Interesting what you find when you are looking for something else. Like what the US Air Force has in mind for the F-22, whether or not it gets more aircraft. Daniel Darnell, USAF deputy chief of staff air, space and information operations, plans and requirements, lays it out succinctly in recent testimony to Congress.
Shutdown of the F-22 production line will begin in November as vendors early in the build process complete delivery of components for the 183 aircraft currently planned. The USAF expects to issue a shutdown RFP this summer, he says, and to incur $40m in shutdown costs in fiscal year 2009 (the budget now being debated). Darnell also puts a cost on keeping the line open:
"If we want to keep the line open and deliver an additional F-22 lot, then the Air Force would require $595.6m in FY09 for advance procurement of 24 aircraft. In either case, we are at a critical crossroad: we must make a decision by November to avoid increased costs and a break in the production line before our suppliers begin to exit the market."
Into the less than clear blue yonder (USAF photo)
Even if it stops at 183 aircraft (the USAF wants 381), Darnell makes clear the Raptor will continue to evolve:
"The Air Force has accepted 113 F-22A aircraft to date, out of a programmed delivery of 183. Most of these aircraft include the Increment 2 upgrade, which provides the ability to employ supersonic JDAM and enhances the intra-flight datalink to provide connectivity with additional F-22s. The F-22A fleet will be upgraded under the JROC-approved Increment 3 upgrade designed to enhance both air-to-air and precision ground-attack capability.
"Raptors off the production line today are wired to accept the Increment 3.1 upgrade, which when equipped, upgrades the APG-77 AESA radar to enable synthetic-aperture radar ground-mapping capability and provides the ability to self-target JDAMs using onboard sensors, and allows F-22s to carry and employ eight small-diameter bombs (SDB). Increment 3.1 is funded and begins to field in FY2010.
"Future F-22s will include the Increment 3.2 upgrade, which is funded and features the next generation datalink, improved SDB employment capability, improved targeting using multi-ship geolocation, automatic ground collision avoidance system and the capability to employ enhanced air-to-air weapons (AIM-120D and AIM-9X). Increment 3.2 should begin to field in FY13.
"The Increment 3.3 upgrade is currently unfunded. It plans to include Mode 5/S, which is the next generation identification friend or foe and advanced air-traffic control transponder; radar auto search/auto detect, which gives automated target cueing using fourth-generation AESA radar; and a ground moving-target indicator and tracking capability."