Tuesday, October 30, 2007

F-22 Update

Looks like the more-or-less real world data is in on the Raptor:

The Raptor in the Real World (Air Force Magazine Online)

Raptors Wield "Unfair" Advantage at Red Flag (Air Combat Command)

F-22s Make Mark at Red Flag (Defence Talk.com)

Looks like the Raptor is making mincemeat of everything else.

Although there seems to be some disagreement in the sources, it looks like a 241-2 kill-loss ratio for the F-22 at Red Flag. Some sources seem to say that the two losses were actually F-15s in the Blue Force...but it seems clear that at least one Raptor got "killed." One story: it was due to a "mulligan" in which one of the red force fighters regenerated, but the F-22 didn't realize it was live. Another story: overly aggressive tactics by one Raptor jock.

Just for the record, as I noted in comments below, I realized that the Raptor's thrust vectoring wasn't taken into account by Spey and Stevenson's arguments, so I realized that that, at least would make a difference. Jeez, I'm not an idiot...

Anyway, this is more impressive given that these are allegedly just ordinary blue force pilots up against the notoriously awesome red force pilots at Red Flag.

A quote:
"I can't see the [expletive deleted] thing," said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Chappell, exchange F-15 pilot in the 65th Aggressor Squadron. "It won't let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me."
So this is good news.

Now get off my back, Mystic--here's your retraction. I was wrong to question the mighty Raptor, lord of the skies, master of the air, ruler of the clouds, pwner of all other aircraft...

(Though, of course, comparing the Raptor to the F-15 is a little unfair and misleading, as 25 years separate the planes. It'd be a little like comparing the F-15 to the F-86.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that _is_ impressive, and I have to eat some of my words.

However... The F22 remains a very expensive weapons platform.

Presumably, there are engineers in just about every 1st- and 2nd-world country feverishly working on video-based guidance systems and high-speed anti-air missiles to go with it. The 243-2 kill ratio can't hold up in the long run.

Radar* may be obsolete in the long run, but detection by IR and visible light is hard to avoid.

- mac

* Active radar has 1/d^4 powerlaw dependence, while passive detection is 1/d^2 powerlaw.

6:17 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Speak English fer chrissake...

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry winston.

All that stuff means is that if you are using a flashlight to illuminate your prey (say up to 50'), your prey can see you a from lot further (up to 1/2 mile) than you can see him. A radar is like a big flashlight, so it's relatively easy to defeat. Things work a lot better if you use a direct signal like infrared or video.

That's why I wouldn't expect that kind of extreme dominance to last. Put a good videocam and good detection software on your missile and things should be a lot more even.


8:29 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...


I just wrote out a HUGE post explaining radar and the cost of this jet and the god damn internet just ate it. I submitted it, and it disappeared from the text box, but never appeared on the blog.


But in a far less nicely styled and explained way.

Here are the basics for you:

1) Anonymous - your flashlight analogy (shared with that guy WS linked us to) is incorrect given current technological capabilities. I would explain further, but the extremely reliable source that explained it to me also explained that it was not possible to tell me why the flashlight analogy is incorrect because it's not exactly information for public consumption.

That was where my source ended the explanation, so this is in no way derived from what was said, but my guess is that a way to make that analogy more accurate is to surmise that the police officer has a flashlight shining in infrared and goggles that let him see infrared, whereas the criminal has no such goggles. So, while there is something being sent out from the plane, it's not detectable by the criminal.

Again, I have no idea if that's a good analogy other than by ratiocination of my own, but my source can't elaborate for obvious reasons. I know that sounds lame on the internet, but that's what I've got to give you.

Fortunately, I have a good way of backing up the notion that I have a great source! The souce explained the cost thing to me:

There are multiple ways of calculating the cost of the Raptor, and people who don't like the program cite the highest possible way and people who like it cite the lowest possible way. I will demonstrate:

UFC (Unit Flyaway Cost) = aircraft + non-recurring startup costs + allowance for feasible change in prices.

