises, they are useless in real combat as they leave plane vulnerable to enemy due to energy loss; therefore, only things that TVC really adds are safety, by providing two more control surfaces, and engine efficiency, by allowing aircraft to position itself better relative to air flow, thus improving range. F22, having 2D and not 3D TVC nozzles, is lacking in former when compared to 3D TVC-equipped aircraft.

F22s shortcomings in BVR combat

First, short supercruise range due to small fuel fraction does not allow F22 to pursue enemy or reliably avoid being jumped and/or pusued itself.

Second, it is not stealthy at all. Stealth is measured against five signatures – infrared, sound, visual, and radar footprint as well as electronic emissions. Visual, by definition, is not important for BVR combat; but sound and infrared signature are impossible to lower enough for plane to be VLO, especially when supersonic. While it is not a shortcoming by itself, legacy fighters not even making any effort to lower it, it becomes one when coupled by its low numbers and maximum of four BVR missiles carried in VLO configuration – essentially necessitating use of 3 to 4 F22s to kill a single target. And even if it was, it is not equipped with IRST, thus necessitating F22 to emit signals – be it radar or uplink to another plane – to detect enemy, which defeats entire purpose of stealth.

Comparasion with other fighters


Su-27 family of planes are large planes with even larger radomes – Russian radar manufacturer Phazotron is developing a Flanker-sized powerful radar – Zhuk ASE – which will outclass every single radar in US inventory except for that of F22.

However, IRST carried by Flankers is far greater problem, as explained in "counter-stealth" section.

Su27 family of planes are also very manouverable, despite their size.

In 1992, Su27 could see F22 from 15 kilometers. In 2000-2008, Flanker family's radar performance has doubled – meaning that by 2016, Flankers should be able to detect F22 from distance of 45 kilometers.


As explained above, F15C is equal to slightly superior in regards to F22 in most basic characteristics: thrust-to-weight ratio, wing loading and fuel fraction. It is superior to F22 in rearward cockpit visibility, as well as fact that no gun doors and externally mounted missiles allow for split-of-second snap-shots critical for dogfight.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon is another plane famous for its cost overruns. Currently, Tranche 2 Typhoon has unit procurement cost of 142 million USD per plane, and unit flyaway cost of 118 million USD per plane. Tranche 3's costs are 199 million USD per plane unit procurement, and 122 million USD per plane flyaway cost.

Also, both F22 and Eurofighter Typhoon have same top speed of Mach 2; F22 also can achieve Mach 1,5 while supercruising, while Typhoon is limited to Mach 1,2.

There are reports that Typhoons engaged and defeated F22s in a mock dogfights at Nellis AFB; with Typhoon's DASS suite allowing it to close range to F22 and enter a dogfight in which Typhoon was superior, due to its better manouverability (as noted above, F22s manouverability is similar to F15s, except for ability of doing post-stall manouvers). Nellis AFB is also where EA18G "killed" F22.

Typhoon's thrust-to-weight ratio is 1,25, while its wing loading is 312 kg/m2. F22s thrust-to-weight ratio is 1,09, while its wing loading is 375 kg/m2.

Counter-stealth technologies

Stealth versus classical radar

Su-27s radar performance has doubled over past 8 years, and by 2020 Flanker family radars will be able to detect VLO targets at over 46 kilometers. Also, US stealth planes fly mission with same radar jamming escorts that accompany legacy platforms.

During the Gulf War, the British Royal Navy infuriated the Pentagon by announcing that it had detected F-117 stealth fighters from 40 miles away with 1960s-era radar. The Iraqis used antiquated French radar during that conflict, and they, too, claimed to have detected F-117s. The General Accounting Office, Congress' watchdog agency, tried to verify the Iraqi claim, but the Pentagon refused to turn over relevant data to GAO investigators.

Also, even modern VLO planes have to operate alongside jamming planes, such as EA-6B or EA-18, when performing ground attack, confirming that even legacy radars are far from useless against VLO planes.

VHF radar

While VLO planes are optimized to defeat S- and X- -band radars, VHF radars offer a good counter-stealth characteristics.

Simply put, RCS varies with the wavelenght beacouse wavelength is one of inputs that determines RCS area.

VHF radars have wavelengths in 1-3 meter range, meaning that key shapings of 19-meter-long, 13,5-meter-wide F22 are in heart of either resonance or Rayleigh scattering region.

