Upgraded radar, weapons and cybersecurity technology are being engineered into the F-22 is designed to enable the stealth fighter to counter attacks from emerging future enemy threats, dogfights successfully against Russian and Chinese 5th-generation stealth fighters, and fly successfully well into the 2060s.
For example, newer F-22s have a technology called Synthetic Aperture Radar, or SAR, which uses electromagnetic signals or “pings” to deliver a picture or rendering of the terrain below, allow for better target identification.
The SAR technology sends a ping to the ground and then analyzes the return signal to calculate the contours, distance and characteristics of the ground below. SAR enables pilots to dynamically survey target areas and adjust to new targets in flight. Previously, F-22s would take off with pre-determined target, F-22 pilots told Scout Warrior.
Many Air Force developers observers have credited the speed, maneuverability, weapons and stealth characteristics as advantages which make it the most advanced air-to-air fighter the world has ever seen.
The operational efficacy of the emerging Chinese J-20 and J-30 stealth fighters, and the Russian 5th-gen PAK-50 are not as of yet fully known.
As a fifth-generation stealth fighter, the F-22 is specifically engineered for air supremacy and air dominance missions, meaning its radar-evading technology is designed to elude and destroy enemy air defenses. The aircraft is also configured to function as the world’s premier air-to-air fighter able to “dogfight” and readily destroy enemy aircraft.
The F-22’s command and control sensors and avionics help other coalition aircraft identify and destroy targets. While some of the aircraft’s technologies are not “publically discussable,” F-22 pilots and developers say that the F-22’s active and passive sensors allow it to function as an “aerial quarterback” allowing the mission to unfold.
Drawing upon information from a ground-based command and control center or nearby surveillance plane – such as a Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System – the F-22 can receive information or target coordinates from nearby drones.
The F-22 is known for a range of technologies including an ability called “super cruise” which enables the fighter to reach speeds of Mach 1.5 without needing to turn on its after burners. Current fighters need to consume much more fuel to operate at supersonic speeds, F-22 pilots say.
The fighter jet fires a 20mm cannon and has the ability to carry and fire all the air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons including precision-guided ground bombs, such Joint Direct Attack Munitions called the GBU 32 and GBU 39, pilots explained. In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders, he added.
It also uses what’s called a radar-warning receiver – a technology which uses an updateable data base called “mission data files” to recognize a wide-range of enemy fighters.
Made by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the F-22 uses two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles, an Air Force statement said. It is 16-feet tall, 62-feet long and weighs 43,340 pounds. Its maximum take-off weight is 83,500.
The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005, and each plane costs $143 million, Air Force statements say.
The Air Force’s stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014, service officials told Scout Warrior.
After delivering some of the first strikes in the U.S. Coalition-led military action against ISIS, the F-22 began to shift its focus from an air-dominance mission to one more focused on supporting attacks on the ground.
Even though ISIS does not have sophisticated air defenses or fighter jets of their own to challenge the F-22, it was still helpful to attacks on ISIS.
F-22 Cyber Defense
Along with upgraded radar and new software-driven weapons interfaces, the F-22 is also receiving upgraded cyber defenses.
The Air Force is working closely with industry partners to strengthen cybersecurity for larger service platforms such as an F-22 or F-35 fighters.
“We have to understand that today’s weapons systems are not operating in isolation. They are operating as part of a netted enterprise. Each weapons system will interface with a broader DOD network,” Allan Ballenger, vice president of the Air Force division at Engility Corp, told Scout Warrior.
Earlier this year, Engility was recently awarded a $31 million task order deal from the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, at Hanscom AFB, Mass.
The F-22, often referred to by Air Force developers as an “aerial quarterback,” relies upon data link technology connecting to other aircraft and ground stations as more of the F-22’s technologies and avionics--such as radar warning receivers, mission data files, navigation and target mapping systems--are computer based,
The emerging F-35’s “sensor fusion” is entirely contingent upon modernized computer algorithms able to help gather, organize and present combat-relevant information to a pilot by synthesizing otherwise disparate data such as targeting, mapping and sensor data onto a single screen.
“The real focus is on the cyber vulnerability assessments across many Air Force platforms, such as command-and-control and battle management systems,” Ballenger said.
Engility’s focus is closely aligned with cybersecurity priorities recently articulated by senior Air Force leaders.
In recent years, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, Commander of Air Force Material Command, has articulated seven lines of attack that are essential to better securing networks, data and command-and-control systems. One of the key intiatives informing this effort is an attempt to "bake-in" cyber security provisions into the earliest phases of weapons development.
Part of the focus, Ballenger explained, is to examine trends and current security controls with a mind to the kinds of attacks likely to emerge in the future against IT systems, platforms and networked weapons.
While increased interoperability among networks, weapons and platforms vastly expedites combat efficacy in a wide range of scenarios, Ballenger emphasized that greater connectivity can also increase vulnerability to malicious penetration and server attacks, among other problems.
“We are looking much earlier in the life cycle of these systems with a concern not just about their security but how they interface with other elements of the network. We want to embed cybersecurity earlier in the process,” Ballenger added.
Seeking to emulate threat vectors and anticipate potential methods of attack -- such as how a web-based application could be exploited or the extent to which a trap door may interact with other elements – is an important ingredient in establishing the most effective security protocols.
Also, much of this begins and ends with network IP protocol--codes which can both further enable interoperability between networks and systems while also possibly exposing networks to additional vulnerabilities
“When you have an IP address that is assigned to you, you need to have the appropriate controls in place to reduce that vulnerability,” Ballenger added.
The need for better information security extends from larger systems down to an individual soldier or airmen on a particular combat mission. Tactical Air Controllers use ground targeting technology is used to identify and secure targets for nearby air assets. This kind of air-ground synergy is itself reliant upon computer networking technologies, he explained.“You do not want someone to manipulate data going from airmen on the ground to a shooter in the air,” Ballenger said.