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Thread: Current Events and F-22 production

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    Current Events and F-22 production

    I know this has been discussed previously; however, with all the talk of a new Cold War and a more aggressive Russia, I deemed that this warranted a new thread.

    Back when they finally decided to stop F-22 production, there were certain people that wanted to maintain minimum production to keep the tooling and skills in place. Well that didn't happen. Now going through the news there is all this talk about how we may be entering a new cold war and hey maybe we need more of these fancy planes. In light of these current events, I would like to hear input on that decision of stopping F-22 production by the posters here (such as Chogy, Jimmy, GGTharos and others with more relative experience). In my amateur view, it was a mistake to make it so you can not replace your most capable A2A platform from losses that occur from training, accidents, hostile action, etc. However, I also realize that the media is so darn reactionary and that our air force for now is still a very dangerous force.

    As I am splitting time between an 8 month old, a large project, and studying for the PE, I may not be able to post a timely reply. Thanks in advance for your replies.

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    I'm just an amateur too.

    I don't know what'll happen with the F-22. Restarting the production lines would be quite expensive and possibly ill advised at this time. The F-35 will be entering service 'soonish' as well, which makes a pretty huge difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    I know this has been discussed previously; however, with all the talk of a new Cold War and a more aggressive Russia, I deemed that this warranted a new thread.

    Back when they finally decided to stop F-22 production, there were certain people that wanted to maintain minimum production to keep the tooling and skills in place. Well that didn't happen. Now going through the news there is all this talk about how we may be entering a new cold war and hey maybe we need more of these fancy planes. In light of these current events, I would like to hear input on that decision of stopping F-22 production by the posters here (such as Chogy, Jimmy, GGTharos and others with more relative experience). In my amateur view, it was a mistake to make it so you can not replace your most capable A2A platform from losses that occur from training, accidents, hostile action, etc. However, I also realize that the media is so darn reactionary and that our air force for now is still a very dangerous force.

    As I am splitting time between an 8 month old, a large project, and studying for the PE, I may not be able to post a timely reply. Thanks in advance for your replies.
    IMHO the PAK-FA has quite a ways to go to be a match to the F-35 anywhere outside the Russian plane's home turf. Some of the pictures we are getting from that plane make it seem that its signature management is more akin to a mod kit fitted on top of a 4th gen aircraft. And the prototypes have obvious manufacturing defects and design deficiencies that will make signature management challenging. Furthermore, it will have no where near the level of electronics capability found in the F-35. When you think of these planes going head to head against one another as networked teams of fighters, it just seems to me that the Russian aircraft stands no chance unless dramatic advances are made.

    The Pak-FA doing a happy flip - but notice the fit and finish on the doors and a panels, the non-stealthy details on the engines, etc. I don't believe it can achieve anywhere close to the signature management suggested by its shape since detailed features will begin to dominate the return signals as you go lower and lower in the signal management. And then there's also the issue of what happens when you go from making this one jet to making dozens. If a jet made by the best technicians in the company still face challenges in manufacturing issues, those issues are going to compound and multiply for the initial production batches. Do the Russians have the money to overcome those issues?



    On the other hand, I don't know how well the F-35 will do when over territory defended by advanced Russian integrated air defenses. We are developing the next gen bomber, but the F-22's speed and greater stealth capabilities may have been a great help.
    Last edited by citanon; 21 Mar 14, at 02:53.

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    The F-22 can't easily strike IADS without the help of F-35's in some cases, IMHO. The F-35 can identify launch sites and link them automatically. Perhaps the F-22's radar is capable of doing this also, but the F-35's optical system seems better suited for this.

    In any case, as for the PAK-FA, I wouldn't under-estimate it. What's flying now is a bunch of prototypes, but I'll point out the F-22 is very, very different from the YF-22.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GGTharos View Post
    The F-22 can't easily strike IADS without the help of F-35's in some cases, IMHO. The F-35 can identify launch sites and link them automatically. Perhaps the F-22's radar is capable of doing this also, but the F-35's optical system seems better suited for this.

    In any case, as for the PAK-FA, I wouldn't under-estimate it. What's flying now is a bunch of prototypes, but I'll point out the F-22 is very, very different from the YF-22.
    For the f22 i was thinking that its high altitude high speed and presumably better stealth would help quite a bit when complementing the f35.

