The F-22 Raptor is the Air Force's newest fighter aircraft. Its combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.
The F-22A , a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation's Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-22A cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness, and weapons provides first-kill opportunity against threats. The F-22A possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot's situational awareness. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders.
The F-22A has a significant capability to attack surface targets. In the air-to-ground configuration the aircraft can carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions internally and will use on-board avionics for navigation and weapons delivery support. In the future air-to-ground capability will be enhanced with the addition of an upgraded radar and up to eight small diameter bombs. The Raptor will also carry two AIM-120s and two AIM-9s in the air-to-ground configuration.
Advances in low-observable technologies provide significantly improved survivability and lethality against air-to-air and surface-to-air threats. The F-22A brings stealth into the day, enabling it not only to protect itself but other assets.
The F-22A engines produce more thrust than any current fighter engine. The combination of sleek aerodynamic design and increased thrust allows the F-22A to cruise at supersonic airspeeds (greater than 1.5 Mach) without using afterburner -- a characteristic known as supercruise. Supercruise greatly expands the F-22A 's operating envelope in both speed and range over current fighters, which must use fuel-consuming afterburner to operate at supersonic speeds.
F-16 Fighting Falcon
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft. It is highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack. It provides a relatively low-cost, high-performance weapon system for the United States and allied nations.
In an air combat role, the F-16's maneuverability and combat radius (distance it can fly to enter air combat, stay, fight and return) exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft. It can locate targets in all weather conditions and detect low flying aircraft in radar ground clutter. In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions.
In designing the F-16, advanced aerospace science and proven reliable systems from other aircraft such as the F-15 and F-111 were selected. These were combined to simplify the airplane and reduce its size, purchase price, maintenance costs and weight. The light weight of the fuselage is achieved without reducing its strength. With a full load of internal fuel, the F-16 can withstand up to nine G's -- nine times the force of gravity -- which exceeds the capability of other current fighter aircraft.
The cockpit and its bubble canopy give the pilot unobstructed forward and upward vision, and greatly improved vision over the side and to the rear. The seat-back angle was expanded from the usual 13 degrees to 30 degrees, increasing pilot comfort and gravity force tolerance. The pilot has excellent flight control of the F-16 through its "fly-by-wire" system. Electrical wires relay commands, replacing the usual cables and linkage controls. For easy and accurate control of the aircraft during high G-force combat maneuvers, a side stick controller is used instead of the conventional center-mounted stick. Hand pressure on the side stick controller sends electrical signals to actuators of flight control surfaces such as ailerons and rudder.
Avionics systems include a highly accurate inertial navigation system in which a computer provides steering information to the pilot. The plane has UHF and VHF radios plus an instrument landing system. It also has a warning system and modular countermeasure pods to be used against airborne or surface electronic threats. The fuselage has space for additional avionics systems.
F-15E Strike Eagle
The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems gives the F-15E the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night, and in inclement weather and perform its primary function as an air-to-ground attack aircraft.
The aircraft uses two crew members, a pilot and a weapon systems officer. Previous models of the F-15 are assigned air-to-air roles; the "E" model is a dual-role fighter. It has the capability to fight its way to a target over long ranges, destroy enemy ground positions and fight its way out.
An inertial navigation system uses a laser gyro to continuously monitor the aircraft's position and provide information to the central computer and other systems, including a digital moving map in both cockpits.
The APG-70 radar system allows air crews to detect ground targets from longer ranges. One feature of this system is that after a sweep of a target area, the crew freezes the air-to-ground map then goes back into air-to-air mode to clear for air threats. During the air-to-surface weapon delivery, the pilot is capable of detecting, targeting and engaging air-to-air targets while the WSO designates the ground target.
The low-altitude navigation and targeting infrared for night (LANTIRN) system allows the aircraft to fly at low altitudes, at night and in any weather conditions, to attack ground targets with a variety of precision-guided and unguided weapons. The LANTIRN system gives the F-15E unequaled accuracy in weapons delivery day or night and in poor weather, and consists of two pods attached to the exterior of the aircraft.
The navigation pod contains terrain-following radar which allows the pilot to safely fly at a very low altitude following cues displayed on a heads up display. This system also can be coupled to the aircraft's autopilot to provide "hands off" terrain-following capability.
The targeting pod contains a laser designator and a tracking system that mark an enemy for destruction as far away as 10 miles. Once tracking has been started, targeting information is automatically handed off to infrared air-to-surface missiles or laser-guided bombs.
One of the most important additions to the F-15E is the rear cockpit, reserved for the weapons systems officer. On four screens, this officer can display information from the radar, electronic warfare or infrared sensors, monitor aircraft or weapons status and possible threats, select targets, and use an electronic "moving map" to navigate. Two hand controls are used to select new displays and to refine targeting information. Displays can be moved from one screen to another, chosen from a "menu" of display options.
In addition to three similar screens in the front seat, the pilot has a transparent glass heads up display screen at eye level that displays vital flight and tactical information. The pilot doesn't need to look down into the cockpit, for example, to check weapon status. At night, the screen is even more important because it displays a video picture nearly identical to a daylight view of the world that is generated by the forward-looking infrared sensor.
The F-15E is powered by two Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220 or 229 engines that incorporate advanced digital technology for improved performance. For example, with a digital electronic engine control system, F-15E pilots can accelerate from idle power to maximum afterburner in less than four seconds, a 40 percent improvement over the previous engine control system. Faster engine acceleration means quicker takeoffs and crisper response while maneuvering. The F100-PW-220 engines can produce 50,000 pounds of thrust (25,000 each) and the F100-PW-229 engines 58,000 pounds of thrust (29,000 each).