Rayleigh scattering regios is region where wavelength is larger than shaping features of target or target itself. In that region, only thing that matters for RCS is actual physical size of target itself.
Resonance occurs where shaping features are comparable in wavelength to radar, resulting in induced electrical charges over the skin of target, vastly increasing RCS.

However, their low resolution and resultant large size means they are limited to ground-based systems.

Russians and Chinese already have VHF radars, with resolution that may be good enough to send mid-flight update to SAMs. Also, it is physically impossible to design fighters that will be VLO in regards to both low power, high-frequency fighter radars, and high-power, low-frequency ground-based radars. Such radars can, according to some claims, detect fighter-sized VLO targets from distance of up to 330 kilometers (against bombers like B2, their performance will be worse, but such planes have their own shortcomings – namely, IR signature and sheer size). Manufacturers of Vostok E claim detection range against F117 as being 352 km in unjammed and 74 km in jammed environment.

While VHF radars can easily detect not only stealth planes but also meteorological patterns, wildlife etc., digital processing and various filters can help it "recognize" VLO plane (seriously, what was last time you saw duck flying at Mach 0,9?). Indeed, while older VHF radars had problems with clutter rejection, in newer radars that problem is apparently solved.

Also, RAM coatings used in many stealth planes are physically limited in their ability to absorb electromagnetic energy; one of ways RCS reduction is achieved is active cancellation – as signal reaches surface of RAM, part of it is deflected back; other part will be refracted into airframe, and then deflected from it in exact opposite phase of first half, and signals will cancel each other on way back. However, thickness of RAM coating must be exactly half of radar's frequency, meaning that it does not work against VHF radar for obvious reasons – no fighter plane in world can have skin over half a meter thick.

There is one detail that apparently confirms this: in 1991, there was a deep penetrating raid directed at destruction of VHF radar near Bagdad; radar, which may have alerted Saddam at first wave of stealth bombers approaching capital. Before US stealth bombers started flying missions, radar was destroyed in a special mission by helicopters. Also, during fighting in Kosovo, Yugoslav anti-air gunners downed F117 with Russian anti-air missile whose technology dates back to 1964, simply by operating radar at unusually long wavelengths, allowing it to guide missile close enough to aircraft so as to allow missile's IR targeting system to take over. Another F117 was hit and damaged same way, never to fly again.

These radars, being agile frequency-hopping designs, are very hard to jam; however, bandwidth avaliable is still limited.

Also, while bombers like B2 may be able to accomodate complex absorbent structures, it is not so with fighters, which are simply too small.

Another benefit is power – while capacity of all radars for detecting VLO objects increases with greater raw output, it is easier to increase output of VHF radars.

It is also possible for VHF radar to track vortexes, wake and engine exhaust created by stealth planes.

Another advantage of low-frequency radars is the fact that they present poor target for anti-radiation weapons, making them harder to destory.


All Su-27 variants, as well as most modern Western fighters, carry IRST as a part of their sensory suite. Russian OLS-35 is capable of tracking typical fighter target from head-on distance of 50 km, 90 km tail-on, with azimuth coverage of +-90 degrees, and +60/-15 degree elevation coverage.
Fighter supercruising at Mach 1,7 generates shock cone with stagnation temperature of 87 degrees Celzius, which will increase detection range to 55 km head-on. Not only that, but AMRAAM launch has large, unique thermal signature, which should allow detection of F22 and missile launch warning up to 93+ kilometers, while AMRAAM moving at Mach 4 could be detected at up to 83 kilometers.

Integrating Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector technology greatly increases performance – Eurofighter Typhoon already has one with unclassified detection range for subsonic head-on airborne targets of 90 kilometers.

Infrared imaging systems (like Typhoon's or Rafale's) provide TV-like image of area being scanned, which translates into inherent ability to reject most false targets. Also, while older IRST systems had to be guided by the radar, newer ones can do initial detection themselves. Given that stealth planes themselves rely on passive detection in evading targets, using passive means in detecting them is logical response for fighter aircraft. Missiles themselves can use infrared imaging technology, locking on targets of appropriate shape.

While there are materials that can supress IR signature of a plane, most of these are highly reflective in regards to radar waves, thus making them unusable for stealth planes.