    What strikes me about the Russian planes is that they don't seem to have the basics down wrt materials finishing and tolerances. With the YF-22 those things you could see were already there. In this respect the J20 actually looks far more advanced than the T50. I think the J20 may evolve into a far more dangerous aircraft than the PAG-FA. The Chinese are the real competition in the conventional military realm going forward. The Russians will always be dangerous, but only because of their strategic forces. They are well aware of this and they fully aim to modernize and maintain that force going forward while trying to use treaties and negotiations to slow down pace of US ABM development. What's worrisome to me about the Russians is that they may develop doctrine to further emphasize use of their strategic arsenal. Their conventional military capabilities are lagging further behind US counterparts by the day. Even with increased funding, they simply do not have the resources to keep up.
    Last edited by citanon; 21 Mar 14, at 07:49.

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    I mean, if this is the level of panel gaps and manufacturing tolerances you need to achieve to maintain your signature reduction:

    Attachment 36012

    Attachment 36013

    The Russians are going to be having a hard time.

    This is the belly of the YF-22. More here.

    It wasn't perfect, but it is still damn good compared to what you see today on the Pak FA. It's going to cost A LOT of money to work out the production kinks and chase out all of the sources of radar returns on the Russian plane. A lot of money and time and hard won experience.

    Attachment 36014
    Last edited by citanon; 21 Mar 14, at 08:48.

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    On the other hand, one could argue that if we had continued F-22 production, its relative success and known quantity could have bleed off resources (and more importantly, political will) from the F-35, especially in a constrained fiscal environment (some Congress critter may demand that we buy only F-22s as the air superiority platform with F-15SEs and upgraded F-16s for other tactical combat needs).

    The problem is that the F-22 doesn't do strike missions (or talk to other platforms) the way the F-35 is envisaged to (multirole is very important to the F-35 partners, since most of them don't/didn't intend to fight J-20s or T-50s in the forseeable future).

    The best case scenario would be to restart production on a F-22B (or C/D whatever) that's been modified to respond to the J-20 and T-50 (i.e. more powerful engines if the later two do emphasis higher altitude Mach 2.0+ flight with very long range BVRAAMs) with an IOC of circa 2020.

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    The YF-22 was at the same stage the T-50/J-20 are now almost 25 years ago. While the F-22 is undoubtedly a fine machine, I think the U.S. would be better served directing limited funds towards acquiring adequate numbers of F-35s and developing the successor to the F-22. While I believe the F-22 will be able to go toe to toe and win against the T-50/J-20 when they finally go into production, I am afraid that restarting the F-22 line would delay the next generation of air superiority fighter to the point that China and others will close the gap against the F-22 before its replacement is ready.

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    I can understand why the US air inventory is where it is today simply because once the F-35 got rolling it became the only game in town for the USN, USMC, and the air arms of US allies. However, I've always thought that the USAF would have been structured much better if they had manufactured a legitimate number of F-22's, nothing crazy but say 270 airframes .. which I've always based on having 2 squadrons for 10 expeditionary air wings and 30 airframes for testing, training, and evaluation. In addition, they would have needed to give the F-22 a creditable first-day-of-war strike capability to properly replace the F-117A.

    Anyways, had they done this .. and supplemented the F-22 with numbers of upgraded 4th generation fighters, I think you would have had a much higher overall fighter force capability. In my mind, a decent number of F-22's, supplemented by upgraded F-15's and F-16's is a better option than a limited number of F-22's, a lot of the jack-of-all-trades F-35, and because that still doesn't get you the numbers you need, a bunch of barely relevant non-upgraded F-15's and F-16's.

    The whole point of the F-35 for the USAF doesn't make sense to me. The F-22 is better at first-day-of-war missions, no question in the air-to-air arena, and had they given it a proper strike capability I think it could have performed the F-117A's mission with no problem. When the airspace has been cleaned up, the F-35 really doesn't give you much advantage over the legacy 4th generation aircraft because as it swings into the bomb truck role it losses it's stealth characteristics anyway.

