Acquisition official discusses F-22 role in air power future

Released: 22 Feb 2000

by Capt. Tim White
Arnold Engineering Development Center Public Affairs

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. (AFPN) -- The Air Force's top acquisition officer for all fighter and bomber programs visited here recently to discuss the service's No. 1 acquisition priority and the importance of Arnold Engineering Development Center to that priority.

Maj. Gen. Claude M. Bolton Jr., program executive officer for fighter and bomber programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, explained the need for the Air Force's next fighter, the F-22 Raptor, and the work being done to bring the next generation of air dominance to the battlefield.

"Maintaining our air superiority and air dominance is No. 1 for us because it is the enabler for everything else we do," said Bolton. "It allows us to prosecute our war plans and allows our Army and Navy colleagues to do what they need to do without worrying about who is flying over them."

"Today we have four aircraft around the world that are on par with our F-15," Bolton said. "There are two Russian aircraft, the Eurofighter that is coming on line and there is the French Mirage 2000. When you combine that (one of those planes) with the very good air-to-air missiles that the Russians have, you are faced with one heck of an airplane."

Those aircraft threats, coupled with increasingly more sophisticated and lethal surface-to-air missiles, have dramatically increased the importance of the F-22's capabilities. The new fighter will bring together in a single package four capabilities no other fighter system in the world possesses: the ability to fly supersonically without the use of afterburners, or what is called supercruise; stealth design; greater maneuverability at supersonic speeds; and an integrated avionics package designed to present better and clearer information to the pilot.

In addition to stretching the performance envelope to new levels, the Raptor is an aircraft designed for easier maintenance and inexpensive repair. The general recently witnessed this first-hand during a test flight at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"We had a foreign-object damage incident where a stone hit one of the engine blades," Bolton said. "We took the engine out, blended the blade without replacing it and put it back on the aircraft in only five hours. Today, if I have a problem like that on the F-15, it's at least three days and I likely have to change the engine."

Although the F-22 is now flying at Edwards as part of its flight test program, it has been a long road to get there. A typical acquisition program for a fighter aircraft will last 20 years before the system is fielded and ready for combat if needed. Thousands of hours of testing take place at the Department of Defense's aerospace ground test facility here.

Bolton recognized the work AEDC people have done for more than 10 years in F-22 testing, including engine testing and wind tunnel tests to measure aerodynamics and clean separation of munitions and fuel tanks from the aircraft. The center has also helped predict high-cycle fatigue characteristics.

"What the people at Arnold (AFB, Tenn.), have done is step up to more testing when the customer has wanted it better, faster and cheaper," said Bolton. "AEDC has met that challenge with glowing reports." (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)

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