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Fatal Test Flight
One of the last four planes Gates supported buying is meant to replace an F-22 that crashed during a test flight north of Los Angeles on March 25, during his review of the program. The Air Force has declined to discuss the cause, but a classified internal accident report completed the following month states that the plane flew into the ground after poorly executing a high-speed run with its weapons-bay doors open, according to three government officials familiar with its contents. The Lockheed test pilot died.
Several sources said the flight was part of a bid to make the F-22 relevant to current conflicts by giving it a capability to conduct precision bombing raids, not just aerial dogfights. The Air Force is still probing who should be held accountable for the accident.
Originally posted by groingrinder
If we were only attacking France, we could probably get away with defective equipment.
The F-22, Bagel and a Smear: The Washington Post’s putative exposé of the F-22 and all its shortcomings, printed on its front page Friday (and picked up as gospel by various wires and blogs over the weekend), was riddled with inaccuracies, according to the Air Force, Lockheed Martin, and our own investigation. The Post said only 55 percent of the F-22 fleet is available for missions “guarding US airspace,” but as we reported recently, the F-22’s combat air forces mission capable rates have been climbing slowly but steadily, and in late June stood at 62.9 percent, according to Air Combat Command. On Friday, Lockheed Martin, maker of the F-22, said in a statement that the MC rate “has improved from 62 percent to 68 percent from 2004-2009 and we are on track to achieve an 85 percent MCR by the time the fleet reaches maturity,” or 100,000 hours, which should take place next year. The company also said that the mean time between maintenance—the number of hours an F-22 flies before it needs service—rose from 0.97 hours in 2004 to 3.22 hours in Lot 6 aircraft (Note these benefited from the Raptor Reach and RAMMP programs). The Post claimed a figure of 1.7 hours. Direct maintenance man-hours per flying hour have dropped from 18.1 in 2008 to 10.46 in 2009, “which exceeds the requirement of 12,” the company added. The Post used out of date figures from 2004-2008 when the rates were higher because the F-22 was a new system. The Post also trotted out the old school criticism of stealth that it is somehow “vulnerable to rain,” but the company noted that the F-22 is “an all-weather fighter and has been exposed to the harshest climates in the world—ranging from the desert in Nevada and California, extreme cold in Alaska, and rain/humidity in Florida and Guam—and performed magnificently.” The information quoted by the Post “is incorrect,” the company said flatly. While the Post led its piece saying that the F-22 costs more to fly per hour than the F-15 it replaces, it didn’t say whether it had factored inflation or fuel prices into that cost and neglected to point out that the F-15 has no stealth coatings to maintain. An Air Force public affairs spokeswoman said the Post did not contact the service for comment on the story before publication. The F-22 passed Follow-On Test and Evaluation Testing in 2005, and in FOT&E II, in 2007, USAF’s test and evaluation outfit rated the F-22 “effective, suitable, and mission capable,” despite the Post’s claims that it “flunked” those evaluations. The Post attributed most of its information to unnamed Defense Department sources.
—John A. Tirpak
And the Air Force’s Take: The Air Force also objected to the Washington Post’s loose interpretation of F-22 statistics, and the paper’s portrait of the fighter as overly expensive, unreliable, and ineffective (see above). Generally, according to USAF’s analysis of the article, the Post either used outdated data or exaggerated problems that have long since been corrected. The Post quoted a variety of F-22 glitches from Government Accountability Office reports issued seven years ago, when the F-22 was still in development. In a four-page rebuttal provided to the Daily Report of 23 claims the Post made in its hatchet job on the F-22, the Air Force dismissed the Post’s claim that the F-22’s stealthy skin maintenance issues are somehow due to rain, and the service said that the Post was wrong in saying the trend is that F-22 has gotten harder and more costly to maintain. “Not true,” the service said. The rates “have been improving.” The Air Force said the Raptor’s cost per flying hour is not much greater than that of the F-15—$19,750 vs. $17,465—and the F-22 is a far more powerful and capable machine. The Post had claimed a cost of more than $40,000 per flying hour. Likewise, whereas the Post claimed the fleet had to be retrofitted due to “structural problems,” this claim is “misleading,” USAF said. Lessons learned from a static test model were applied to production of new aircraft and retrofitted to earlier aircraft; a normal part of the testing and development process. One problem the Air Force owned up to: The F-22 canopy’s stealth coatings last only about half as long as they’re supposed to. The service said the program has put some fixes into play and “coating life continues to improve.” The Air Force also confirmed Lockheed's contention that the mission capable rate had risen over the years to 68 percent fleetwide today.
A stealth expert on the F-117 and B-2 programmes intends to file suit against Lockheed Martin later this week for concealing alleged deficiencies with the stealth coatings for the F-22.
The pending lawsuit accuses Lockheed of knowingly providing defective coatings used to reduce the aircraft's radar and visual signatures, and covering up the problem by adding 272kg (600lbs) worth of extra layers
WASHINGTON --- The United States' top fighter jet, the Lockheed Martin F-22, has recently required more than 30 hours of maintenance for every hour in the skies, pushing its hourly cost of flying to more than $44,000, a far higher figure than for the warplane it replaces, confidential Pentagon test results show
on average from October last year to this May, just 55 percent of the deployed F-22 fleet has been available to fulfill missions guarding U.S. airspace, the Defense Department acknowledged this week
It is a disgrace that you can fly a plane [an average of] only 1.7 hours before it gets a critical failure" that jeopardizes success of the aircraft's mission
[Between 2004 and 2008] the F-22's average maintenance time per hour of flight grew from 20 hours to 34, with skin repairs accounting for more than half of that time -- and more than half the hourly flying costs
The Air Force says the F-22 cost $44,259 per flying hour in 2008; the Office of the Secretary of Defense said the figure was $49,808. The F-15, the F-22's predecessor, has a fleet average cost of $30,818