Each of the low-drag conformal fuel tanks that hug the F-15E's fuselage can carry 750 gallons of fuel. The tanks hold weapons on short pylons rather than conventional weapon racks, reducing drag and further extending the range of the Strike Eagle.
For air-to-ground missions, the F-15E can carry most weapons in the Air Force inventory. It also can be armed with AIM-7F/M Sparrows, AIM-9M Sidewinders and AIM-120 advanced medium range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM) for the air-to-air role. The "E" model also has an internally mounted 20mm gun that can carry up to 500 rounds.
The F-117A Nighthawk is the world's first operational aircraft designed to exploit low-observable stealth technology.
The unique design of the single-seat F-117A provides exceptional combat capabilities. About the size of an F-15 Eagle, the twin-engine aircraft is powered by two General Electric F404 turbofan engines and has quadruple redundant fly-by-wire flight controls. Air refuelable, it supports worldwide commitments and adds to the deterrent strength of the U.S. military forces. The F-117A can employ a variety of weapons and is equipped with sophisticated navigation and attack systems integrated into a state-of-the-art digital avionics suite that increases mission effectiveness and reduces pilot workload. Detailed planning for missions into highly defended target areas is accomplished by an automated mission planning system developed, specifically, to take advantage of the unique capabilities of the F-117A. The first F-117A was delivered in 1982, and the last delivery was in the summer of 1990. The F-117A production decision was made in 1978 with a contract awarded to Lockheed Advanced Development Projects, the "Skunk Works," in Burbank, Calif. The first flight was in 1981, only 31 months after the full-scale development decision. Air Combat Command's only F-117A unit, the 4450th Tactical Group, (now the 49th Fighter Wing, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.), achieved operational capability in October 1983. Streamlined management by Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, combined breakthrough stealth technology with concurrent development and production to rapidly field the aircraft. The F-117A program has demonstrated that a stealth aircraft can be designed for reliability and maintainability. The aircraft maintenance statistics are comparable to other tactical fighters of similar complexity. Logistically supported by Sacramento Air Logistics Center, McClellan AFB, Calif., the F-117A is kept at the forefront of technology through a planned weapon system improvement program located at USAF Plant 42 at Palmdale, Calif.
The purpose of the F-22 program is to develop, field, and support the next-generation, air-dominance fighter weapon system, and to establish the standard for acquisition excellence.
The F-22 Raptor, developed at Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the replacement for the F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighter and will become operational early this century. It combines stealth design with the supersonic, highly maneuverable, dual-engine, long-range requirements of an air-to-air fighter, and it also will have an inherent air-to-ground capability, if needed. The F-22's integrated avionics gives it first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability that will guarantee U.S. air dominance for the next three decades. First flight of the Raptor occurred on Sept. 7, 1997. F-22s are currently undergoing flight tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Air dominance, provided by the F-22, guarantees freedom of maneuverability for ground, air, and naval forces. It protects militarily important infrastructures, such as command and control facilities, power grids, and factories, while increasing the efficiency of other military operations. The airframe will be built of titanium, aluminum, composites, steel, and other materials. Titanium and both thermoset and thermoplastic composites will comprise the largest percentage of materials, 30 and 26 percent respectively. The balanced design of the F-22 incorporates performance (supercruise, maneuver advantage, acceleration), reliability, maintainability and supportability (high readiness, self-sufficiency, reduced support), survivability (low observability), integrated avionics, optimum payload, and affordability (low life-cycle cost, reduced deployability costs).
A-10/OA-10 Thunderbolt II
The A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II is the first Air Force aircraft specially designed for close air support of ground forces. They are simple, effective and survivable twin-engine jet aircraft that can be used against all ground targets, including tanks and other armored vehicles.
The A-10/OA-10 have excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and are highly accurate weapons-delivery platforms. They can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate under 1,000-foot ceilings (303.3 meters) with 1.5-mile (2.4 kilometers) visibility. Their wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. Using night vision goggles, A-10/ OA-10 pilots can conduct their missions during darkness.
Thunderbolt IIs have Night Vision Imaging Systems (NVIS), goggle compatible single-seat cockpits forward of their wings and a large bubble canopy which provides pilots all-around vision. The pilots are protected by titanium armor that also protects parts of the flight-control system. The redundant primary structural sections allow the aircraft to enjoy better survivability during close air support than did previous aircraft.
The aircraft can survive direct hits from armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. Their self-sealing fuel cells are protected by internal and external foam.
Joint Strike Force
The Joint Strike Force Aircraft "JSF" is under development to be used by all branches of the military. Three variants of the same basic JSF airframe are being developed for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and the United Kingdom's Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
The JSF brings persistent stealth over the battlefield for the first time, and will enhance the lethality and survivability of American and allied combat air, sea and ground forces. This dynamic multi-role aircraft brings a robust air-to-ground capability that will enable it to bring critical effects to bear on tomorrow's battlefield. There will be three variants of the JSF: a conventional takeoff and landing variant for the Air Force; a carrier-deck compatible variant for the Navy; and a short takeoff and vertical landing variant for the Marine Corps and United Kingdom. The JSF will be the world's premiere strike platform beginning in 2008 and lasting through 2040. It will provide an air-to-air capability second only to the F-22 air superiority fighter. The JSF will allow for migration by U.S. forces to an almost all stealth fighter force by 2025. The JSF is unique in that it is a joint program featuring a "family of aircraft" concept. It is designed to reduce development and production costs and the total cost of ownership by producing similar variants of the same aircraft for the each customer. The Air Force will be the largest JSF customer, purchasing 1,763 of the conventional takeoff and landing version of the aircraft. The Marine Corps is expected to purchase 609 of the short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft variant. The United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and Royal Navy are also expected to order 150 of the STOVL variant. The Navy is expected to buy about 480 of the carrier variant