Washington Post’s anti-F-22 article flubbed a big detail

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 classifiedinternal accident report completed the following month states that theplane flew into the ground after poorly executing a high-speed run withits weapons-bay doors open, according to three government officialsfamiliar with its contents. The Lockheed test pilot died.

Several sources said the flight was part of a bid to make the F-22relevant to current conflicts by giving it a capability to conductprecision bombing raids, not just aerial dogfights. The Air Force isstill probing who should be held accountable for the accident.

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.

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-22relevant to current conflicts by giving it a capability to conductprecision bombing raids, not just aerial dogfights.”The open weapons bay door cited in the report was the side bay, meaningan AIM-9 test. So Smith’s sources obviously weren’t close to theprogram, and the snark encompassed in “bid to make the F-22 relevant”was unfounded. Makes you question the validity of anything he got fromhis not-so-well-informed, unnamed sources…

Source: Globalsecurity.org

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.

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11 Responses to Washington Post’s anti-F-22 article flubbed a big detail

  1. Rene Rosales 1 August, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Ummm several sources including Aviation Leak have already cited the official post-crash report’s listed cause as G-LOC. The pilot temporarily blacked out due to a high G maneuver and came to too late to pull the jet out of its dive. He ejected above minimum safe speed and was tragically killed when exposed to the air stream.

    Here’s the link to the Aviation Leak article:

    Hope that works – that’s a huge URL.

    Rene Rosales

  2. Sven Ortmann 2 August, 2009 at 1:46 am #

    About your schematic picture:
    I thought the external pylons are still in the development phase (not integrated into production aircraft)?

  3. sferrin 2 August, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    Gee, what a surprise. No doubt his “source” (if not his boss)is simply trying to score points with media/liberal crowd.

  4. ELP 2 August, 2009 at 7:18 am #

    Again I say, what is of bigger importance, is what else is the Post getting wrong? Pick any important topic and not just defense.

  5. airplanejim 2 August, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Oops! As Uncle Walter once said “Get it first but get it right.” Oh well, let me see, .500 is a great baseball average!

  6. Mark 3 August, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    How do you think the F-22′s deployed to Okinawa (with 2 external 600 gallon drop tanks mounted on a underwing pylons) over the past few years.
    F-22′s also flew with drop tanks/pylons when the Elmendorf, Alaska based F-22′s, intercepted Russian “TU-95 Bear’s” last year(2008?), flying close to the US Coastline before turning back.

  7. Sven Ortmann 3 August, 2009 at 9:30 pm #

    Trans-atlantic flights are easily possible with KC escorts. That’s how I thought they had done it.

    I found sources about the drop tanks in the mean time.
    I don’t recall any confirmation on external weapons, though.

  8. Obamanite 4 August, 2009 at 12:22 am #

    Not that it matters (well, it does a bit to me), but prior to Buzz making the point I had written the same over at Ares the day prior. I’m sure Buzz figured it out all by his lonesome, as the error by the WaPo was glaring as it was egregious. Now, Steve, would you be willing to call the WaPo and ask whether they will print a retraction or clarification or at least do a follow-up making clear that the “facts” they presented in the article in question are disputed by those advanced by the official findings?

  9. Stephen Trimble 4 August, 2009 at 12:26 am #

    Are you suggesting the Washington Post doesn’t read my blog? ;-)

  10. Obamanite 4 August, 2009 at 11:44 pm #

    Unfortunately no, Steve. They could learn some things. My guess is that the reporter’s editor has no clue about defense issues, and that the reporter assigned to the story doesn’t either, and was merely fed (dis)information by F-22 antagonists within the Pentagon, which Gates, through some underlings, offered to put at the service of said editor so as to produce the article in question at the best (or worst) possible time, that is, right before extending F-22 production was put to a vote in Congress. You do know, of course, that the idea for this story came not from the WaPo editors, but from the Pentagon itself, right? That is, some Pentagon official, at the behest of Gates, called a WaPo editor and said, “Boy, do we have a little story for you…” And obviously, the WaPo printed whatever was fed them without bothering to “get it right,” beyond merely “getting it early.” And while I may have been opposed to further Raptor production, and I still am, I am even more against sloppy, dishonest, disingenuous, one-sided, source-fed journalism. The fact that the article in question advanced my point of view makes no difference whatever. It was still wrong, period. I’d like to think I’m sufficiently intellectually honest to acknowledge that plain fact.

  11. Jon T Washington 23 May, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Great post full of useful tips! My site is fairly new and I am also having a hard time getting my readers to leave comments. Analytics shows they are coming to the site but I have a feeling “nobody wants to be first”.

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