Autodestruct wrote:You got a very binary view of things, LMFS. There is no sudden transition. But the F-22 wasn't designed with the sensors and comms necessary to function in the next level of network centric warfare that US planners envision in the next ten to fifteen years. It would be an expensive fifth wheel - when operating, and its older generation stealth technology requires it to be a hangar queen. It's too expensive to be a mere ordinance truck like the F-15EX. And no "modest" priced modernization can change that.
I'll tell you one thing, if you remove your latest fighter from service with half of the normal platform life, while you continue to order, upgrade and operate its predecessor, you have fucked up big time. No excuses and no way to hide it.
F-15 and Su-27 where not designed for AESA, FBW, modern engines with FADEC and much higher thrust, new weapons, completely different sensors, avionics and defensive systems, but they were gutted around half of their platform life (much later in fact in the case of the F-15) and resulted in known platforms with mostly known issues and operational processes, only with vastly upgraded capabilities. Which is, due to unavoidable phenomena derived from the nature of development and troubleshooting processes, way faster and cheaper than creating a new platform from scratch and starting the maturing process of every single possible long term failure mode interaction from scratch.
So, the USAF could take the F-22 and include cheek radars, for which there was space provision, the advanced IRST which was also foreseen, optimize the structure, include EW systems and data links, maybe even gain space in the ventral weapons bay and reduce the size of the side ones which are totally underused to gain fuel capacity, change the RAM/RAS to the type used by the F-35, update the avionics and even change the engines to an adaptive version of the F119 that would bring outstanding kinematic capabilities and substantially increased range. Some of those items were, BTW, the core of that famous "hybrid" between the F-35 and F-22 that they were wanting the Japanese to pay. With such a plane, they would have a serious platform for many, many years to come, at a fraction of the cost of a brand new one, more even if DE is used for the design and preliminary tests, since already existing real world tests can be used to calibrate the digital models. More importantly, they would have a fallback plan in case the NGAD does not work 100% according to the systematically overoptimistic expectations that are also systematically used to trick the congress at program's kick-off in order to gain the required financing under rosy views of the future. I have said this before, this way of doing things is pure negligence at best, outright crime at worst. Risk management works exactly the other way around, by creating alternatives and not by destroying them. US MIC is again selling the dummy and convincing people that is "cheaper" to throw everything that you have been working on for the last 30 years in the trash and start from scratch, than improving gradually. Only someone with no actual experience in any industry or development process of any kind can believe that, because the notion is simply ludicrous.
As to the NGAD, it is still to be seen if the platform (first iteration of the fighter component at least) will indeed be a new design or just another way to make that "hybrid" above palatable for the political class and public opinion. Maybe they enlarge the platform for more range and payload and put 2x F135 or better their adaptive follower, that would be a very serious plane. They probably know it is necessary to update the F-22, they have tried with the restart of the production and with the hybrid already, but they don't get traction among the politicians unless they promise mind blowing capabilities that politicians and media can sell to a public always ready to be fooled in name of maintaining their claimed superiority. It is always the same story and they are tricked always the same, but they don't seem to learn.