Passive radar
Passive radar does not send out signals, but only receive them. As such, it can use stealth plane's own radar to detect it, as well as its IFF, uplink and/or any radio traffic sent out by the plane.

Also, it can (like Czech VERA-E) use radar, television, cellphone and other avaliable signals of opportunity reflected off stealth craft to detect them. Since such signals are usually coming from all directions (except from above), stealth plane cannot control its position to present smallest return. EM noise in such bands is extensive enough for plane to leave a "hole" in data.

However, simply analyzing and storing such amount of data would require extreme processing power as well as memory size, and it is prone to false alarms. It is also very short-range system, due to amount of noise patterns being required to detect, map and store.

Infrared doppler LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging; doppler LIDAR senses doppler shift in frequency) may be able to detect high altitude wake vortices of stealth aircraft. While atmospheric aerosoils are not sufficient for technique to work, exhaust particles as well as contrail ice particles improve detectability to point that aircraft may be detected from range well beyond 100 km; exhaust particles themselves allow for detection of up to 80 km.

Wake vortices are byproduct of generating lift, and are, as such, impossible to eliminate – aircraft wing uses more curved upper and less curved or straight lower surface to generate differences in speed between two airflows. As result, upper airflow is faster and as such generates lower pressure when compared to airflow below the wing, generating lift. That, however, has result of creating vortices behind the trailing edge of the wing.

Background scanning

In that mode, radar does not look for stealth plane itself; instead it looks for background behind stealth plane, in which case sensory return leaves a "hole" in data. However, that requires radar to be space-based; or, if stealth plane is forced to fly at very low altitude due to defence net, radar can be airborne too.

Another possibility is using surface-based radio installations to scan the sky at high apertures and with high sensitivity, such as with radio telescopes.

As it is known to radio-astronomers, radio signals reach surface uninterrupted even in daytime or bad weather; and since map of stars is well known, it can be assumed that any star not radiating is eclipsed by an object, such as stealth plane. And as with very snsitive radio-astronomical equipment, every part of sky is observed as being covered with stars. It is also doable by less sensitive detecting equipment, simply by serching for changes in intensity of stars.

Over-the-horizon radar

Over-the-horizon radars invariably operate in HF band, with frequencies around 10 Mhz and wavelengths of 30 meters, beacouse it is band in which atmospheric reflection is possible. Also, at that point, target will create some kind of resonance and shaping will be largely irrelevant, as will be RAM coating, as explained above.

However, lowering frequency of radar means that size of radar aperture has to grow in proportion to radar wavelength to maintain narrow beam and adequate resolution; other problem is that these bands are already filled with communications traffic, meaning that such radars are usually found in early-warning role over the sea.

Such systems are already in use by US, Australia (Jindalee), Russia and China.

Bistatic / multistatic radar

Since VLO characteristics are achieved primarly by shaping airframe to deflect radar waves in other direction than one they came from, and thus make it useless to classic systems. However, such signal can be picked by receiver in another position, and location of plane can be triangulated.
While every radar pulse must be uniquely identifiable, that feature is already present in modern Doppler pulse radars. What is more difficult is turning data into accurate position estimate, since radar return may arrive to transmitter from variety of directions, due to anomalous atmospheric propagation, signal distortion due to interference etc.

Acoustic detection

Planes are noisy, engines in particular but also airflow over surface. In former case, bafflers are added, while in latter, noise is reduced by shaping plane so as to be more streamlined. However, internal weapons bays, when opened, create a great amount of noise.

Ultra-wide band radar

UWB radar works by transmitting several wavelengths at once, in short pulses. However, there are problems: 1) it is more effective to transmit power in one pulse, 2) UWB antenna must work over factor of ten or more in wavelength, 3) it would offer numerous false clutter targets. In short, if, for example, UH frequency and VH frequency were used, such radar would combine UHF's and VHF's advantages AND disadvantages.

Also, it is very hard to make RAM that would be effective against multiple frequencies.

Cell phone network

Telephone calls between mobile phone masts can detect stealth planes with ease; mobile telephone calls bouncing between base stations produce a screen of radiation. When the aircraft fly through this screen they disrupt the phase pattern of the signals. The Roke Manor system uses receivers, shaped like television aerials, to detect distortions in the signals.

A network of aerials large enough to cover a battlefield can be packed in a Land Rover.

