Sunday, March 30, 2008

A response to Air Power Australia

I'm still reading reports on the supposed superiority of the F-22 over the F-35. Two names usually pop up Carlo Kopp and Peter Goon from the Air Power Australia website. Below is a response to a recent APA article from defence writer Abraham Gubler who has kindly given me permission to re-post it here. Originally posted in the Fifth Column Bulletin Board, it explains why the F-35 is the jet fighter for Australia.

What’s wrong with the Air Power Australia “NOTAM # 17” of 18 February 2008

Claim 1: F-22A carries twice as many Air-to-Air missiles as the F-35A


The F-35A has much more useable volume in its two internal weapon bays compared to the F-22A’s three bays. However the initial configuration for the F-35A only includes capacity to carry four beyond visual range (BVR) range AIM-120 “AMRAAM” missiles compared to six in the F-22A plus two of the within visual range (WVR) AIM-9X “Sidewinder” air to air (ATA) missiles. AMRAAM is the key ATA weapon of western air forces, since its introduction in the early 1990s every missile fired has destroyed its target and no other weapon has been used to shoot down an enemy aircraft. AMRAAMs were used to destroy five MiG-29 fighters during the Kosovo War without any friendly ATA losses. Both the F-35A and the F-22A can carry more weapons externally under the wings but this will compromise their low observability to radar.

The F-35A in its current configuration can only carry four AMRAAMs because each of the two bays only has two attachment/ejection points for weapons. IN a normal multi-role strike configuration these will be used to carry two AMRAAM missiles and two large air to ground weapons. The F-35 Project Office has been investigating capitalising on the large weapon bay volume of the F-35A to provide additional internal weapons carriage for ATA missions. A project is underway to fit the F-35A with the capability to carry eight AMRAAM missiles internally. This capability should be available in the mid to late 2010s.

Further the US has launched the development of AMRAAM’s replacement, the Joint Dual Role Air Dominance Missile (JDRADM) that unlike AMRAAM will be designed from scratch for internal carriage in bays (ie have retractable wings). The F-35A should be able to carry as many as 16 of these weapons while an F-22A will be limited to only eight.

Currently the F-22 can carry 1.5 times more BVR ATA missiles than the F-35A. By the mid to late 2010s the F-35A will carry 1.33 times more BVR ATA missiles than the F-22A and by the 2020s twice as more.

Claim 2: In combat, the F-22A is flown at almost twice the altitude and twice the speed of the F-35A. This increases the range of the F-22A's Air-to-Air missiles by almost 40 percent, increasing lethality, while it doubles the range of guided bombs like the JDAM


While flying a strike mission with laser guided bombs (LGB) or requiring the fighter to locate and identify targets with an optical sensor (missions the F-22A is incapable of performing) the F-35A will fly at altitudes of around 20,000 feet. This is not a design limitation of the aircraft but simply to enable optimum performance of the optical sensors and guidance systems. However when engaging in ATA missions or strike missions with GPS guided bombs (JDAM/SDB) the F-35A will fly at higher altitudes of 40,000-50,000. The F-22A can fly at altitudes of up to 60,000 feet, the F-35A’s maximum altitude has yet to be established. Flight over an altitude of 50,000 feet requires the use of a full pressure suit for the pilot. Routinely operating aircraft at such altitude is a practice the RAAF is not experienced with and would require considerable expenditure in new equipment, medical research and flight practice.

Both the F-35A and F-22A’s most efficient flying speed is a subsonic cruise at about Mach 0.7-0.8, when flying at this speed both aircraft have a similar range of around 1,200 NM. The F-22A can sustain supersonic cruise at a higher speed of Mach 1.7 without applying reheat to the engines. But “supercruising” reduces the F-22A’s range to 840 NM of which only 200 NM can be flown supersonically (640 NM at Mach 0.8 plus 200 NM at Mach 1.7).

However when any fighter is set to launch an ATA missile or to ‘toss’ a bomb they accelerate to the maximum drop speed of the weapon and launcher in order to impart more energy into the weapon to increase its effective range. The F-35A can accelerate to Mach 1.8 when needed to launch weapons, just as the F-22A would. With long range onboard sensors and networked broad area sensors like “Wedgetail” airborne early warning and control (AEWC), “Jindalee” over the horizon (OTH) radar and the future global aircraft tracking “Siberia” Space Based Infra Red System (SBIRS) plenty of warning is provided for rapid acceleration before weapons launch.

