A comment yesterday posted by an anonymous reader of this blog makes a very important point. With the release of the investigation report on the F-22 crash on March 25, we now know The Washington Post's highly critical F-22 article contained a major factual error. As The DEW Line highlighted then, TWP Staff Writer R. Jeffrey Smith ended the article with two tantalizing paragraphs about the fatal crash:
The Air Force has declined to discuss the cause, but a classified internal accident report completed the following month states that the plane flew into the ground after poorly executing a high-speed run with its weapons-bay doors open, according to three government officials familiar with its contents. The Lockheed test pilot died.We know now that each one of Smith's "several sources" was wrong. Dead wrong. And they either did not know the real details about the F-22 flight test on March 25, or they were unaware of the most basic information about the F-22's weapons.
Several sources said the flight was part of a bid to make the F-22 relevant to current conflicts by giving it a capability to conduct precision bombing raids, not just aerial dogfights. The Air Force is still probing who should be held accountable for the accident.
The anonymous commenter, who identified himself as Buzz, wrote:
Now go back to the Washington Post article from 10 July, which stated: "Several sources said the flight was part of a bid to make the F-22 relevant to current conflicts by giving it a capability to conduct precision bombing raids, not just aerial dogfights." The open weapons bay door cited in the report was the side bay, meaning an AIM-9 test. So Smith's sources obviously weren't close to the program, and the snark encompassed in "bid to make the F-22 relevant" was unfounded. Makes you question the validity of anything he got from his not-so-well-informed, unnamed sources...
Buzz is absolutely correct. The F-22 has four weapons bays. There are two central bays that carry either AIM-120s, JDAMS, or Small Diameter Bombs. There are also two side weapons bays that only carry AIM-9s. The investigation report does not explain which weapon was being tested on March 25, but we can safely infer that it had nothing to do with making the F-22 more relevant in current operations. Moreover, the report does not link the open weapons bay door to the cause of the crash.
More likely, the F-22 crashed during a high-g release test for the Raytheon AIM-9X, which is being integrated on the F-22 as part of the Increment 3.2 upgrade.