Raptor UFC = $98.1 million.

UPC (Unit Procurement Cost) = UFC + Contractor Services, Support (over its lifetime, expected maintenance costs), OGC (Other Government Costs, which is not the area of my source, so there was no additional information available as to what this might entail)

Raptor UPC = $115.6 million

PAUC (Program Acquisition Unit Cost) = UPC + R&D (total program cost, since 1983 when the first request for an Advanced Tactical Fighter was made, spread evenly to each aircraft ordered) + MilCon (Military Construction - cost of all facilities, systems, etc. to be constructed for the Raptor spread out evenly to each plane)

Raptor PAUC = $201.3 million

Note that the PAUC declines with each additional raptor ordered by the government. My figures are based on 277 aircraft ordered. That number has now declined to, I believe, 183, which raises the cost even more. Of course, with more orders, it will decline.

Now, you might hear even MORE inflated costs, and that's because of...inflation! My figures are also based on the Base Year Dollars (1990).

For the costs in 2004, the below are accurate figures for an order of 277 aircraft (only affecting the UPC and PAUC):

UFC: $133.3 million
UPC: $156.5 million
PAUC: $256.8 million

THERE. Now you know.

P.S. Damn good source.

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the technical heads up, and thanks to your source. The arguments in favor of the JSF make a bit more sense now.

The infrared goggles don't help with the flashlight analogy, since there's no reason to assume your opponent can't find glasses of his own.

I can imagine a way around the flashlight analogy, but I have no idea if it's right. If you use a phased array system, then you can
(a) get extremely long range from your "flashlight" and
(b) spoof your enemy into thinking your flashlight is somewhere that it isn't. (Jammers already work this way, sort of.)

Phased arrays are usually based from static receivers and/or transmitters. Doing it from a bunch of moving airplanes would be a way impressive technical feat.

But that still doesn't address the possibility of an IR/optical (passive) guidance system for the case where the pilot can see you but his radar can't. In the long run, there's really no excuse for that.


I remain skeptical of any very expensive weapons platform. It's just such a valuable target, and even the most cutting edge missile will always be comparatively cheap.


10:22 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I do not doubt that the Raptor is as awesome as people say it is, especially with its stealth techonology (quote from opposing RAF pilot seals the deal on that one).

That said...who or what are we fighting. This is an air superiority fighter with limited (although impressive) ground attack abilities. The F-15, 16, and 18 are VERY capable fighters and bombers (properly equipped) and way way cheaper.

This is an argument for more good stuff and against less truly terrific stuff. And I think it makes sense given the limited number of planes that can even reasonably confront our last-generation planes. Su-29s and other potentially opposing fighters are impressive, but would you rather confront them with a few F-22s or a boatload of F-15s and F-16s?

I dunno, but if I read the articles correctly, the stealth aspect of the F-22 is its biggest asset. Not trying to minimize that, but if that capability is defeated, well, you have a lot of expensive airplanes only marginally better at dog-fighting (air superiority) than our current machines.

In which case, I prefer more good planes (a lot more, assuming the cost outlay remains similar).

The awesomeness of the F-22 requires a return to cold-war reasoning, which is to say, they have more than we do, but our weapons are better.

Of course, we were terrified about the numerical superiority of the Warsaw Pact, even when we knew our weapons were better.

Now that we have the chance to achieve numerical superiority, with weapons that are at least on par with the potential opposition, it seems a bit weird to continue to rely on technological superiority at enormous cost when numerical superiority is so much easier to achieve. This seems to have a lot more to do with demonstrations of coolness than it does with military realities.

Great posts and comments by the way, hope this fuels a few more comments, which have all been rather excellent.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I meant to add this to the earlier comment.

The F-15 and F-16 are amazing planes, even at this date. The F-18 is as well (but, from what I know, not quite as awesome at dogfighting, but that is word of mouth as I am not a pilot and have never been in the military).

Dogfighting is something that simply will not happen in any conflict we currently anticipate, and if it does, represents a mission gone wrong.

