Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

LOCKHEED AND Boeing will study derivatives of the F-22 Advanced Tactical Fighter under a US Air Force contract to be awarded within the next two months. Missions to be studied include strike, defence-suppression and reconnaissance, says F-22 programme general-manager Gary Riley.

The F-22 is being developed to replace the USAF's McDonnell Douglas F-15 air-superiority fighter, but will be capable from the outset of carrying two Joint Direct Attack Munition precision-guided bombs internally, Riley notes.

A "shopping list" of modifications will be produced by the study, with costs and schedules, enabling the USAF to tailor an F-22 derivative for a specific mission, he says.

The service expects to operate only two fighter types in future, the F-22 and the Lockheed F-16 replacement to emerge from the Joint Advanced Strike Technology programme.

The F-22 critical-design review was completed in late February, clearing the way for production for eight development aircraft. Assembly of the first aircraft will begin in mid-1995.

Cuts to the 1995 and 1996 budgets will delay the first flight by three months, to May 1997, and extend the development programme by six months, to 2002, Riley says.

Weight and radar-signature problems which became apparent in 1994 have been overcome, and performance and signature are "in the box", he adds.

Range tests and computer modeling have validated fixes to the radar-signature problem. A full-scale pole model of the F-22 is being built, for range testing in mid-1996. Development costs are close to plan, Riley says.

F-22 derivatives, could eventually replace the General Dynamics F-111, Lockheed F-117 and McDonnell Douglas F-15E strike aircraft, he believes, increasing the production requirement beyond the presently planned 442 air-superiority aircraft.

Source: Flight International