Which is stealthier? The F-22A or the F-117?
The F-117A is shown in all of the 'for public dissemination' graphs as being at least half again as small a radar target in the front quarter. I
can't hardly imagine how the F-22 could be better in any other aspect because of it's six point lobestructure and vastly more complex (huge) tail
surfaces in particular.
That said, the F-22 can play 9G games all the way up to 40-45K. The F-117 is 5G's 'and a prayer going downhill' at 12-15K.
Here's one listing of relative RCS values-
(though it must be understood that where you are not talking dbsm as a generalized absorption fraction, you must also take into account bandwidth and
specific illumination angles).
Also, in general, because of radars 4th power variance for detection range, a halving of target RCS does no realy good. You need order of magnitude
improvements to get noticeable increments of detection range decrease.
Does this question lead us to understand why the F-117 program was "shelved"?
The F-117 is a very poor strike aircraft. With GBU-39 or indeed any of the JDAM series with longshot/diamondback etc. glide kits, an F-15E or F-16E
(decent SAR patch map resolution and 40nm targeting FLIRs) can probably remain equally 'safe' as a function of standoff from terminal and medium
range (SA-8/9/13/15 and 3/6/11/17) systems. While the notion that you are going to go playing with an S-300/400 (or PAC-3 or Aster) with manned
anything is pretty juvenile if you have cruise options and decent targeting (Lacrosse, despite being nominally a radar sea search system has a HUGE
swath coverage and can make high order patch maps which can be auto-processed for specific, 'high value' target types, under on hour).
The fact of the matter is that the F-22 is the superior _physical_ interdictor because it can slingbomb from roughly double the standoff of any other
platform. However; without more than a modem to do offboard targeting, it is a blind Sampson.
That said, 'the fighter mafia'* is not represented by the 183 F-22 pilots. It's represented by the some 4,600 F-16/18/A-10 crews. THESE are the
idiots looking for a paycheck. THESE are the flyboys that will be given 1,250 + 240 + 170 F-35 JSFs.
The F-22 is a fork-done platform that nobody is defending anymore because, at 183 airframes, it's production numbers are so low that there isn't any
point, no matter how much 'potentially' superior it is. Because the 35 billion spent in R&D is sunk and the 45 billion needed for a full production
run is NOTHING compared to the 257 billion that the JSF will make for Lunchmeat Inc.
Thus it's a kicking dog.
Taken from that perspective, the 40 C-17, 50 B-52 and 'no KC-767' make a little more sense because the USAF knows that, once we lose-by-forfeit in
Iraq, there will likely be a major purse-string yanking by Congress in reactionary swing to the last 8 years of Republican 'conservatism with
everything but defense'.
If they have these programs up on the altar, heads back, ready for sacrifice, they can honestly say that they are 'ready' to keep whatever core
mission elements are needed for the 'war after next' ready to go. As R&D (which, historically, is but a tiny fraction of total acquisition and cost
of ownership 'lifecycle' bill).
The Falcon or B-3 may only be possible for instance, if there is a gaping hole in the apparent capabilities of the U.S. armed forces. And
looky-looky! They don't require grunts getting their guts eviscerated by 500 dollar IEDs.
This exposes another element of USAF dominant militarism-as-career-ethics. They keep themselves 'in good' with the relevant companies by following
a strict 'up or out' BUSINESS PLAN. By which the only real way to advance in rank is to leave the warfighter 'operational' end of things and do a
couple staff/college tours before 'sponsoring' (writing a paper on capability-X) a program.
If you don't go that route, the upper ranks (beyond about major) are never going to happen for you and you will be shunted to increasingly desolate
duty stations until they find some reason to dump you so they don't have to pay for your existing benefits/salary.
And everyone who IS someone (has career drive) knows it.
The difference being that nobody in the AF or indeed any of the armed forces really cares about this nation's defenses anymore. Nor do the companies
which nominally renew and support them. So long as they study contracts and R&D keep coming, they can make a business out of not making new wartoyz.
Or at least not making as many of them as would actually be useful to accomplishing the mission at hand. For by doing that, you generate an
artificially spiked 'need' for the next generation. Both 'by the numbers' (inventory short, defense industry base new program start funded) and
as a function of running existing platforms twice as hard (utilization rates vs. inadequately funded critical spares pipe and new-mission training
requirements) as you would otherwise. One of the favorite methods being to 'declare' that platform-X is suddenly incapable of handling the threat
(Cope India, AIM-9X but no AMRAAM) and then throw in the fact that 'by the way, it's hard to maintain or has fatigue cracks in a critical
wingspar!' (A-7F killed by F-16).
There is no honesty or honor in our nation's warrior elite. I doubt seriously if there ever was. It is just too endemic to the 'best of the best'
class-unto-themselves psychology to eventually start believing their own propoganda as an excuse to set themselves up as a martial aristocracy (THE
LARGEST 'discretionary' budget element, year after year, has always been that portion of the $teak cut to the military services).
*To be historically correct, the original 'lightweight fighter mafia' were Pierre Sprey, John Boyd and Everest Riccioni who, as a function of
statistical studies into airframe cost:weight and EM or Energy Maneuverability (drag vs. power, more or less) determined to make themselves 'famous'
by sponsoring the LWF/ACF program studies which led to the YF-16/17. They were critically wrong in all their assumptions about 'sophistication in
small numbers vs. sortie weight by huge numbers' but it took another generation for Stealth and cheap Standoff Munitions to prove how badly. Not
least because, at least as related to strike, the ultimate 'fighter' is a cruise missile.
Nevertheless, it is appropriate to consider them in the same light as the 'whiz kids' of McNamara's time, only with the benefit of at least /some/
'uniform experience' (insider acceptance within the five wall asylum) to seem to be real 'experts in their respective service fields'.
Today's 'fighter mafia' are specifically the _core force_ of tacair fighter pilots whose 'my other car is a...' luxury lifestyle is represented
in the platforms they demand to be able to fly as much as any physical ownership of goods. This despite all that we now know to be true about air
warfare (presence is different from reach among others) 'really works'. Don't get the two confused because a 1.25:1 manning ratio on the the F-22
only amounts to about 229 pilots. And that leaves almost 5,000 others _just in the USAF_ to suck up all your tax dollars and then say 'it's not
If you are going to damn them, damn them all. Not just the Raptor drivers.