Using a laptop connected to the receiver network, soldiers on the ground can calculate the position of stealth aircraft with an accuracy of 10 metres with the aid of the GPS satellite navigation system.

IR illumination

IR illumination – famed "black light" of World War 2, used in Do 17Z-10 and Bf 110D-1/U1 night fighters – works on exact same principles as radar, with only difference being EM radiation's wavelenght, which is in IR range.

Since it is active technique, it also betrays location of emitter, and thus cannot be relied on for regular use by combat aircraft – althought it can be fitted instead of radar - but can be used by air defense networks.

Detecting LPI radar

F22s radar uses frequency hopping to counter radar recievers. However, it can only use relatively low spread of frequencies, and can be detected by using spread-spectrum technology in RWRs. Also, algorithms exist that are able to make radar signals discernible from background noise.

Exercises charade

F22 proponents use exercises in which numerically inferior F22 force swept skies clear of enemy fighters as a proof of its supposed effectiveness. However, exercises are preplanned, unrealistical and designed to play at F22s strengths while ignoring its weaknesses as well as reality of air combat.

What is missing from claims of F22s superiority could fill a Bible. First, exercises assume fighters charging at each other with identities clearly known; then, F22s use their radars to detect adversaries – which are not equipped with modern radars or any radar detectors – then, they launch computerized missiles which rarely miss.

Adversaries, meanwhile, were simulating very simple OPFOR tactics ("Damn the AMRAAM, full speed ahead!"), equal fleet costs and fleet readiness were not represented in fights. Forgotten is the possibility of assymetric response – such as IRST or anti-radiation missiles. Forgotten is unreliability of BVR missile shots. Forgotten is unreliability of BVR identification- utterly impossible if forces shut down IFF (which they do, so as not to be tracked).


There are many alternatives to procuring F22 until a replacement can be designed and put into service. One is restarting production of F15C. Other possibilities include buying Dassault rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon.

F22s maximum achieved production rate of 36 per year and high cost mean that it would take 7 years and 63,5 billion USD to replace all F15s (254) in service (currently there are 195 F22s built for 80,145 billion USD, 187 operational; replacing F15s would bring number to 441, 60 more than USAF stated minimum requirement. Actual requirement of 762 planes would bring cost to 290 million USD per plane, and total cost to 221,4 billion USD). USAF also has to acquire at least additional 1500 combat planes, which would, with F22, take 42 years and 375 billion USD.

F16 would give 1500 planes for 90 billion USD, within 9 years.

When USAF chief of staff was aked wether he really believes claims he makes about F22, answer was "I express opinions about F22 that I am told to express.".

All of above means that:
1) F22 cannot get a jump at enemy – at WVR, it will get detected by IRST or visually; at BVR, either plane or missile launch/missile itself will get detected; and since it has to radiate to find targets, it is at disadvantage. It is based at wrong premises and cannot be relied on to secure air superiority/supremacy, or even air dominance
2) When ambushing enemy fails, it will be forced into close-in, manouvering dogfight, and killed
3) F22 is too costly to operate in numbers large enough to win air war. Thus, converting it to fighter-bomber and using it to attack advanced SAMs that are proliferating would be far smarter move, until VHF radars become advanced and numerous enough to completely deny it aerospace
4) F22 can be easily countered by combining VHF radars and IRST-equipped fighters; with radars handling first detection and then guiding fighters close enough to VLO target for their IRST to acquire it.


RCS size vs detection range

Target – RCS size in m2 – relative detection range
Aircraft carrier – 100 000 – 1778
Cruiser – 10 000 – 1000
Large airliner or automobile – 100 – 1000
Medium airliner or bomber – 40 – 251
Large fighter – 6 – 157
Small fighter – 2 – 119
Man – 1 – 100
Conventional cruise missile – 0,5 – 84
Large bird – 0,05 – 47
Large insect – 0,001 – 18
Small bird – 0,00001 – 6
Small insect – 0,000001 – 3

(note: birds and insects still don't fly at 5 000 meters at supersonical speeds).

Effective range is calculated by formula (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4, where RCS = radar cross section, while R=range.

