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Gearing up for war with China: The world’s greatest fighter jets have been upgraded

U.S. Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighter As the iconic fighter jet approaches its third decade of frontline service and retirement, it has received significant upgrades.

The F-22 is the most powerful and advanced fighter jet in the world, but it has its weaknesses. The Air Force is acutely aware of the F-22’s limitations, especially in terms of range, and is accelerating development of the twin-engine, single-seat jet. At the same time, the flight branch is spending billions of dollars to ensure that the Raptor is ready once it retires. , something better—a radar-evading jet that doesn’t have the F-22’s major problems—is ready to take its place. .

The F-22 fires Sidewinder missiles from its internal weapons bay.Internal carry of weapons is necessary to maintain low visibility on radar

The F-22 fires Sidewinder missiles from its internal weapons bay. Internal carry of weapons is necessary to maintain low visibility on radar – USAF Handout/Reuters

Many observers of U.S. airpower lamented the premature end of the Raptor program, less than 30 years after the Raptor first deployed in frontline combat. This is not unusual for modern American fighter jets, such as Lockheed Martin’s F-16 or Boeing’s F-15 – which have been flying for 40 years or more. Of course, an upgrade is required.

The Air Force is so eager to replace its the best The fighter jets tell a lot about how and where U.S. Air Force leaders expect future wars to be fought. Specifically, over the vast western Pacific, for example, China attacks Taiwan.

The U.S. Air Force believes that the fighter jet it is designing to replace the F-22 will be better suited for such a conflict. This may be correct.

The F-22, which costs $300 million each, has been a long time coming. It originated from the Advanced Tactical Fighter program in the 1980s, first flew as a demonstrator in 1990, completed development in 2005, was first deployed to Japan in 2006 and completed production in 2012 (only 195 aircraft were produced ).This type of aircraft is Airstrikes against Islamic State Year 2014. Today, it routinely deploys to the Pacific to deter China and to Europe to deter Russia.

Despite the F-22’s futuristic look, imperceptible appearance, and impressive performance (unusually, it can “supercruise” at twice the speed of sound without igniting its fuel-guzzling afterburners), At its core, the F-22 is a Cold War-era jet. The F-22 was designed to fight the Soviets from European bases, which meant poor endurance wasn’t really an issue. The F-22’s range on internal fuel is only about 600 miles: enough to operate over Germany and Poland.

The problem is, that range doesn’t allow you to fly very far across the vast Pacific Ocean. The Pentagon’s closest Air Force base to the Taiwan War is Kadena Base in Japan, which is 450 miles away.If the Kadena base is shot down by a Chinese missile, then Next The nearest major base – Misawa, also in Japan – is 1,400 miles away.

It’s not without reason that U.S. Air Force officers are increasingly ignoring F-22s and other fighter jets when planning an air war against Taiwan, instead calculating the best way for the force’s long-range heavy bombers to engage Chinese invading forces.

By the same token, Air Force leaders announced last year that they wanted to retire a combat-capable fleet of about 150 of the latest F-22s in the years starting in 2030, while grounding about 30 older training aircraft. The model could begin as soon as next year and transfer pilot instruction to the newer jets.

Shortening the F-22’s service life could save billions of dollars, which would help the Air Force speed up the development and production of a secretive new fighter jet next generation air superiority An early test model of the NGAD jet flew back in 2020, but we still don’t know what it looks like or what it can do.

What are we Do It’s no secret that the Air Force expects the new aircraft to surpass the F-22’s stealth and sensor capabilities and, more importantly, double its range. The NGAD fighter is a fighter jet targeted at China that is much more powerful than the F-22 previous fighter. .

But it’s not cheap. The Air Force expects to spend $5 billion a year over the next four years to complete development, and billions more on the jet starting around 2030. Given the high cost, no one should be surprised if the NGAD program is delayed.

The Air Force is ready. That’s why, a few years ago, it spent money developing two key new add-ons that should help keep the Raptor ahead of the curve in a few years: Special underwing fuel tanks – shaped to minimize the presence of its radar Signal – This could add hundreds of miles to the F-22’s range, as well as new pods for highly sensitive infrared sensors, allowing the F-22 to detect targets without turning on its radar and potentially giving away its own s position.

New tanks and sensor pods make public debut on F-22 A grainy photo apparently from an Air Force test siteunderwent a complete overhaul last week.

Extra gasoline is most critical in an air war with China. They make long-distance flights by short-range raptors over open water more feasible. With new fuel tanks under the F-22’s wings, NGAD jets become less urgent for the Air Force.

emphasize small. The F-22’s poor endurance has always been its biggest weakness.Replacing jets as quickly as possible is and should be a top priority for the F-22 The world’s leading air force.

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