    Now my scenario would put the USN, USMC, and US allies up a creek in the worst way. But hey .. let the USAF be the knock down the door guys, and let your F/A-18E/F's and upgraded Harriers come in at the same time as the F-15's and F-16's of the USAF. As for US allies, there's been so much debate about the value of the F-35 I think a lot of them would be fine with the upgraded 4th generation fighters. And maybe the US would get over the F-22 and let some allies like Canada and Japan actually buy the F-22. The biggest flaw to this plan is that sometimes the location of a hostile nation dictates that the USN has to take the lead in the air war as we saw with Afghanistan in 2001, but I'm sure this wouldn't be a deal breaker.

    Where you really need the F-35 is when your adversaries have some kind of creditable 5th generation capability. Looking at where Russia and China are currently, I think you'd be perfectly safe in waiting for the F-22's successor (which the USAF is already starting to look at) as the stealthy plane that can be built in numbers to combat such a foe. The F-35 bit off more than it can chew, and is frankly not required at this point in time.

    That being said we are where we are, and really I can't see the US turning back at this time. When Canada finally decides to make a decision on the CF-18 replacement, the only realistic choice I can see is for the F-35. I am fine with that, because the way the US is going, the other 4th generation fighter jets won't be relative long enough to see through the life cycle of our planed fighter fleet. So I'm not completely against the F-35, I just think there was a better way (mostly for the USAF), but hindsight is 20/20.

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    NATO allies need more than 4-th gen fighters, and soon. The situation there requires significant force multipliers. Those would be the Eurofighters, Rafale's, F-35's and newest Gripens. 4th gen fighters are just asking to get toasted by a modern IADS, of not a modern 4/4.5 gen airframe. The F-35's value is very much in its projected combat exchange ratio. You don't want to be flying somewhere when some 'small' country's air force has the potential of doing very bad things to yours.

    As for Canada, they're considering a whole bunch of stuff ... even the Rafale has been pitched, complete with technology transfer. We'll see what happens.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GGTharos View Post
    As for Canada, they're considering a whole bunch of stuff ... even the Rafale has been pitched, complete with technology transfer. We'll see what happens.
    I could even see Canada going the Australia route and ordering some "stop-gap" F-18E/F's to keep their air force relevant until they can get their F-35's (BTW, I heard that Canada is considering a land-based variant of the navalised F-35C because of it's greater range; is that true?).
    "There is never enough time to do or say all the things that we would wish. The thing is to try to do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you're not there any more." -Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stitch View Post
    I could even see Canada going the Australia route and ordering some "stop-gap" F-18E/F's to keep their air force relevant until they can get their F-35's (BTW, I heard that Canada is considering a land-based variant of the navalised F-35C because of it's greater range; is that true?).
    I can't see us doing the "stop-gap" measure. It would be too costly, it the F-35 winds up completely out of our schedule requirements, I would expect to see us order a 4.5 gen aircraft as an alternative (but not a stop gap).

    I remember hearing talk about the ordering the C variant several years ago, but nothing recently. The down side of the increased range would be the lesser thrust-to-weight ratio, reduced manoeuvrability, and a smaller parts pool for those parts specific to the C model. I don't think it makes much sense.

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    I couldn't tell you if it's true, but I can tell you that the single engine is a much bigger factor than the un-refueled range.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stitch View Post
    I could even see Canada going the Australia route and ordering some "stop-gap" F-18E/F's to keep their air force relevant until they can get their F-35's (BTW, I heard that Canada is considering a land-based variant of the navalised F-35C because of it's greater range; is that true?).

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    I'd love to see it go back in to production. F-22/F-35 reminds me of the F-15/F-16 high low combo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JA Boomer View Post
    TRUTH
    This is basically what the Air Force as an organization (and the aviation community within) wanted. That's where the 381 (or whatever) number came from. It was supposed to be another high-low mix...F-15s replaced by F-22s, and F-16s replaced by F-35s. Instead, the F-22 was cut WAY short of the minimum to free up money for the more valuable cash cow, requiring large numbers of F-15s to be upgraded and maintained. The F-35 program soaked up all those F-22 "savings" and several billion more, and remains a problem-plagued joke. The much-vaunted DAS appears to have been so overhyped I'm forced to wonder if it's owned by Jerry Jones, and the -B model is STILL having structural fatigue and weight problems. I will be very surprised if the Air Force is able to buy as many F-35s as it intended. I expect the F-16 will continue to fly in the USAF for a very long time. Half a century of F-15s and F-16s, here we go!

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