Claim 3: The higher speed of the F-22A vs the F-35A allows it to control twice the area, when targets are mobile and time sensitive. In such situations, a single F-22A can do the same work as two F-35As.


The F-22A’s supercruise speed is limited to only 13% of its airborne time in a mission that has 70% of the radius of action of the F-35A. Further the need for rapid response to threats (time sensitive) is diminished in the network centric warfare (NCW) environment with broad area sensors (see above). The short range of the F-22A’s supercruise reach within the context of the ‘launch to landing’ warning of threat aircraft provided by the broad area sensors provides minimal advantage.

Claim 4: F-22A is much more lethal than the F-35A. It is also much more survivable than the F-35A [The much better stealth capability and supersonic cruise capability, and more powerful radar, are the reasons why the F-22A is so much more lethal and survivable.]


The “much better” radar low observability claimed for the F-22A is unsubstantiated and based only on amateur reflectivity studies not taking into account classified information on radar absorbing materials (RAM). Supercuise provides increased survivability only when the aircraft has been detected and tracked by threats a somewhat superfluous requirement considering the stealth, NCW, electronic attack (EA) and aggressive nature of friendly force capability and tactics. Claims that the F-22A has a more powerful radar are based on aperture size and do not take into account the rising importance of software processing with contemporary active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar technology.

The F-35A also has a range of additional lethality factors the F-22A does not have, including: long range air to air infra red search and track (IRST), laser rangefinder/laser designator (LR/LD), distributed aperture sensor (DAS), helmet mounted display (HMD) higher level sensor fusion and a more advanced cockpit interface. It will also have a lower infra-red signature to help counter increasing threat force attempts to use ISRT to bypass radar low observability.

The F-35A can carry many more types of weapons than the F-22A including the longer range AIM-132 “ASRAAM” WVR ATA missile (compared to the F-22A’s AIM-9X) and a much larger and more lethal arsenal of air to ground weapons including JSOW, JASSAM, 2,000lb JDAM, LGBs, NSM (anti-ship) and Brimstone (anti-tank). Further the F-35A benefits from a more sustainable software capability enabling more complex and effective capabilities to be developed and integrated over the lifetime of the weapon system.

Claim 5. F-22A provides around three times more capability than the F-35A, yet costs only around 23% more per unit.


The additional capability claim has been disproven above. The claim that the F-22A costs only 23% more per unit is flawed as it assumes the export of the F-22A from the existing USAF production line, something that is prohibited by US law. It also does not take into account the significantly increased through life cost of the F-22A compared to the F-35A.

If the F-22 was to be released for export it would be in a new exportable configuration to preserve certain technology, hardware, software and manufacturing methods the US Government has deemed to be US access only. USAF officers at the 2007 Avalon Airshow publicly stated that to develop an exportable F-22 without the classified technology that the US doesn’t want to export would cost between $1-2 billion. This cost would have to be covered by the customer.

Further the only reason the F-22A is coming of the US production line at its current ‘cheap’ level is because this is an established line at what is known as the ‘sweet spot’ of production efficiency. Production of an export F-22 would have to start from scratch and would not leverage these efficiencies. Since the bulk of an Australian order would not be high 50-100 units much of these efficiencies would not be gained.

In addition all of the expenditure for the F-22 would go overseas to the USA. As a partner in the F-35 project Australian industry is receiving considerable domestic work orders, supposedly to the value of our overall commitment. Money spent in Australia has a range of flow on effects to the Government’s financial position such as a return through taxation, defraying of social security costs through employment growth, etc. In addition establishing domestic defence capability considerably reduces through life expenditure to maintain the capability through its life.

Claim 6. F-22 is currently in production, yet the planned Initial Operational Capability for the F-35A is 2013 and this is at the Block 3 configuration level, with the prospect of further schedule slippages with commensurate increases in cost.


The F-22A for the USAF is in production, not an exportable F-22. While this aircraft would leverage much from the existing project and should be considered low risk it would still need to be development and would run all the risks associated with such a development. Further all this risk would be borne solely by Australia as the only customer of the export F-22 rather than shared with the extensive international partnership of the F-35. In addition the F-22A lacks a range of capabilities essential to the Australian requirement. To add them to the aircraft would add risk and cost.

Last edited by Abraham Gubler : 14-03-08 at 03:34 AM.


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  7. I have talked to F-22 people. 67,000ft waivered with no pressure-suit. AB just shows what he doesn't know.