F-22 will come in two flavors

At Wednesday‘s Congressional hearing, Pentagon acquisition chief John Young let slip an interesting detail about the US Air Force’s upgrade plans for the F-22.

The USAF plans to develop two distinct versions of the F-22 with “significant differences in capability between them”.

I knew that two major upgrades — Increment 3.1 and 3.2 — were comingdown the road for the F-22. But I didn’t know that the USAF can onlyafford to upgrade 80 jets with the latter increment.

Increment 3.1 adds the long-awaited ground radar mapping mode and enters production next year.

Increment 3.2 adds the multifunction advanced data link, the AIM-9X and the AIM-120D.

The combined bill for both upgrades amounts to $8.3 billion, or about $44 million per aircraft.

Here’s Young’s statement:

I think there have been some comments today with raisingconcerns about the department’s support for F-22.  It may be a finer degree of detail.  You’re dealing with a very appropriate andhigh- level picture. 

But the department was on a path in the ’09 budget to have100 Increment 2 and Increment 3.1 jets, and then a smaller fleet of about 803.2 jets — significant differences in capability. 

To get more jets to the full Increment 3.2 capability, tomake them full-up rounds, $6.3 billion of R&D is requested to go back intoF-22 and approve that architecture and back-fit all those jets.  This department has tentatively put that inthe POM 10 budget to make that F-22 fleet that we have and have bought capable.

Young doesn’t mention that there’s also another major upgrade — Increment 3.3 — a bit further down the spiral acquisition trail. I believe this is the version that would include an electronic attack capability. I wonder how many jets are being lined up for this upgrade?


6 Responses to F-22 will come in two flavors

  1. Dave 21 November, 2008 at 11:41 pm #

    Well this isn’t exactly news… most people familar with the Raptor program knew this was the case. The idea was always to get production going and to upgrade the earlier planes to full up rounds later. That was the whole deal with Moseley saying we need to get A model hardware on the ramp and worry about upgrading later. Alteast upgrading the Lot 5 planes to the full block 35 configuration is not that big a deal- mainly its software with minimal hardware changes. The Lot 4 and earlier planes will need more extensive modifications- though last I heard starting with 4079 at Langley, they’ve started replacing the radar with the new APG-77 v1…

  2. ELP 22 November, 2008 at 12:00 am #

    The jet right off the show room floor is multi-flavor.

    The F-22 as delivered to the squadrons have a few things missing that were in the original plan. The reason those things aren’t in the jet as delivered was to met price targets.

    Each jet has growth space in it to put these things in later as part of an upgrade spiral.

    For example, There is space facing right and left behind the radar/nose cone for 2 AESA check arrays that look sideways.

    The IRST ( Sniper-Pod like targeting tech in the bottom nose of the F-35 ? ) There is space in the F-22 to put that on the F-22 as a refurb or new-build.

    External- Low-observable stores containers on the wing hard points. Tested in the wind tunnel but AFAIK not flight tested.

    Of course too the upgrades to the AESA APG-77 in the nose that are happening right now with smaller bricks on the radar.

    Software upgrades on-going that allow the jet to self-designate JDAM strikes with the radar, and also GMTI. Note that you can already geo-locate emitters with the AN-ALR-94, but doing a radar picture would firm up what you are going to kill (for example a SAM site) and let lose a JDAM or SDB. With the right software path you could also use HART-JDAM (IIR scene matching nose strap-on to JDAM) where the like above the radar picture of the ground target is then converted into an image template, and this image template is then pumped into the HART-JDAM before release. Super precision “Shack”.

    As I have said before, USAF doesn’t need to waste money on the F-35. After a big air defense setup is killed off by the F-22, I don’t really need a stealth jet to run the rest of the war.

    Smart thinking would be to have 4 squadrons of F-22s setup with the IRST so as to keep a healthy ability to do moving targets using Laser-JDAM kitted 1000 pounders, and of course the ability to lase not only for that but SDB II when that comes out.

    Have another two squadrons with the additional cheek arrays for some really good mini JSTARS-like ISR.

    But of course John Young is out to lunch on this one. He is becoming one heck of a BS artist.

  3. alloycowboy 22 November, 2008 at 6:20 am #

    Wow great info. The only thing you got wrong was the part about not needing the F-35. The easiest way to kill a raptor is to hit it on the ground when it’s not flying or take out the refueling tankers so they run out of gas on the way home. This will always be the vulnerability of fixed based fighters.

  4. John S. 22 November, 2008 at 3:26 pm #

    If the USAF cancelled the F-35A, what would that do to the international partners’ F-35A prices?

    The Navy would probably in turn cancel the F-35C when faced with spiraling unit costs due to the reduced production, favoring more Super Hornets instead.

    That leaves the Marine Corps and Royal Navy with very expensive F-35Bs. The Royal Navy chooses to modify their new carriers (which will be much delayed due to budget considerations) with the STOBAR option for a navalized Eurofighter.

    At that point, what does the USMC do? Pay $350 million per F-35B?

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