RAM coatings

RAM coatings can be dielectric or magnetic. Dielectric works by addition of carbon products which change electric properties, and is bulky and fragile, while magnetic one uses iron ferrites which dissipate and absorb radar waves, and are good against UHF radars.
One of most known RAM coatings is iron ball paint, which contains tiny spheres coated with carbonyl iron or ferrite. Radar waves induce molecular oscillations from the alternating magnetic field in this paint, which leads to conversion of the radar energy into heat.

The heat is then transferred to the aircraft and dissipated.

A related type of RAM consists of neoprene polymer sheets with ferrite grains or carbon black particles (containing about 30% of crystalline graphite) embedded in the polymer matrix. The tiles were used on early versions of the F-117A Nighthawk, although more recent models use painted RAM. The painting of the F-117 is done by industrial robots with the plane covered in tiles glued to the fuselage and the remaining gaps filled with iron ball paint. The United States Air Force introduced a radar absorbent paint made from both ferrofluidic and non-magnetic substances. By reducing the reflection of electromagnetic waves, this material helps to reduce the visibility of RAM painted aircraft on radar.

Foam absorber typically consists of fireproofed urethane foam loaded with carbon black, and cut into long pyramids. The length from base to tip of the pyramid structure is chosen based on the lowest expected frequency and the amount of absorption required. For low frequency damping, this distance is often 24 inches, while high frequency panels are as short as 3-4 inches. Panels of RAM are installed with the tips pointing inward to the chamber. Pyramidal RAM attenuates signal by two effects: scattering and absorption. Scattering can occur both coherently, when reflected waves are in-phase but directed away from the receiver, and incoherently where waves are picked up by the receiver but are out of phase and thus have lower signal strength. This incoherent scattering also occurs within the foam structure, with the suspended carbon particles promoting destructive interference. Internal scattering can result in as much as 10dB of attenuation. Meanwhile, the pyramid shapes are cut at angles that maximize the number of bounces a wave makes within the structure. With each bounce, the wave loses energy to the foam material and thus exits with lower signal strength. Other foam absorbers are available in flat sheets, using an increasing gradient of carbon loadings in different layers.
A Jaumann absorber or Jaumann layer is a radar absorbent device. When first introduced in 1943, the Jaumann layer consisted of two equally-spaced reflective surfaces and a conductive ground plane. One can think of it as a generalized, multi-layered Salisbury screen as the principles are similar.

Being a resonant absorber (i.e. it uses wave interfering to cancel the reflected wave), the Jaumann layer is dependent upon the λ/4 spacing between the first reflective surface and the ground plane and between the two reflective surfaces (a total of λ/4 + λ/4).

Because the wave can resonate at two frequencies, the Jaumann layer produces two absorption maxima across a band of wavelengths (if using the two layers configuration). These absorbers must have all of the layers parallel to each other and the ground plane that they conceal.
More elaborate Jaumann absorbers use series of dielectric surfaces that separate conductive sheets. The conductivity of those sheets increases with proximity to the ground plane.
Iron ball paint has been used in coating the SR-71 Blackbird and F-117 Nighthawk, its active molecule is made up by an iron atom surrounded by five carbon monoxide molecules.
Iron ball paint (paint based on iron carbonyl) a type of paint used for stealth surface coating.
The paint absorbs RF energy in the particular wavelength used by primary RADAR.
Chemical formula: C5FeO5 / Fe (CO)5
Molecular mass: 195.9 g/mol
Apparent density: 76.87 g/cmc
Molecular structure: An Iron atom surrounded by 5 carbon monoxide structures (it takes a balllike
shape, hence the name)
Melting point: 1536° C
Hardness: 82-100 HB

It is obtained by carbonyl decomposition process and may have traces of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. The substance (iron carbonyl) is also used as a catalyst and in medicine as an iron supplement however it is toxic. The painting of the F-117 is done by industrial robots however the F-117 is covered in tiles glued to the fuselage and the remaining gaps filled with iron ball paint. This type of coating converts the radar wave energy into heat (by molecular oscillations), the heat is then transferred to the aircraft and dissipated.

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Re: F22 analysis

Post by Picard » Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:50 am


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Re: F22 analysis

Post by 2046 » Mon Apr 16, 2012 3:05 am

Only this: too much high tech in our military gear frightens me when there is no fallback in numbers or tools.

