Sharon Weinberger on the F-22

By Robbin Laird

Recently, Sharon Weinberger published a good look at the state of play in the public discussion of the F-22. The article is a useful corrective to the record.

We would like to bring this article to the attention of our readers as well as our Editor’s comments highlighted in the article.

We have provided the initial excerpt below:

The U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat aircraft was just getting back to normal flight operations following an investigation into hypoxia-like (oxygen-deprivation) symptoms among pilots when it got more bad news: The F-22 Raptor is facing new questions over its vaunted air-combat capabilities.

In the latest issue of the U.K.-based Combat Aircraft Magazine, German Eurofighter Typhoon pilots recount a recent Red Flag advanced aerial-combat exercise in which they faced off against the stealthy F-22—and came away surprised by the results. In a close combat maneuver where two fighters cross paths, known as the merge, the F-22′s advantage apparently slips away. “[A]s soon as you get to the merge, which is only a very small spectrum of air combat—in that area, at least—the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22 in all aspects,” Wing Cmdr. Oberst Andreas Pfeiffer told the magazine.

Although the German officers acknowledged that the Eurofighter can’t match the F-22′s beyond-visual-range capabilities, in close combat that two aircraft were “evenly matched.” “To tell you the truth, the Raptor is not built for air combat; you build the Raptor for other purposes,” Lt. Col. Marc “Turbo” Gruene said, according to the magazine.

The remarks may strike at the heart of the F-22′s much-hyped claims of air superiority, but they also may not mean much strategically (it’s not likely that German Eurofighters will be facing American F-22s in combat anytime soon). Ed Timperlake, a former Marine fighter pilot, says the points raised by the article are “totally expected.” Critics, he says, once leveled the same criticisms against the F-15, which now has an “over-100-to-zip kill ratio.”

“Every aircraft can be shot down,” says Timperlake, who also previously served as the Pentagon’s director of technology assessment. Rather, fighter capabilities have to be looked at in the context of how they would be employed, and no fighter goes into battle alone, he says.

And if you wanted to understand why adding an aircraft to the fleet which can see around itself 360 degrees is a good idea, the article highlights the need.  Moving forward, working the F-22 and F-35 in tandem, and remembering that the F-35 is a global fleet, not just a USAF asset, will bring significant capability to the table for the U.S. and its allies.

If American TacAir forces afloat can see an enemy they will kill that enemy. Block 4 (for the F-35) is the next step up for “3 Dimensional Warriors” and a “Z-Axis” cockpit.

A fighter pilot very familiar with Northern Edge when asked about DAS said it had a feature of “Passive Ranging.”  When asked what that meant he casually remarked: “Shooting people off your tail and all that stuff.”

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