The United States has not lost a ground warrior to enemy air attacks in half a century.
The Air Force wants to keep it that way.
The Air Force’s new F-22 Raptor is more capable of transforming air warfare than any other aircraft in history, said Brig. Gen. Burton Field, commander of the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base.
The Virginia Air National Guard is joining with the active-duty Air Force at Langley to fly the F-22, the first Air Guard unit in the nation to do so.
With Mach 2 speed of more than 1,300 mph, the ability to fly above 60,000 feet and unprecedented electronic awareness of the fight, the F-22 will continue unrivaled American air dominance of the battlefield, officials say.
Expensive as it is — $258 million apiece — the Raptor has three characteristics that make it extraordinary, according to Lt. Col. Wade “Troll” Tolliver with the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley.
- Effortless speed. — The Raptor can fly at Mach 1.5 — 1 — times the speed of sound — without having to use its fuel-gulping afterburners, something no other fighter has been able to do. “Supercruise” speed increases the range and effectiveness of the F-22’s weapons, Tolliver said, and reduces the time the plane is exposed to enemy fire.
- Integrated electronic systems. “This jet is one big flying computer,” Tolliver said. Its advanced data-fusion cockpit with integrated navigation and sensors allows the pilot to concentrate on the mission rather than on managing electronic systems.
The jet also exchanges information automatically with other aircraft and other sensors in the sky and on the ground, and then fuses it for the pilot’s easy comprehension.
- Stealth design. — Stealthy, or low-observable, aircraft make radar or infrared detection, and even visual sightings, difficult. The F-22’s radar cross-section
how visible it is to radar — is comparable to the radar visibility of small birds.
“Nobody can see you” in an air-to-air dogfight, Tolliver said. If the enemy can’t see you, they can’t shoot you. “It’s unfair,” he said, and that’s the way we like it.”