I love the old A-10, myself ... simple, rugged, reliable, flown by map. Our current military thinking involves too much flashy gee-whiz crap. If extra, that can be okay, but not as all of it. When stuff hits the fan, I don't like the idea of needing huge technician support teams to change the proverbial oil. I'd rather spam them with well-flown F-14s than watch a dozen ivory tower birds fly off alone with all my hopes.

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Re: F22 analysis

Post by Picard » Mon Apr 16, 2012 10:43 pm

I'm F16/A10 fan, myself, for exactly these reasons. I mean, Germans in World War 2 went for technology instead of numbers (not that they had much choice) and failed - title of best tank of World War 2 was given to T-34, not Panther or Tiger.

I myself can't wrap my mind on how much hate some people display on mention of Pierre Sprey or Stevenson... it's just like flashy toys like F22, F35 are some kind of drug which destroys critical thinking... not that many people are capable of it anyway. Some of replies I received when discussing F22 were basically "F22 is invisible, and can win destroy dozen times larger enemy force with no losses". Like thing has Klingon cloaking device + deflector shields.

Anyway, Winslow Wheeler has an idea about ideal USAF. To quote:

"* A new close support aircraft smaller, more survivable, and more lethal than the A-10, one that is affordable in vastly larger numbers. (The Air Force plans to use small numbers of the unmaneuverable, highly vulnerable and ineffective F-35, at $150 million each, for this mission.)

* A forward controller spotter plane dramatically more survivable, longer-loitering and far lower cost in than a helicopter, able to land next to the tents of the supported troops. (The Air Force suffers from the delusion that close support can be called in using drones, satellites, and other “high tech” sensors, contrary to the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan.)

* A small, affordable dirt strip airlifter to meet the real emergency needs of beleaguered battalions in the boonies. (The Air Force always short-changes this in-the-mud prop mission in favor of large jet transports.)

* A super-maneuverable new air-to-air dogfighter with all–passive electronics, far smaller with far higher maneuvering performance than the best of the F-16s and thus able to outfight the F-22 or any other advanced fighter in the world. (Emitting no radio/radar signals whatsoever, this new fighter will obsolete the F-22’s electronics, defeat any enemy fighter’s passive warning/identification-friend-or-foe system, and render useless the enemy’s radar-homing missiles which rely on seeking our fighter radars.). "

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Re: F22 analysis

Post by User1663 » Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:15 am

I think what's really sad about all the above is that not only has the Pentagon utterly failed to draw any lessons from the F-22, but they seem doggedly insistent on repeating each and every single mistake a dozen-fold with the F-35.

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Re: F22 analysis

Post by Mr. Oragahn » Mon Apr 30, 2012 2:45 pm

Picard wrote: * A forward controller spotter plane dramatically more survivable, longer-loitering and far lower cost in than a helicopter, able to land next to the tents of the supported troops. (The Air Force suffers from the delusion that close support can be called in using drones, satellites, and other “high tech” sensors, contrary to the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan.)
They want a simple plane, light and very fast, with a full suite of sensors to feed other planes, enough fuel, plenty of chaff and a VTOL capacity, basically?

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Re: F22 analysis

Post by Picard » Tue May 01, 2012 9:13 am

More like a forward air controller that does not have to go all the way back to concrete bases to get refueled, is cheap, simple, reliable and can take abuse (FAC version of A10, anyone? Which would make sense considering that A10 is already in CAS role, and FAC planes are there to help CAS planes distinguich friend from enemy). VTOL capacity would unnecessarily complicate design - STOL plane capable of landing on and taking off any flat surface would be good enough.

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Re: F22 analysis

Post by Mr. Oragahn » Tue May 01, 2012 1:46 pm

Picard wrote:More like a forward air controller that does not have to go all the way back to concrete bases to get refueled, is cheap, simple, reliable and can take abuse (FAC version of A10, anyone? Which would make sense considering that A10 is already in CAS role, and FAC planes are there to help CAS planes distinguich friend from enemy). VTOL capacity would unnecessarily complicate design - STOL plane capable of landing on and taking off any flat surface would be good enough.
Sure but the "land anywhere" bit really sounds different than make a landing track out of dirt. That said, there always is a way to gouge a landing strip, even in the middle of a jungle, when it is needed.

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Re: F22 analysis

Post by Picard » Tue May 01, 2012 2:08 pm

"Land next to tents of the supported troops". Dirt airfields are not that complicated to make, and have been shown successfull in World War 2.

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