File photo – Two F-22 Raptor fighter jets from the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, behaviour, approach of the course, in this U. S. Air Force photo was taken on 24 March 2016. (REUTERS/U.s. Air Force/Justin Connaher/handout via Reuters)
The air force and Lockheed Martin have now validated several new weapons on the F-22 Raptor to equip the stealth fighter with more long-distance precision attack technology, a broader targeting envelope, or “field of regard” and new networks, providing a better, real-time “collaborative targeting,” between the aircraft.
The two new weapons, which are under testing and development for several years, are advanced variants of existing weapons – the AIM-9X air-to-air missile and the AIM-120-D. Upgraded variants of each are planned to be operational by as soon as next year.
The new AIM-9X will shoot farther, and reach a much larger targeting envelope for the pilots. Working with a variety of helmets and display systems, Lockheed developers have added “off-boresight” targeting capability, allowing pilots to attack enemies from a wide range of new perspectives.
“It is a much more flexible missile with an improved viewfinder and a better field of regard. You can shoot over your shoulder. If enemies get behind me in a close-in battle, I have the right targeting on the plane to shoot,” Ken Jew, Vice President, F-22, Lockheed, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Raytheon AIM-9X weapons developers have told Warrior that the Block 2 variant adds a redesigned fuze and a digital ignition safety device that improves the ground handling and the safety of the flight. Block II also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements, a Raytheon statement said.
Another part of the weapons upgrade includes the design of the F-22 to fire the AIM-120D, beyond visual range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), designed for all-weather, day-and-night-of-service attacks; it is a “fire and forget” missile with active radar transmitting support, Raytheon data states.
The AIM-120D is built with upgrades to previous AMRAAM missiles by increasing the attack range, GPS-navigation, inertial measurement units and a two-way data link, Raytheon statements explained.
“The new AIM-120D uses a better viewfinder and is more maneuverable with a better countermeasures, Merchant said.
If the Air Force and Lockheed Martin moving forward with weapons envelope extensions and improvements for the F-22 of course, there is a proportionate need to upgrade software and the on-board sensors to adapt to the emerging future threats, industry developers explained. Ultimately, this effort will lead the air force to draft up requirements for the new F-22 sensors.
F-22 lethality is also greatly improved by the integration of the new two-way LINK 16 data link connectivity between the aircraft, something that will help speed up real-time air “joint purpose.”
“We have had a LINK 16 receive, but we are not able to share what is on the Raptor digital. We do all this through voice,” Merchant explained.
Having a digital capability to transmit rapidly changing, the combat of relevant targeting information of a F-22 cockpit – without the voice of radio reduces the risk associated with more “jammable” or “hacked” communication.
Newer F-22’s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which makes use of electromagnetic signals, or “pings,” to provide a picture or view of the site that can better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground, and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, the distance and the characteristics of the ground below.
The F-22 is also known for its “super cruise” technology that makes it possible for the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on the burners. This enables the fighter to travel faster and farther on less fuel, a scenario that is rapidly expanding its time for combat missions.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions, called the GBU-32 and GBU-39.
It also makes use of what’s called a radar warning receiver – a technology with an updated database called “the mission data files” designed to recognize a wide range of enemy fighters, like the F-35.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 makes use of two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an air force statement said. It is 16 meters high, 62 meters long and weighs 43,340 pounds. The maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The device was first introduced in December of 2005; the F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the US-led attack on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when the aerial bombardment began in 2014, service officials told Warrior.
After delivering a number of the first strikes in the US Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift the focus of an air dominance mission to a more focused on the support of an attack on the ground.
For the long term, given the fact that the air force plans to fly the F-22 and in the 2060s, the weapons, the upgrades are designed to build the technical basis needed to assist in the integration of a new generation of air-to-air missiles if they are in the coming years.
“It is our intention to ensure we hold our first look, first shot, first kill mantra,” Merchant said.
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