My apologies to The Washington Post

R. Jeffery Jeffrey Smith’s sources might have been correct. The F-22 that crashed on March 25 could have been practicing an air-to-ground mission, as Smith reported. My blog on August 1 scolding Smith for a seemingly obvious factual error might itself be wrong.

Of course, it wasn’t public knowledge until yesterday that Raytheon has converted the AIM-9X into an air-to-ground weapon. So it seems I’ve uncovered my own error (darn it!).

f-22 SWB.jpgWhen the accident investigation report noted the F-22 crashed during a side weapons bay test, it seemed to contradict Smith’s report. He called it a ground attack test. The only weapon that fits inside the F-22 side weapons bay is, of course, the AIM-9X.

We now know that the AIM-9X can also be an air-to-ground weapon.

I asked Raytheon earlier this week if the fatal F-22 flight test last March involved the AIM-9X Block 2, which introduces the lock-on-after launch and air-to-surface capabilities. The company said they cannot make any comment about the nature of the F-22 flight test on that day.

If Smith’s article was indeed correct, it raises some interesting possibilities for the F-22 as an air-to-ground fighter. I can’t imagine that the USAF would employ the F-22′s immense firepower to stop a speed boat. But an F-22 firing an air-to-ground version of the AIM-9X presents other possibilities. One of the F-22′s core missions is to detect and destroy surface-to-air missile systems. Might the new AIM-9X be useful against such targets, especially against mobile missile launchers?

Perhaps yes, perhaps no.

But it’s no longer possible to rule out Smith’s sources, who told him the F-22 was conducting an air-to-ground weapons test on that day.

So mea culpa, Jeffrey. I owe you a free beer.

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14 Responses to My apologies to The Washington Post

  1. NobodySpecial 4 December, 2009 at 1:59 pm #

    I just wanted to say that this is a gesture that has become all too rare on the Internet. A genuine mistake was made and when contradicting facts come out, a genuine apology comes out. I’ve been reading defense blogs for quite a while now and it’s refreshing to see that some out there still have the class to admit honest mistakes and offer apologies.
    Cheers!

  2. Robert 4 December, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    Stephen,

    The picture above is actually an instrumented AIM-120D being loaded prior to one of the first flight test, by the way.

  3. Stephen Trimble 4 December, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    True. You get a good peek at the side weapons bay, though. Here’s the shot I probably should have used: http://www.477fg.afrc.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/090710-F-3208M-013.jpg

  4. RunningBear 4 December, 2009 at 3:09 pm #

    Good apology! We need this capability for the F-22. Hopefully the advanced automatic ground collision avoidance system (Auto GCAS) to enable low level operations will be integrated into the flight software ASAP. To state the obvious, this is a safety of flight priority for all ISR and CAS a/c. Best wishes!

  5. EG 4 December, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    “I can’t imagine that the USAF would employ the F-22′s immense firepower to stop a speed boat.”

    —- You haven’t read any Tom Clancy Novels have you? Special ops! F-22 to the 160th!

    But an F-22 firing an air-to-ground version of the AIM-9X presents other possibilities. One of the F-22′s core missions is to detect and destroy surface-to-air missile systems. Might the new AIM-9X be useful against such targets, especially against mobile missile launchers?

    —- There you go! We’ll reopen the the line as the A-36 Apache II. There’s more than one way to skin that funding cat!

    The A-36 will be the next Wild Weasel with not a pound for air to air!
    /SARC OFF/

  6. phyzz 4 December, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    Hi all,

    couldn’t help but notice the Michelin tyres on the picture linked above. French pride pumps through my veins and La Marseillaise rings in my ears!

  7. Robert 4 December, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    AIM9X integration barely makes sense without JHMC and FLIR, neither of which is scheduled to get integrated unto Raptor anytime soon.

    Wonder why they wouldn’t turn AIM120 into an A/G weapon instead – it’s 6 vs AIM9′s 2 mount, 15kg vs 9.4kg warhead, long-ranged and radar guided; it could potentially be the perfect SEAD missile to kill time-sensitive radar emitter.

  8. Mars HQ Regiment 5 December, 2009 at 7:32 am #

    Ha ha, fine set of tyres yes, Phyzz..

    I’ve wondered if ‘side bays’ could fit an ‘in a pinch’ Brimstone self-defense class weapon? Assuming a Raptor can’t always be skipping along @ 50k’?

  9. LD 5 December, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    Steve – you’re going to owe him an extra beer as you misspell his name at least once in your mea culpa. You’ve got it spelled two different ways.

  10. LTR 6 December, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    “The only weapon that fits inside the F-22 side weapons bay is, of course, the AIM-9X.”

    Only problem is, the AIM-9M is the only weapon being carried in the side weapons bay. Even if this was integration testing for the 9X, I would think standard A/A usage of the missile would be a higher priority for the testing program. And a supersonic split-S from 20k feet is a pretty aggressive set of parameters for an A/G test, though not so much for a A/A dogfight. And this is a jet without JHMCS, which you would think would be pretty necessary for cueing an A/G AIM-9.

    Personally, I would probably hold off on buying the beer until I had better evidence.

  11. Anonymous 7 December, 2009 at 12:46 am #

    Stephen,

    I’ve read both the SIB and the AIB. You owe the WP no apology. What they originally said was wrong and egregious. For obvious reasons I’ve said what I can.

  12. LRC 7 December, 2009 at 3:48 am #

    Good apology, but not entirely necessary. Remember that this was a jet operated by the 411th FLTS and therefore was a DT&E jet. They rarely ever (and I mean ever) performs operational tests such as a specific air to ground target test. These guys perform extremely controlled tests to collect hard data for engineering verification and validation, not going out to blow shit up in the desert, away from the Edwards Bomb Range.

    You made a good and educated guess at what likely wasn’t going on which was much better than most of the others speculators out there…

  13. BDF 7 December, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    I’m also skeptical that it was A-G testing of the -9X; I seriously doubt they’d test that capability so soon in the test program on the F-22 if at all. My guess is that those maneuvers were designed to test high dynamic pressures associated with ACM weapons release. Also since the F-22 currently doesn’t have a helmet funded it can’t exploit LOAL and must still utilize the LOBL mode which requires extending the missile into the slipstream so it can acquire the target.

    That being said my take on his article is that it was nothing more than a beltway hit piece, perhaps unintentionally. Many of the facts he cited where either old from earlier in the program or half truths and there was no effort to either cross check other platforms or historical trends or cite other references that clearly had differing data. One egregious error IMO was he declined to site official data from the USAF which the services stated it gave to him, he also cited the amortized cost as opposed to unit costs. Whether it was intentionally or not it was a very conveniently timed hit piece.

  14. Sintra 7 December, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    Stephen Trimble

    Keep the beer. The F-22 uses the AIM-9M, not the “X”.
    Its highly improbable that Raytheon would use a F-22 for tests by several reasons, one is that the USAF is in no particular hurry to add air to ground weaponry/missions to the mighty Raptor (with only 187 being bought is flying hours will be jeously kept for the ATA scenario)…

    Cheers

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