In the same vein, it is important to remember that pilots, not planes (exempting absurd matchups and, for arugments sake, dismissing the stealth capabilities of the F-22), win dogfights. Dogfights that will not happen in a real conflict.

Finally, and to repeat, the F-16 and F-15 are simply ridiculously good aircraft for the Air Force. As is the F/A-18 for the USN. Even though they are all techinically "old." Yes, the F-22 is a better plane, but I just question the wisdom of spending so much money on so few airframes, when the tactical, strategic, and political needs would be (according to me) satisfied by simply having a lot more planes instead of a few more insanely awesome planes (which will be less awesome if and when the stealth features are disabled or diminished).

1:45 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

One of the big selling points of the F-22 is the fact that, due to its vastly superior situational awareness capabilities and such, it greatly increases the lethality of those planes flying with it.

That is, head up a squadron of F-16s with an F-22, and you've got even better F-16s.

8:46 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

As another non-expert, let me throw in my $0.02:

I've heard the "dogfighting is dead" line before...but I also heard it once said that tanks were dead (made obsolete by individual anti-tank weapons like Dragon and Javelin, and we all know about the "fighters don't need guns anymore" line that led to the F-4...and the subsequent need to stick a 20mm under it nose. I don't know what the experts are thinking these days, but the current conventional wisdom that trickles down to people like me goes:
We've got snazzy new missiles like the AMRAAM (and, I think, some other BVR stuff coming on line?)...but you still hear people say that you don't *want* to fire your missiles until you practically see the whites of their eyes. The farther off their fired, the easier they are to defeat, and the longer you've got to keep broadcasting if you want to make mid-course corrections to the missile yourself. I've heard it said that most missiles can be defeated--in fact, most missiles *are* defeated--by hard turns.

Anyway, my uneducated guess about all of this:
We just don't know whether or not dogfighting is obsolete, and even Red Flag and Top Gun may not be able to tell us for sure what would happen if we had to fight, say, the Russians in the air.

We don't *want* dogfights, because we don't want anything like fair fights. We want to kill the other planes and be on the way home before they even knew what hit 'em.

But you can't always get what you want.

9:55 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Well, the F-4's need for a gun is kinda like a need for a knife in a gunfight. You really rarely need it, but if it comes down to it, you'll be in big trouble if you don't have it.

Also, having your gun out really F's up your stealth, so if you're going to have a gun, despite the required deployment time, it better be hidden inside the plane until you open your doors and drop it for engagement (despite what that guy claims in his slides).

The best part about the Raptor's utterly absurd stealth capacity is that, even if it's not in a missle-firing situation (maybe it's run out because of all the PWNAGE it's been laying down..), it's still very likely that it'll get behind the enemy and gun him down before he knows he's there.

So, in short, even in a dogfight (that is, usage of guns in engagement as opposed to missiles), the Raptor will likely meet the requirements of First Sight, First Shot, First Kill.

To Mac: You sound like you're well versed in military technology (moreso than I, anyway), so maybe you have a better hypothesis when it comes to this than I do - your phased array theory may be correct for all we know.

The point is, they've developed a radar system that they call "stealth", and I know how smart my source is, so I'm presuming it's named appropriately and for good reason.

3:41 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Also, regarding dogfighting, we're forgetting this quote from the Air Combat Command link:

"Thrust vectoring, internal weapons mounting and increased power all contribute to the Raptor's maneuvering advantage. From the cockpit of the F-22, Capt. Brian Budde, 94th FS pilot, explained the F-22 is able to sustain more than nine Gs for much longer than the F-15, without running out of airspeed. From the pilot's perspective, the F-22 "is more power than you know what to do with," said Captain Budde. So much power, in fact, the F-22 enjoys capabilities alien to legacy fighters."

4:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'phased array' was a totally wild guess, and it wouldn't exactly qualify as 'stealth radar'.

I don't pretend to be any kind of military expert; phased array technology is used anywhere from astronomy to speaker phones.

9:00 PM  

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